Queen Lizzie Plays First Base
June 21, 1965
One of summer's sporting wonders in New England
and eastern Canada in the 1920s and early 1930s was
the appearance and performance of Lizzie Murphy as
first baseman on men's baseball teams barnstorming
in her life and profession Lizzie put aside her
Christian name of Elizabeth and was billed variously
as "Spike" Murphy, "the best woman baseball player
in the country," "The Queen of Baseball," or, simply
and as she preferred it, just "Lizzie." That was the
name she had emblazoned in large letters on the
blouse of her singular touring uniform. The name of
the team, whatever it happened to be, was of less
interest to the public than her own. When at
business, Lizzie wore her reddish-blonde hair wound
tightly around her head and tucked up under her
peaked cap. She was a tallish, tomboyish 5 feet 6
inches tall, and her playing weight was 120 pounds.
In the field she chattered constantly in the fashion
of ballplayers who possessed the old vinegar.
Only her fame and the name on her blouse,
rather than a mincing, feminine approach to the
game's demands, set Lizzie apart from her teammates.
Lizzie could field, throw and run with any man among
them. Her only shortcoming was a perhaps
understandable lack of power with the bat.
At first, when Lizzie started barnstorming New
England with Eddie Carr's All-Stars of Boston in the
early '20s, the ever present wowsers protested
Manager Carr's exploiting a woman in such fashion.
Carr did not check his swing in replying.
"She swells attendance, and she's worth every
cent I pay her," Carr said. "But most important, she
produces the goods and, all in all, she's a real
player and a good fellow." "No ball is too hard for
her to scoop out of the dirt, and when it comes to
batting, she packs a mean wagon tongue."
Back where Lizzie came from—Warren, R.I. a
small town on the eastern shore of Narragansett
Bay—there was no quarrel with these ultimates of
Carr's, except he didn't go far enough. Warren felt
that Lizzie was all of them and more—a veritable
female Frank Merriwell.
Her older and only brother, Henry, to this day
claims that no boy Lizzie's age on the east shore
could keep up with her on ice skates. She also was
an excellent swimmer. Her background was French on
her mother's side, and she spoke the language
fluently—if Canadian-style. (Once in a game in
Canada. Lizzie overheard the opposition's first-base
coach unsuspectingly giving the steal signal in
French. Lizzie called time, set up a code with her
catcher and flashed it each time a runner was to be
sent down. "Nailed five of them that way," she said
Lizzie also won local renown as a
long-distance runner, dabbled in soccer and was
proficient on the violin. But her preoccupation,
hobby and passion remained baseball. Brother Henry
started her at it, playing catch. Her mother fretted
about it and her father, a mill-worker and baseball
player himself, encouraged Lizzie, thinking it a
tomboy's interest that would pass. He underestimated
"When I was at an age when kids threw stones
at cats and hens," Lizzie said, recalling once her
indoctrination into the sport, "I guess I hit the
mark as often as any of the boys. When I got a
little older, I would join the boys playing one o'
Around the age of 12 she was put to work in
one of Warren's then flourishing woolen mills.
"But I was always dreaming of the outdoors and
baseball," Lizzie said of her time before the looms.
"Even then, when I was too small to play, I used to
beg the boys to let me carry the bats. Finally, I
was allowed to join the team for only one reason: I
used to 'steal' my father's gloves and bats and
bring them along, so I was a valuable asset to them
when I could furnish some of the equipment."
Almost from the start Lizzie's performance in the
scrub games was so good that she soon was the
premiere choice of the team captain with first
picks. By the age of 15, she was playing with such
amateur clubs as the Warren Silk Hats and the Warren
Baseball Club and was on her way.
There was one hesitancy along about the age of
18. Lizzie came to the familiar crossroad reached by
most athletically able young ladies: the time when
they must decide whether to continue at games or
become proper girls.
"I about decided that baseball wasn't a game
for a girl and that I'd quit," Lizzie said, shortly
after facing that critical junction. "But then I
went to look at one of the games. It just made me
crazy to take a turn at the bat and line one out."
