HARRISBURG -- Eleanor Engle, who 60 years ago became the first woman to sign a professional baseball contract, has died.
The Harrisburg Senators signed Engle to a contract in 1952, but she never had a chance to play for the team in a game. Her contract was promptly voided by minor league president George Trautman and Major League Baseball commissioner Ford Frick.
Engle, of Shiremanstown, dies Thursday. She was 86.
Her brief professional baseball experience was not a positive one, however.
She rarely gave interviews.
She did speak to local writer Andrew Linker, the author of the book, "One Patch of Grass," in 2002 and 2006, however. "Oh, I don't like to talk about what happened then,'' Engle told Linker. "I just don't want to talk about it."
A star softball and basketball player in high school, Engle, a stenographer with the Public Utilities Commission, was signed by the publicity-starved Senators in June of 1952. The manager of the Senators objected, however; he had no plans of ever putting her into an actual game.
A famous photo shows Engle sitting by herself on one side of the Senators' dugout, while the rest of the team is on the other side.
"The publicity to me back then was horrible," Engle told Linker. "I used to have reporters waiting for me outside of church. I felt like I was being tailed all the time. I would get on the bus to go to town and they'd say, 'Why, she doesn't have baseball player legs! I thought, 'How cruel.' "
Although she lived only a few miles away from the stadium, Linker says she never returned to Harrisburg's City Island, where the team still plays its games.
Trautman and Frick also announced in 1952 that no team in the majors or minors could sign a woman to play without facing "severe disciplinary action."
"Trautman threw me a curve and I struck out," Engle reportedly said shortly after being informed of the decision.