If you were the opposing baseball team’s pitcher, Evelyn Wawryshyn was one of the last batters you wanted to face in a game.
You see, Wawyryshyn, while only 5-3 in height, stood tall in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She was not only a league all star but, with her .266 career batting average, the 13th best hitter of all time in the league which lasted for a dozen years back in the 1940s and 1950s.
You could say she was in a league of her own — in fact the movie, A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna, was made decades later about the league and a few of its players.
While no one played Wawryshyn — known as Evie by her teammates and relatives — she only hit one home run. It was her 463 singles, 37 doubles, and 16 triples during her six-year career that propelled her to player of the year honourable mention in 1948, third All-League team in 1948, second team a year later, and finally playing in the 1950 All-Star game at her usual second base position.
She was also known as a clutch player — she drove in 193 runs during her career.
Through that time she played for four different teams, including the Muskegon Lassies and the Fort Wayne Daisies, until she retired after the 1951 season.
The reason? Marriage. She later became Evelyn Litwin and Evelyn Moroz.
She was born in Tyndall in 1924 and lived, with her parents and three older brothers, in the country.
“Archie, the older brother, always let me play ball with him,” she wrote in her autobiography submitted years later to the league’s website and archives.
“I believe he is responsible for implanting the love for this pastime.”
She said she went to a small school and, because there weren’t enough boys to field two teams, her brother would say “let Evie play first or short stop”.
By 1945 she was playing for the Provincial Champion CUAC Blues fastball team in Winnipeg — she was the team's Most Valuable Player that year — when she was spotted by a scout from the Girls League. She didn’t believe his offer and rebuffed him.
The next year, while she was a teacher in Flin Flon, another offer came by telegram. This time she accepted and was soon playing for the Kenosha Comets.
She said she especially loved going to spring training each year in Cuba or Florida and during the off season she tied on skates and played on hockey teams.
And she didn’t just play on hockey teams — she excelled. She was the top scorer on the Winnipeg Senior Women’s hockey team which won both the Western and Eastern Canadian finals in 1950.
Earlier, she was the North-Eastern Manitoba Senior Girls’ track and field champion in 1940 and then part of the Provincial Senior Ladies’ Championship basketball team in Flin Flon in 1946.
Decades later, after she had hung up her bat, skates, track shoes and hoop, honours came her way. With dozens of other Canadian players who were in the League, she became part of a permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown in 1988. Her photograph and statistics are enshrined there.
She was also inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1998, and the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame in 1998.
She reached one more milestone, albeit a sad one. When she died, at 97 on Feb. 3, she was the last to pass on of the more than a dozen Manitoba women who had gone south to play in the league.
Her final career statistic was her family. She is survived by six children, 11 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Read more about Evelyn here and here.
Kevin Rollason, Reporter