The verdict was for baseball, and thereafter
her career went along full tilt, starting on a paid
professional basis on a Warren semipro team.
Starting, that is, after a significant one-game
In Lizzie's first appearance with that
particular team the customary hat was passed among
the spectators, and the rather large sum of $85 was
returned. Not without cause, Lizzie felt her
presence had contributed to both the attendance and
the contributions. However, so the tale goes, when
it came time to divvy the pot, Lizzie was somehow
"overlooked" and received nothing.
The team manager, though, was sufficiently
aware of Lizzie's impact to remember to book the
team into Newport, just down the road, for the
following Saturday. With Lizzie as an attraction and
all those sailors handy, he figured on a bonanza.
All week long before the Newport engagement
Lizzie came to practice, taking her workout with the
team, saying nothing about finances. On Saturday
morning, with interest running high at Newport,
Lizzie became, without much doubt, baseball's first
woman holdout. She simply told the manager as the
club gathered for the trip, "No money, no Newport."
The manager quickly capitulated for a sum of $5 per
game, plus an equal share of the collection.
Lizzie moved into relatively bigger money when
she joined a team called the Providence Independents
about 1918 and began touring southern New England.
She made still more money when the All-Stars of
Boston took her on a few years later.
With the latter club Lizzie made her forays
into Canada, playing as many as 100 games a season.
She never did reveal how much money she made, but a
portion of her take came from her practice of going
into the stands and hawking a picture postcard of
herself in uniform. She once admitted to making $22
from between-innings work on a crowd of less than
1,000 at Worcester, Mass., and always said afterward
that Worcester was just about her favorite town. But
she also said that from a crowd of 6,500 at
Dorchester, Mass., she gleaned less than $50. She
was inclined to be bitter about Dorchester after
Money wasn't everything with Lizzie. She often
said later that she considered the touring an
education and an experience, and anything but a
"I was always rough and ready, and I
could take it," she maintained. "I got in shape
beating rugs and chopping wood. This kept me fit for
running the bases and driving the ball to the
Traveling the countryside with a group of
young males was never a problem either, she said.
"Of course they cursed and swore," she said, "but I
didn't mind. I knew all the words myself."
Lizzie considered her competitive peak came in
a charity game, just a couple of innings long,
played in Boston between the Red Sox and a
collection of major leaguers going under the working
title of the American League All-Stars—with Lizzie
Murphy at first base. It was during that contest she
displayed the baseball skill of which she was most
proud; namely, her ability to handle anything that
came her way. The third baseman on her own team that
day was the one who—for spite, Lizzie always
suspected—put her quickly to the test.
"The first man up hit to him at third," she
said, "and he held onto the ball as long as he could
and then gunned it across. What an arm! I fooled
him, though, and handled the ball easily. He went
over to our shortstop and said, 'She'll do.' What he
didn't know was that I liked fast ones better than
In 1935, at the age of 40, Lizzie put aside
her uniform, retired to Warren and two years later
married a non-baseball player. Her husband met an
untimely death a few years thereafter, and Lizzie
took to various and modest ways of making a living
for herself and her mother. She worked at the mills
for a time and for a number of years went on the
oyster boats then working out of Warren. Obviously
there was very little money around from her baseball
days and, perhaps partly because of that, she seemed
to sour on the game in her later years.
"It's hard to explain why I liked baseball so
much," she once said grumpily to a visitor seeking
her reminiscences. "And the more I think about it
the less I understand the reason."
She died on April 17, 1964, at the age of 70.
Occasionally, in her last years, someone would try
to revive her interest in baseball. Once she was
asked to take part in the dedicatory festivities for
a Little League, and Lizzie's reply was, "I don't
want any part of it." Again, some friends and
admirers planning a testimonial dinner on her behalf
thought it wise to ask Lizzie whether if so honored
she would attend. "I would not," she told them
She declined, her friends decided, because of
pride and because she never did go much for
frivolities. It also might have been that at the
time they asked her she was thinking of that day in
Compliments of Sports Illustrated Articles ( Author
John Hanlon ) 1965