Born: April 7, 1923
Died: February 14, 2018
Town: Dover, New Jersey
Lois Anna Barker was born April 7, 1923 in Dover and grew up in Chester. Harry and Nora Barker were so sure she was going to be a boy when she was born that they had already settled on the name Tommie. This became Lois’s nickname throughout her childhood. She was one of nine kids in an athletic family. Her father was a baseball coach and one of her two brothers was a track star with Olympic aspirations. Lois spent as much time on the diamond as she could when she was a kid. She played hardball and softball, with boys and girls. She stood just 5’3”, but she was muscular and very coordinated. Her dream was to play ball professionally.
During World War II, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League formed, starting with four teams in the Midwest. The AAGPBL survived past the war and in 1949, Lois attended a tryout in Irvington. She was picked to play for the 1950 season, joining the Grand Rapids Chicks as Tommie Barker. In her first game, she lost a fly ball in the lights and it hit her on the head. She nearly quit that night.
Lois was a utility player who spent most of her time in the outfield, batting .125 in 32 games. Her most memorable moment came on a shallow fly, which she picked off her shoetops. Lois’s momentum carried her toward second base. She stepped on the bag to force one runner and then tagged another runner who had started on first base—for an unassisted triple play.
The Chicks were led by pitcher Anna Ziegler, who was named Player of the Year. After beginning the year with a 20-game losing streak, Grand Rapids finished with a 59–53 record to make the playoffs. They lost to the Fort Wayne Daisies 3 games to 1 in the opening round.
Sagging attendance hampered the AAGPBL all season long. That winter, the team owners purchased the league and ran their teams independently. Lois did not return to the league in 1951, staying home in Chester to care for her father. As with many former AAGPBL players, Lois experienced a revival in interest four decades later, with the release of the film A League of Their Own. She appeared on a couple of baseball cards and signed photos at autograph shows. She did not appear in the movie’s final scene—an AAGPBL reunion game staged at Cooperstown—because the film’s producers made the former players pay their own way.
Lois went to work for Simmonds Precision in the early 1950s and was employed there for four decades, retiring at the age of 67. She passes away in Morristown at the age of 94.