Canada's Sports Hall of Fame Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport Virtual Museum of Canada


Helen Nicol Fox's athletic achievements spanned forty years and multiple sport disciplines, including hockey, softball, baseball, speed skating and golf. Most famously, in 1943 she became one of the original players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Recruited at the age of 23 after a scout witnessed her pitching at the Western Canada playoffs in Regina, Helen had previously worked as a store clerk earning a modest weekly income of $9.50. The contract she signed with the AAGPBL guaranteed a weekly salary of 85 dollars, an exceptional sum to be offered a female athlete at the time.

Operating from 1943 to 1954, AAGPBL organizers promoted a 'feminine' game that blended aspects of softball and baseball, and required players to wear skirts, carry cosmetic kits and conform to a 'ladylike' code of conduct at all times. Helen Nicol Fox remained skeptical of this feminized view of baseball, and when interviewed by the Chicago Daily News in 1943 she admitted to wondering " you're going to look all fluffed up when sweat starts messing your the middle of a ball game". Resolutely focused on fulfilling her own potential, she quickly became a breakout baseball star, playing with the Kenosha Comets in Wisconsin from 1943 to 1947, and the Rockford Peaches in Illinois from 1947 to 1952.

Helen Nicol Fox managed to achieve competitive excellence and remain true to her own capabilities even while conforming to the AAGPBL's 'feminine' brand of sport. In 1943 she was named to the All-Star team as Pitcher of the Year, achieving a 31-8 record, and accumulating the most strikeouts (220), shutouts (8), and lowest Earned Run Average (1.81). She repeated her Pitcher of the Year performance in 1944 with a 17-11 record, 136 strikeouts, and 0.93 ERA. Fox also set the many all-time records in the AAGPBL, including most games pitched (313), most overall wins (163) strikeouts (1, 076) and best career ERA (1.89). AAGPBL players recalled "Nickie Fox would knock our socks off every time she pitched." Her achievements were all the more remarkable for overcoming the multiple, sometimes contradictory pressures she faced as a female athlete breaking new ground for women in the male-dominated world of professional sport.

photograph of Helen Nicol Fox in dugout with coach
Bill Allington was the manager for the Rockford Peaches when Helen Nicol Fox played on the team. Helen was a decisive force in helping her team to three consecutive championships. She showed her leadership and passion for the game throughout her career.
Collection: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

photograph of Rockford Peaches Baseball team
The first women's baseball team was formed at Vassar College in the United States in 1866. When the All American Girl's Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was formed they continued a long tradition of women participating in sport. The difference was these women were among the first paid professionals and were pioneers at bringing equality to women's sports.
Collection: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

photograph of Helen Nicol Fox pitching
The game the AAGPBL started playing was a hybrid of baseball and softball using elements of each game from differing ball size to the distance to the pitcher's mound. Pitchers started with the underhand windmill as in softball and by 1948 overhand pitching was allowed. The change in play over time did not diminish Helen Nicol Fox's excellence as a right-hander hurler as she learned through perseverance and patience to adjust to the new style.
Collection: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball glove used by Helen Nicol Fox
Helen was a pioneer in her baseball career, helping women to achieve excellence both on and off the field. Women's baseball has continued to grow from those early professional years and is competed at an international elite level in both baseball and softball, including the Olympic Games from 1996 to 2008 and the Pan American Games.
Collection: Alberta Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

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