Ruth Lessing was a San Antonio native with blonde good looks and a competitive spirit. A standout athlete at Jefferson High School, Tex was spotted in the early 1940s by a scout from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. In 1944, at the age of 18, Lessing had just graduated when she left San Antonio to join the Minneapolis Millerettes. It was the first time that she had even been out of Texas. Lessing went to Ft. Wayne in 1945, where she became a mainstay in the Daisies lineup. That year she set the league record for highest fielding percentage by a catcher (.982).
In 1946, Lessing landed in Grand Rapids, which she would call home for the rest of her career. As a member of the Chicks, Tex solidified her position as one of the best backstops around. In her first year with the team, she set the league record for most assists by a catcher (141). Ruth helped the Chicks win the pennant in 1947, and in 1948 she set another record, appearing in 125 games behind the plate. During her stay in Grand Rapids, Lessing was selected to the All-Star team three times (1946, 1947, and 1948). Unfortunately, just 44 games into the 1949 season, Ruth suffered a career-ending shoulder injury, and was forced to retire from the
After her playing days, Lessing took a job at Kelly AFB. She also shared her experience with the next generation of ball players. Ruth was a coach, not only on the playing field, but also in life. Her forthright manner could be intimidating, but it was hard to doubt that her heart was in the right place. She set high standards, and she fully expected you to meet them. In 1991, Lessing was hired as a technical adviser for A League of Their Own and appeared in the movie with other former AAGPBL players. One day when Madonna showed up not wearing a shirt under her coveralls, it was Ruth who told her that if she wanted her picture taken with Ruth Lessing, she had better go put a shirt on. Madonna, just like everyone else, listened—and there are pictures to prove it.
Ruth Lessing died of cancer in 2000 at the age of 75. If you’re on second base wondering if you should try to steal third, stop and listen. You may hear Ruth whispering in your ear. She is coaching us now from heaven’s baseline and she still expects us all to be the very best people we can possibly be. Ruth, welcome to the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame family.