|All-American Girls Professional Baseball League|
September 2, 1921|
|Died: February 7, 2007
|Career highlights and awards|
Veronica Josephine Lenard [″Bubblegum″] (September 2, 1921 – February 7, 2007) was a center fielder who played from 1944 through 1953 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Listed at 5' 4", 130 lb., she batted and threw right-handed.
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Jo Lenard grew up playing baseball with her brother and the other boys in the streets of her neighborhood. Playground ball was the next step, then into the high school league and on to a Chicago amateur girls softball team. Lenard was in school when she learned that there was a nationwide effort to recruit women to play in a new Midwest professional softball/baseball league.
By the fall of 1942, many Minor league teams disbanded due to World War II conflict, when young ballplayers were being drafted into the armed services. The fear that this pattern would continue prompted Philip K. Wrigley, a chewing gum magnate and owner of the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team, to search for a possible solution to this dilemma. When President Roosevelt gave the order to continue baseball for the morale of the nation, Wrigley decided that it was time to do it. With the dedication of a group of Midwestern businessmen, and the financial support of Wrigley, the new league emerged in the spring of 1943.
Lenard attended a AAGPBL tryout and made the grade, starting a professional career that spanned ten years. A consistent line-drive hitter who used the entire field and excelled at slap bunting for base hits, she was a skillful contact hitter with a near perfect eye for the strike zone and seldom struck out. By the time her AAGPBL career ended in 1953, Lenard had driven in 351 runs to place her ninth on the career RBI list for the league, despite hitting only one home run in just over 3400 at bats. She also collected 520 stolen bases and walked 481 times against only 234 strikeouts for a 2.06 BB/K ratio. A natural center fielder, she possessed a strong and accurate throwing arm.
Lenard entered the league in 1944 with the Rockford Peaches, playing for them two years before joining the Muskegon Lassies (1946-'49), Peoria Redwings (1949), Kenosha Comets (1950-'51) and South Bend Blue Sox (1952-'53). In her rookie season, she hit a .211 average and stole 68 bases, while leading the circuit with 10 triples. Her most productive season came in 1947, when she hit a career-high .261 with 38 RBI in 111 games and was selected for the All-Star team. She also made four trips to the playoffs with four different teams, including for the championship winners in 1945 and 1952.
Following her professional baseball career, Lenard went back to school and graduated from Chicago Teachers College, and then taught health and physical education for 25 years. Besides becoming an educator and coach, she was a strong advocate for the advancement of girls and women in sports. In 1968 she was assaulted and hit in the head, suffering eye damage that left her nearly blind.
Lenard is part of the AAGPBL permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, New York, opened in 1988, which is dedicated to the entire league rather than any individual player.
Jo Lenard died in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 85.
- "All-American Girls Professional Baseball League website – Jo Lenard page".
- Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball – Leslie A. Heaphy, Mel Anthony May. Publisher: McFarland & Company, 2006. Format: Paperback, 438pp. Language: English. ISBN 978-0-7864-2100-8
- "Baseball Reference – Jo Lenard entry".
- Flick photo galleries
- "All-American Girls Professional Baseball League History".
- Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball
- All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Record Book – W. C. Madden. Publisher: McFarland & Company, 2000. Format: Paperback, 294pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-7864-3747-2