Rose Gacioch, a groundbreaking athlete from South Wheeling is well known for her time in the All American Girls Baseball League as a member of the Rockford Peaches. Yes, the same team featured in the 1992 film, A League of Their Own.
Before her time in the big leagues, Gacioch was well known in Wheeling as the only girl on the boy’s semi-professional “Little Cardinals” team. Orphaned at 16, she lied about her age to get a job at Wheeling Corrugating.1 While the novelty of her being on the boys’ team may have led to people being aware of her, her talent led to local acclaim. Here are some clippings from her stint as a Little Cardinal:
Page 8 of Wheeling Intelligencer, published in Wheeling, West Virginia on Saturday, May 16th, 1931.
Page 9 of Wheeling Intelligencer, published in Wheeling, West Virginia on Monday, July 13th, 1931
Page 8 of Wheeling Intelligencer, published in Wheeling, West Virginia on Wednesday, September 30th, 1931
Rose earned the nickname “Gaspipe” because folks had a hard time pronouncing her Polish surname, Gacioch (Gay-sotch). It looks like early printers had a hard time spelling it too, as most of her Little Cardinal appearances are credited under “Rose Gatch.” She was apparently called “Jerry” at one point, too.
Aside from providing her much-needed financial support, her job at Wheeling Corrugating would eventually give her a leg-up in the baseball world. According to lore, the president of Wheeling Corrugating met with Maud Nelson, manager of the All-Star Ranger Girls’ exhibition baseball team. Maud signed Rose to the team, and she went on tour for the first time.2
Here’s coverage for a game that heralded Rose’s return to wheeling after her multi-season career with the All-Star Ranger Girls. She went back to work in Wheeling, but never gave up on her dreams of playing baseball again.
In 1944 she heard tryouts for the All American Girls Baseball Professional Baseball League were being held at Pulaski Field. The AAGPBL was created by chewing gum mogul and owner of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Philip K. Wrigley. He worried that baseball stadiums would fall into disuse with many of the players for men’s teams fighting in World War II.3
At 29, Rose was a bit older than the ideal prospect ought to be, but nevertheless she secured a place in the league. After a year on the South Bend Blue Sox, she made the move to the Rockford Peaches where she spent the majority of her career.
Here’s footage of the 1949 Rockford Peaches playing the Peoria Red Wings.
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Rose was one of the league’s strongest players, being voted to the AAGPBL All-Star team in 1952-54. Among other league records, she pitched a no-hitter in 1953, and was the league’s only 20-game winner.4 After she retired from baseball, she moved to metro Detroit to be closer to family. In her retirement, she would still attend reunions with her league mates and even threw the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game at 88. 5
In 2004, Rose Gacioch was inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame. Created in 1977, the Wheeling Hall of Fame honors the outstanding accomplishments of Wheelingites from all walks of life.6You can read her entry to the Hall of Fame here. The Wheeling Hall of Fame is located in Wesbanco Arena, and the inductee bios are also available online here. Or, another way to honor Rose is to dust off your baseball gear and head over to Pulaski Field. If Rose’s legacy has proved one thing, it doesn’t matter how old you are, all that matters is the love of the game.
Rose Gacioch, courtesy of the Ohio County Public Library Archives.
Rose Gacioch's official AAGPBL baseball card, courtesy of the Ohio County Public Library Archives.
1“Rose M. Gacioch, 89; Star Player in Women’s Baseball League” Obituary. Los Angeles Times. September 17, 2004. https://www.latimes.com/arch
6Wheeling Hall of Fame. https://www.wheelingwv.gov/hall-of-fame-board
• Kate Wietor is currently studying Architectural History and Historic Preservation at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. She spent one glorious year in Wheeling serving as the 2021-22 AmeriCorps member at Wheeling Heritage. Since moving back to Virginia, she’s still looking for an antique store that rivals Sibs.