This week on A Northwoods Moment in History, Gary Entz tells us about a late Three Lakes resident whose photograph hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Many people who grow up in the Northwoods think about warmer climates and perhaps a bit less snow shoveling when pondering retirement. For people who grow up in other regions, however, the quiet solitude of the Northwoods can seem like the ideal place to settle down and relax while enjoying retirement. It is not an unusual occurrence, and occasionally some very accomplished people end their years as residents of the Northwoods.
Take Marie Kazmierczak, for example. Marie Kazmierczak was born on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1920, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During her youth, Marie would have been what a lot of people call a “tomboy.” She was an all-around athlete who excelled in nearly every sport she tried. She trained as a speed skater, and at the age of 16 in 1936 she won top honors in her division in state-wide competition. Kazmierczak played other sports as well, and stood out in baseball.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was founded in 1943 in order to keep professional baseball in the public eye while many male ball players were serving in the army. This was the organization popularized in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own.” Marie Kazmierczak joined the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1944, the league’s second season. Kazmierczak, known as “Skeets” to her teammates, played outfield but was largely a backup player; however, she did set a league record by playing for three different teams in her home state in the same year. She started 1944 as a member of the Milwaukee Chicks, was traded to the Racine Belles in midseason, and ended the year as a member of the Kenosha Comets.
Kazmierczak left the league after a single season because she did not enjoy being a backup player. She continued playing in the West Allis softball league and kept up with her speed skating, but earned a living by working in an air conditioning factory. Nevertheless, competition was in her blood, and in 1954 she turned her attention to professional golf. She was not part of the new national LPGA, which was founded in 1950, but she did make a splash in state golfing tours and won several championships well in the 1960s.
When Marie Kazmierczak decided to hang up her cleats after a life of vigorous sporting activities she looked to Three Lakes, Wisconsin, as the place where she could enjoy retirement in the quiet serenity of the Northwoods. Kazmierczak settled into an unassuming life. She bought a home and raised Siberian Huskies to keep herself busy. Most of her new neighbors did not even realize that they were living near someone whose photograph hangs in the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Women in Baseball display at Cooperstown, New York. Marie Kazmierczak passed away in Three Lakes, Wisconsin, on January 15, 2000.
This story was written by Gary Entz and produced for radio by Mackenzie Martin. Some music for this commentary came Podington Bear.
A Northwoods Moment in History is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.