IN A LEAGUE OF HER OWN

 

alta weiss in dress.jpg (86564 bytes)Alta Weiss was born February 9, 1980, the second of three daughters, to Dr. George Weiss and his wife, Lucinda Zehnder Weiss, above her fatherís general store in Berlin, Ohio. She moved with her family in 1885 to Ragersville, Ohio, where her father practiced medicine.

In 1905 Dr. Weiss established a local High School so that Alta could play on its baseball team. He also built Weiss Ball Park, where she played on the town's younger second team.

In the summer of 1907 the family was vacationing in Vermillion, Ohio. It was here that Alta asked a couple of boys to "play catch." They decided to let the girl play and when their gloves stopped smoking and their hands stopped burning they were in awe. The Mayor of the town, himself an ardent baseball fan, saw her and suggested to the manager of the semipro Vermillion Independents that he should sign the seventeen year old. The manager wanted nothing to do with women who played baseball, so Mayor Williams arranged for a game between two local teams, with Alta pitching for one of them. Alta struck out fifteen men in that game and amazed the large crowd that had come to see her play. The Manager of the Independents quickly changed his mind and asked Alta to join his team.

She agreed. She pitched in her first semipro game wearing a long blue skirt. She threw for five innings, giving up four hits and one run. She played the rest of the eleven inning game at first base. The Independents won, 4-3.

Throughout northeast Ohio news of the "Girl Wonder" spread quickly. Alta pitched the remainder of the 1907 season, appearing in seven games and attracting more that thirteen thousand people. Special trains were made available to transport the fans to the stadium to see her play. When the Independents challenged the Vacha All-Stars of Cleveland to a game, Cleveland newspapers sent staff sports writers to see Alta in action. The game was played in League Park, Clevelandís big league ball yard, in the fall of 1907. With Alta pitching the Independents won the game 7 to 6.

Her father Dr. George, realizing he had a star on his hands, built a big gymnasium where Alta could practice during the winter. John Berger, who worked for Dr. Weiss, was her catcher. Alta worked out with weights to increase her strength and improve her speed.

In 1908, Dr. Weiss bought a half-interest in the Vermillion team and changed the name to Weiss All-Stars. He outfitted his daughter in a black uniform to contrast with the white suits worn by men. That same year, Alta graduated from the Auburn Township two-year high school. The commencement date was changed so that Alta could graduate on a date that didn't conflict with one of her All-Star pitching engagements.

Touring Ohio and Kentucky, the Weiss All-Stars played to record crowds of appreciative fans. Because Alta was the star attraction she would pitch five inning of every game and then move to first base. The fans often threw money on the field to show their appreciation after a particularly good play.

After the 1908 season Alta attended the Wooster Academy in Ohio in preparation for college. Two years later she entered the Starling College of Medicine, now Ohio State University Medical College in Columbus. During her college days she played in some baseball games but after 1910 her pitching appearances were infrequent. In 1914 she graduated as a Doctor of Medicine, the only female in the class.

weiss all stars.jpg (103184 bytes)In 1922, she played her last game in uniform. By 1927, she married "Johnny" Hisrich of Ragersville and they lived in Norwalk, Ohio, where she practiced and John had a garage. After twelve years of marriage, Alta and John separated. Following the death of her father in 1946, Alta returned to Ragersville, to take over his practice. Within a few years she
completely retired from medical practice and became something of a recluse in her home on the square of Ragersville. She lived out her days, sitting on her porch, reading newspapers and watching the Ragersville youngsters play ball.

Dr. Alta Weiss Hisrich died in 1964 in Ragersville and is buried in West Lawn Cemetery in Winesburg, Ohio with her mother.

  • PHOTOS: From top to bottom

  • Alta pitching in the early days

  • Dr. Weiss

  • The Weiss All-Stars. Alta is seated center in the black uniform. Her sister, Miss Irma Weiss is standing in the back row. She was not a member of the team. More than likely she was the teamís trainer