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She was in a league of her own
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She was in a league of her own

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

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

Helen Doerksen was born in a German prison camp just after WW2 because there was no place else for her family to go.

Doerksen, who was 75 when she died on Jan. 31, was a toddler when she came to Canada and grew up on a farm in Pine River.

She later was a Pink Lady courier driver, and worked at other companies, but she retired after working 25 years at the Union Centre. Read more about Helen. 

 


Nancy Fleury helped many people in Teulon.

Fleury, who died on Jan. 31 at 75, was a strong believer in helping others and she put that belief into action. She founded many charitable organizations in the community 30 minutes north of Winnipeg, including the Teulon Christmas Cheer Board and the local Food Bank.

All of the hard work she did didn’t go unrecognized. She was honoured with the Governor General’s community service award. Read more about Nancy. 

 


 

Audrey Fontaine was raised at Sagkeeng First Nation and, like her brother Phil who was former National Chief of AFN, she was a residential school survivor.

Fontaine, who was 70 when she died on Jan. 21, worked as a nurse for many years at the George M. Guimond Care Centre while volunteering for several Liberal campaigns whether provincial or federal.

She also worked on her brother’s election campaigns, and, by the end of her life, was a respected Elder at the reserve. Read more about Audrey. 

 


 

Not too many Manitobans have created a sport that is played worldwide, but Chris Sargent was one of them.

Sargent, who was 67 when he died, joined the Canadian Armed Forces fresh out of high school. But it was while serving that he was injured in a training exercise, causing him to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Sargent was in his wheelchair, at a therapy session, when with four others in a Winnipeg gym, they came up with the game they called Murderball.

That game, now called Wheelchair Rugby, is played internationally and is one of the most popular sports at the Paralympics. Read more about Chris.

 


 

Bryan Beger was an electrician by trade and, you could say, he was plugged into the community spirit of Beausejour.

Beger, who died on Jan. 30 at 64, started Northeastern Electric when he was only 21, and successfully operated it until joining the Office of the Fire Commissioner in 2007.

But he also liked snowmobiling. He was president of the annual Canadian Power Toboggan Championships held in Beausejour as well as being on the board of the Brokenhead River Recreational Complex. Read more about Bryan. 

 


 

A Life’s Story

Jim Pappas was a man about town and beyond.

Pappas, who died in November at 79, cast a large shadow in this community — his family jokes that he knew so many people that when COVID-19 restrictions get to the point they can hold a celebration of his life, they might have to rent the Bombers’ stadium.

Entrepreneur and restaurateur Jim Pappas, seen here with his wife and best friend, Barbra, died in November at the age of 79. (Supplied)

Pappas first began flipping burgers at his aunt’s restaurant — you’ve heard of the iconic C. Kelekis Restaurant? — and then went into the retail industry, working at Eatons, helping open a chain of stores called Mannequin and working there, creating the store Comfort and Joy, and then, finally, returning to Kelekis for his final 11 years of work.

Read more about Jim's life. 

 

 


 

Until next time, I hope you continue to write your own life’s story.

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