By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Evelyn Wawryshyn Moroz, an all-star second baseman in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), passed away in Winnipeg, Man., on February 3 at the age of 97.
The news of her death was shared with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Wawryshyn Moroz was one of 68 Canadian women that played in the AAGPBL that were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., in a ceremony in 1998.
Born in Tyndall, Man., on November 11, 1924, Wawryshyn Moroz grew up with three brothers. In an autobiographical passage on the AAGPBL website, she shared that it was her older brother, Archie, who instilled a love of baseball in her.
The family lived in the country without other children close by, so it wasn’t until she was in grade 5 that she played anything that resembled organized baseball.
She competed against the boys at her school.
“When they got together to play baseball, my brother would say, ‘Let Evie play first or shortstop,”’ recalled Wawryshyn Moroz on the AAGPBL website.
Wawryshyn Moroz would strengthen her arm by tossing a rubber ball at home.
“I spent hours throwing it against our house and catching it on the rebound, usually grounders,” said Wawyryshyn Moroz.
But she wasn’t just a standout baseball player. Wawryshyn Moroz was also the Senior Girls Track and Field champion in Northeastern Manitoba in 1940 and a high scoring hockey player. She was also a key member of the senior women’s basketball team from Flin Flon, Man., that captured a provincial championship in 1946.
But it was competing on the diamond that she loved the most.
Wawryshyn Moroz was the MVP of the Winnipeg Canadian Ukranian Athletic Club (CUAC) Blues fastball team that won a provincial championship in 1945. And it was while she was playing for the Blues that she was discovered by an AAGPBL scout.
“At one of our games, unknown to me, there was an All-American Girls Professional Baseball scout in the stands,” she shared with the AAGPBL site. “At the conclusion of the game, the scout stopped me and asked if I wanted to go to the States to play ball for money. I didn’t believe him and dismissed the incident as an impossible offer.”
The 5-foot-3 infielder returned to her teaching job at a small-mining town in her home province when she received a second offer from the AAGPBL, this one by telegram. This time she realized it wasn’t a joke and accepted the offer and headed to Chicago for a tryout at Wrigley Field. She impressed the talent evaluators on hand and earned a contract with the Kenosha Comets for the 1946 season.
“I got a telegram from [Philip] Wrigley asking if they would like me to come and start for a salary of, I think it was $45 or $50 a week,” Wawryshyn Moroz told CBC in 2018.
With so many men serving in the Second World War, Chicago Cubs owner Philip Wrigley feared baseball would be forgotten in the early ’40s. So to maintain interest in the sport, he dispatched scouts across North America to find the best female players to compete in what would become the AAGPBL.
In her first AAGPBL season, split between the Kenosha Comets and the Muskegon Lassies, Wawryshyn Moroz played second base and batted .217 in 73 games. The following year her playing time was reduced to 36 games before she moved on to the expansion Springfield Sallies in 1948.
Though the Sallies finished with a dismal 41-84 record and in last place, Wawryshyn Moroz enjoyed a breakout season, batting .262, while setting career highs in games (118) and stolen bases (66). For her efforts, she was voted to the Third All-League Team.
Following that season, she landed with the Fort Wayne Daisies and proceeded to collect a career-best six triples and swipe 64 bases in 1949 to earn Second All-League Team honours.
But it was her 1950 campaign that was her best. That season, she batted a career-high .311, which was good for third in the AAGPBL. She also established career-bests in hits (124), doubles (13) and runs (71) and was selected to play in her first All-Star Game.
In her final AAGPBL season in 1951, Wawryshyn Moroz recorded a career-high 54 RBIs and stole 50 bases. That represented the fourth consecutive campaign in which she had swiped at least 50 bases.
Following the 1951 season, Wawryshyn Moroz, then only 26, walked away from her baseball career to get married and start a family. She had two children with her first husband. After he passed away, she settled in the Winnipeg area and married a high school principal named Henry Moroz in 1960. The couple would have four children.
Wawryshyn Moroz cherished her time in the AAGPBL and stayed connected with her former teammates through the AAGPBL Players Association.
In 1988, more than 36 years after her last AAGPBL game, she was part of a special ceremony recognizing the trailblazing women’s circuit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Four years later, she was elected to the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, followed by inductions into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame (1997) and the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame (1998).
As noted earlier, she was also one of the 68 Canadian women that played in the AAGPBL that was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Twenty years later, she was inducted into the Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame in Horsham, Penn.
“I never saw it as being a legend or anything like that. I guess there was a group of us that went down [to the AAGPBL] and we were just going to do things which we loved to do [play baseball],” a modest 93-year-old Wawryshyn Moroz told CityNews Winnipeg in 2018 about playing in the AAGPBL.
She is survived by her six children Linda, Greg, Dawn, Sheryl, Penny, and Tammy and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.