Non-fiction: Play Ball! Winning contest essay describes women at bat during World War II.

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1 Non-fiction: Play Ball! Play Ball! By Maria Cieslarczyk Waterbury Elementary School Illinois Winning contest essay describes women at bat during World War II. I m sure you know what baseball is. You might have seen it on TV once or twice, or you might be the biggest fan in the world! And I ll bet you know that only men play in the professional league. But have you ever heard of women playing professional baseball? This is the amazing story of a woman who was part of women s minor league baseball during World War II ( ). Courtesy of Families Fran Russmann (bottom, far left) poses with her teammates. Throughout the United States, young men, including popular baseball players, were sent off to fight in the war. The owner of the Chicago Cubs, Philip K. Wrigley, decided to start a women s baseball league to keep the sport going. [The league ran from , with hundreds of women hitting the baseball diamond to play for teams throughout the Midwest.] Article: Copyright 2009 Weekly Reader Corporation. All rights reserved. Weekly Reader is a registered trademark of Weekly Reader Corporation. Used by permission. 1

2 Non-fiction: Play Ball! That s how Mrs. Fran Russmann came to play ball! Her team, the Blue Island Dianas, was a minor league team in Chicago, Ill. Mrs. Russmann was 22 years old when she started playing. A few boys she knew asked her whether she wanted to play baseball, and she replied yes. She was very sports-minded and decided to try it. She traveled all over Illinois to play games, and she had to take a streetcar to practices! [That is a bus-like vehicle that moves on rails around cities. Streetcars were common in the 1940s.] The Blue Island Dianas played mostly on the South Side of Chicago and in small towns throughout Illinois. People reacted differently when women started playing baseball. We were a novelty, seeing girls play, Mrs. Russmann told me. A novelty is something unique or different. Female players had to be ladylike as well. She remembers how she felt while playing baseball. Her favorite position to play was second base, and she loved the game, though she was a bit nervous but excited when everyone was watching. [Thousands of fans filled stadiums to watch the women s teams play games.] Mrs. Russmann s favorite thing about baseball was hearing the crowd cheer because she knew she was entertaining them. Back then, there was no TV or Internet, so this was entertainment. When I asked Mrs. Russmann about the thing she disliked the most, she chuckled and answered, Sliding into second base. When you did, you got strawberries. A strawberry is a bright red bruise that can sometimes bleed. Female baseball players got them more because they had to wear skirts as part of their uniform, unlike men, who wore pants. [When women slid in skirts, their legs often got scraped and bruised.] Mrs. Russmann told me the most important thing she will always remember was having fun and learning sportsmanship. That is fair and respectful behavior by an athlete. Just being out there was wonderful to me, she said. When I asked how she felt about being part of a historic event, she said, I never thought I was part of a [historic] event until I watched the movie A League of Their Own. Then I realized I was! Mrs. Russmann played baseball for two years. I m so happy I tried out, she told me. It was a wonderful experience. Article: Copyright 2009 Weekly Reader Corporation. All rights reserved. Weekly Reader is a registered trademark of Weekly Reader Corporation. Used by permission. 2

3 Non-fiction: Play Ball! Lessons Learned It doesn t matter whether you re a guy or a girl, whether you have dark skin or light skin, whether you re young or old. All that matters is that if you want to do something, then go for it! You might just think it was one of the best things you ve ever done. And you might just make history! Maria Cieslarczyk, fifth grade Blast From the Past The Great Depression AP Images Emma Pittman Third grade Trinity Presbyterian School, Alabama Emma Pittman interviewed Ann Lyerly, her great-grandmother, about the Great Depression. That was a worldwide economic slump in the 1930s. Even banks ran out of money during the Depression. Lyerly recalls: One 3 Article: Copyright 2009 Weekly Reader Corporation. All rights reserved. Weekly Reader is a registered trademark of Weekly Reader Corporation. Used by permission.

4 Non-fiction: Play Ball! Friday... my dad deposited a paycheck. On Monday... the bank failed, and all of the money that we had saved was gone. Robert Kennedy s Funeral Train AP Images Beatrice Levy Fifth grade St. Joseph Elementary School, California Beatrice Levy s mom traveled to see the train carrying Robert F. Kennedy, a U.S. senator who was killed on June 5, After interviewing her mom, Beatrice set the scene: The wheels rolling on the hot metal tracks sounded so lonesome, like a metronome set very slowly: Click, pause pause pause Clack, pause pause pause Click, pause... My mom listened as the funeral train came nearer. Article: Copyright 2009 Weekly Reader Corporation. All rights reserved. Weekly Reader is a registered trademark of Weekly Reader Corporation. Used by permission. 4

