Women’s sports trailblazer Mary “Wimp” Baumgartner has passed

Mary "Wimp" Baumgartner

One of Fort Wayne’s female sports pioneers passed away Saturday in Kendallville, Mary “Wimp” Baumgartner, 87, was born Sept. 13, 1930, in Fort Wayne and graduated from Central High School. Instead of her given name, everyone called her Wimp or they were in trouble.

After growing up as a fan of the Zollner Pistons fastpitch softball team, Baumgartner played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with the Peoria Red Wings, Kalamazoo Lassies and mostly with the South Bend Blue Sox where she played for five seasons. The highlights of her career were being named to the 1953 all-star team and helping the Blue Sox win league titles in 1951 and 1952.

A catcher, Baumgartner was known for her excellent glove, committing only 59 errors in 1,228 fielding chances during her career. She struggled as a hitter with a .177 batting average. She served as president of the AAGPBL Players Association from 1993 to 1998 and appeared briefly in the movie “A League of Their Own.”

After the league folded following the 1954 season, Baumgartner attended the University of Indianapolis to earn a physical education degree and lettered in volleyball, basketball and track. She was inducted into the University of Indianapolis Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989 and the softball field was named for her in 2012.

She taught and coached at Jimtown High School from 1957 to 1969, leading basketball, volleyball, track and gymnastics teams and was later inducted into the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame. She was a charter member of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s first board for women from 1972-76. She coached at Leo from 1969 until her retirement in 1985, coaching volleyball, gymnastics, basketball, softball and track teams, and coaching the Lions volleyball team to the 1977 final four.

She was honored by the women in sports organization run, jane, run in 1987 with the Nancy Rehm Award which recognizes local and national women whose leadership in girls and women’s sports has shown a positive impact on young lives.

Visitation is 1-7 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. Tuesday prior to 11 a.m. services at Kendallville’s Young Family Funeral Home, 222 S. Slate St.

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