Katie Horstman – Praying for a place to play!

Katie Horstman played four years in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, splitting time between the Kenosha Comets and Fort Wayne Daisies in 1951 and then playing three full seasons with the Daisies. Before beginning her pro career, Katie was a 14-year-old kid praying for a place where girls could play baseball just like the guys. Little did Katie know that her path to the AAGPBL would be quick, and not just because she grew up 65 miles from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Katie’s road to the AAGPBL started with a handsome priest from Kentucky and ended with an insurance agent moonlighting as a scout for the AAGPBL, but those are stories Katie should tell. What I would like to tell you about is our conversation, and Katie’s accomplishments during and after her professional baseball career ended.

Katie was a teammate of Lois Youngen, (see my blog post about Lois here: http://justlikemethebook.com/lois-youngen-winning-with-a-girl/) for three of her four years with the Daisies, and Lois, who I had already interviewed, introduced me to Katie. After talking with Katie, she agreed to speak with me about her childhood growing up playing baseball, softball, and sports in general. When I called Katie for our interview, I immediately knew that we would have a great conversation. Katie has a great laugh, one of those laughs that makes you laugh; a laugh that I had heard for many years from my Aunt Ruby but unfortunately hadn’t heard since she passed away, so hearing Katie laugh brought back a lot of great memories and set the stage for our conversation. In talking to Katie, it was apparent she loved playing sports, and if she wasn’t playing, she was rooting for her favorite player, Wally Post of the Cinncinati Reds. Wally had graduated from Katie’s high school just a couple of years before her. Katie told me she didn’t care what sport she was playing; she just loved playing with her brothers and her friends.  For girls growing up in Ohio during the 1940s, there were not many opportunities to play organized sports. Football was out of the question, even though she was the best kicker in her high school, basketball involved playing on a dirt floor in the barn, but organized, team softball was there for the girls to play. Katie loved playing softball with her friends, so much so that she always made sure she had the cows milked before the games because she didn’t want to miss out on the gossiping after the game.

Katie’s last year playing in the AAGPBL was 1954 but not because she was no longer wanted; 1954 was the last year for the AAGPBL, and the league folded at season’s end. As a side note, during my interview with Lois Youngen, she goes into great detail explaining some of the changes the league made to try and keep fan interest in the league, up until the end of the 1954 season. It is a shame the league shut down at this time in Katie’s career; she was maturing physically, playing regularly at third base, and exhibiting the thing she liked the most, hitting with a lot of power at the plate. Katie quadrupled her home run total from the year before. Katie even pitched, winning 10 against 4 losses. She finished the 1954 season with an ERA of 2.85. Can you say, “All-around player!”

Barnstorming the country was in Katie’s future. She toured the country for three years with a select group of All Americans, playing men’s teams during the late summer months. She has some stories to tell about this time in her life, stories you will enjoy reading, and will give you a sense of the enjoyment Katie gets out of life.

Once her playing days were over, Katie graduated from Medical Record Librarian School, joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart for five years, and, while there, became the first nun in the United States to earn a Bachelor of Sciences degree in physical education. After earning her degree, Katie left the Franciscan Sisters and became a physical education teacher and started many sports programs for girls, including softball, volleyball, track and field and cross-country teams. Her track teams won eight state championships and two cross-country state championships.

Look, I could go on and on and on and on about Katie’s accomplishments, but I’ll leave it at this … she’s in the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, is the first woman to be elected into the Ohio Track Hall of Fame, the first woman elected into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame with her AAGPBL teammates. Nuff said!!!

Katie was a joy to interview. As with all of the players I’ve talked with, she far exceeded my expectations, and her stories of Minster, Ohio paint a picture of a kid’s life growing up dreaming of playing her favorite sport, just like the stars of the Cincinnati Reds.