5 Questions: Play Ball! Name: Date: 1. What caused the shortage of male baseball players? A Women were gaining independence and strength. B Men were sent to fight in World War II. C The economy entered a slump, and even banks ran out of money. D Men were in the professional leagues. 2. How do the two final sections, Robert Kennedy s Funeral Train and The Great Depression, relate to the main section about women s baseball? A The two sections also give suggestions about playing women s baseball. B The two sections also provide details about the time period the 1940s when women s baseball was played. C The two sections also feature students learning about historic time periods. D The two sections also highlight two other women s baseball players from the Blue Island Dianas. 3. Based on the information in the second paragraph, what can the reader most likely conclude about Phillip K. Wrigley, the person who started the women s baseball league? A Mr. Wrigley knew that the Blue Island Dianas would earn money for him. B Mr. Wrigley wanted a way to keep the sport of baseball active. C Mr. Wrigley wanted a way to lift people s spirits during the war. D Mr. Wrigley had always dreamed of starting a women s baseball league. 4. Read the sentences: That was a worldwide economic slump in the 1930s. Even banks ran out of money during the Depression. Slump most likely means: A time, or period B collapse, or downturn C success, or triumph D sloth, or laziness 1

6 Questions: Play Ball! 5. What was the main purpose of the author, Maria Cieslarczyk, in writing this passage? A to understand the differences between women s baseball and men s baseball during WWII B to highlight the hard work of women during World War II as men fought in the war C to share the story of one woman s experience on a women s league baseball team D to remember how much she loved playing baseball 6. What does Mrs. Fran Russman say is one difference between men s and women s baseball? 7. In what ways was Mrs. Fran Russman part of a historic event, as stated by the author? 8. The question below is an incomplete sentence. Choose the answer that best completes the sentence. she was nervous to play in front of thousands of fans, Mrs. Fran Russman enjoyed hearing the crowds cheering. A Even though B Instead C For example D Initially 2

7 Questions: Play Ball! 9. Answer the following questions based on the sentence below. Throughout the United States, young men, including popular baseball players, were sent off to fight during World War II. Who? young men, including popular baseball players (were) What? Where? When? 10. Vocabulary Word: lonesome (adjective): alone and sad not to be with others. Use the vocabulary word in a sentence: 3

8 Teacher Guide & Answers: Play Ball! Teacher Guide & Answers Passage Reading Level: Lexile 860 Featured Text Structure: Descriptive the writer explains, defines, or illustrates a concept or topic Passage Summary: In Play Ball, a young author interviews Mrs. Fran Russman, one of the first female players in the all-women s professional baseball league that existed from The league was created during World War II when men were sent to fight, as a way to keep the sport going since many male baseball players were sent off to fight in the war. 1. What caused the shortage of male baseball players? A Women were gaining independence and strength. B Men were sent to fight in World War II. C The economy entered a slump, and even banks ran out of money. D Men were in the professional leagues. 2. How do the two final sections, Robert Kennedy s Funeral Train and The Great Depression, relate to the main section about women s baseball? A The two sections also give suggestions about playing women s baseball. B The two sections also provide details about the time period the 1940s when women s baseball was played. C The two sections also feature students learning about historic time periods. D The two sections also highlight two other women s baseball players from the Blue Island Dianas. 3. Based on the information in the second paragraph, what can the reader most likely conclude about Phillip K. Wrigley, the person who started the women s baseball league? A Mr. Wrigley knew that the Blue Island Dianas would earn money for him. B Mr. Wrigley wanted a way to keep the sport of baseball active. C Mr. Wrigley wanted a way to lift people s spirits during the war. D Mr. Wrigley had always dreamed of starting a women s baseball league. 4. Read the sentences: That was a worldwide economic slump in the 1930s. Even banks ran out of money during the Depression. Slump most likely means: A time, or period B collapse, or downturn C success, or triumph D sloth, or laziness 5. What was the main purpose of the author, Maria Cieslarczyk, in writing this passage? A to understand the differences between women s baseball and men s baseball during WWII B to highlight the hard work of women during World War II as men fought in the war C to share the story of one woman s experience on a women s league baseball team D to remember how much she loved playing baseball 1

9 Teacher Guide & Answers: Play Ball! 6. What does Mrs. Fran Russman say is one difference between men s and women s baseball? Suggested answer: Mrs. Fran Russman states that women sometimes got strawberries, or bright red bruises that sometimes bled. Women baseball players got these because their uniform required skirts that exposed their legs, while men wore pants that protected their legs. 7. In what ways was Mrs. Fran Russman part of a historic event, as stated by the author? Suggested answer: Mrs. Fran Russman was part of a historic event because she was part of the professional women s baseball league. The league was the first of its kind, making it historic. Additionally, this particular league only lasted for eleven years ( ), meaning it is no longer a part of presentday professional baseball. This also makes it historic. 8. The question below is an incomplete sentence. Choose the answer that best completes the sentence. she was nervous to play in front of thousands of fans, Mrs. Fran Russman enjoyed hearing the crowds cheering. A Even though B Instead C For example D Initially 9. Answer the following questions based on the sentence below. Throughout the United States, young men, including popular baseball players, were sent off to fight during World War II. Who? young men, including popular baseball players (were) What? sent off to fight Where? throughout the United States When? during World War II 10. Vocabulary Word: lonesome (adjective): alone and sad not to be with others. Use the vocabulary word in a sentence: answers may vary. 2

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