Youngen lays the foundations for women's sports

Youngen lays the foundations for women's sports

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Last summer Lois Youngen, former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League member and longtime women’s athletics coach at the University of Oregon, spoke about her life at the Dover Public Library.

She talked about her baseball career, profiled in the movie, "A League of Their Own." Youngen also talked about her hometown connections with Alta Weiss, another pioneering baseball player and professional woman who shared Youngen’s love for the sport.

Both were recently inducted into the inaugural class of the Tuscarawas County Sports Hall of Fame — the brainchild of Tom Farbizo of the New Philadelphia Quaker Club and Dover Public Library Director Jim Gill.

According to the June 2022 SoSH blog post from Sam Jones, who attended one of Youngen’s Dover Public Library presentations, Weiss’ dad, Dr. George Weiss, helped establish Ragersville’s first high school in 1905.

It was here sisters Alma and Irma were encouraged to play baseball with the boys. However, it wasn’t until the Weiss family took a summer trip to Vermillion on Lake Erie in 1907 that Alta’s baseball skills caught the attention of Vermillion Mayor H.P. Williams, who arranged several exhibition games for Alta to play with Cleveland area semi-pro teams at League Park, which was home of the then-named Cleveland Naps.

George Weiss and Alta returned to Ragersville, and Alta trained in an indoor gym built by her father in preparation for semi-professional ball following her graduation from Ragersville High School in 1908. She and Irma were the only graduates of the inaugural graduating class.

A short time later, Weiss joined a semi-pro baseball club her father eventually purchased — renamed the Weiss All-Stars.

Alta played throughout Ohio and Kentucky throughout 1908, and the Weiss All Stars compiled a record of 21-19 with one tie. Alta then left baseball to follow in her father’s footsteps.

She was the only woman in the 1914 graduating class at the Starling-Ohio Medical College. According to the Ohio State University Libraries website, the trustees of the Starling Medical College and of the Ohio Medical University, recognizing the advantages that would accrue to the cause of education and to the entire medical profession by union and co-operation, transferred the property and equities of these two corporations to a board of their own selection with power to incorporate a new college.

Discussions surrounding the merger began late in 1906. The merger was completed March 13, 1907. The name agreed upon — Starling-Ohio Medical College — was a blending of the names of the only medical colleges in Central Ohio at the time.

The new corporation included a medical college, a dental college and a pharmacy college, designated as departments. Alta was one of 303 graduates while the SOMC was in operation. The SOMC became the Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1914.

Alta was a successful physician during the height of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and later set up practice in Norwalk. Dr. George Weiss continued to practice in Ragersville.

It was here, in 1933, George Weiss delivered Lois Youngen.

Youngen’s family later moved to what is now Westfield Center in Medina County. Youngen, like Alta Weiss, started playing baseball with the boys, and upon visiting a cousin in Indiana in 1950, she learned about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League by watching the Ft. Wayne Daisies.

Teams like the Daisies became popular during WWII with many GI baseball players fighting in the war. Youngen felt she could play and received a tryout, which was so successful Youngen joined the Daisies in 1951 and spent three years with the team, capped off with a perfect game in 1954. It also was that year the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was disbanded, now that GIs were back from the war.

Youngen had studied at Kent State during the off-season and played one more year of pick-up semi-professional baseball. This led to her completing a master’s degree at Michigan State University before her move west to join the University of Oregon faculty in 1960.

It was during this time Youngen began to lay the foundations of what would become women’s collegiate sports by serving as the University of Oregon’s unpaid women’s tennis coach from 1964-68. Youngen also volunteered to coach women’s basketball for the 1966 season.

Youngen also volunteered to join the University of Oregon’s track coach Bill Bowerman to teach the first co-ed jogging course, as described in Melody Ward Leslie’s article, "Lois Youngen is in a League of Her Own," which appears on the University of Oregon website. The course became known as the “jog-run” course and led to Youngen becoming the women’s track coach in 1970. She credits Title IX legislation with equalizing athletic opportunities for college women and making all PE activities coeducational, virtually overnight.

Youngen completed her career at the University of Oregon as first director of physical activity and recreation services and was instrumental in securing funding for the recreation center known locally as PE and Rec before she retired in 1996.