FISCHER, ALVA JO [TEX]

Manuel Grajales
Alva Jo Fischer (1926–1973).
Alva Jo Fischer, noted pitcher and infielder in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1945 to 1949, was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

FISCHER, ALVA JO [TEX] (1926–1973). Alva Jo “Tex” Fischer, pitcher and infielder,  one of three Texas women to play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), and a member of the 1945 Rockford Peaches AAGPBL Championship team, was born in San Antonio, Texas. According to her birth and death certificates, she was born on September 23, 1926. She was the daughter of Arnold Earl Fischer, Sr. and Lida Mae (Henry) Fischer.

Fischer attended St. Paul’s Elementary School and Page Junior High in San Antonio. At the age of nine, she began playing softball and quickly became a city league pitching prodigy noted for throwing shutouts and no-hitters. Prior to an exhibition game against Grand Rapids Furniture in June 1940, the San Antonio Light advertised that Fischer would play all nine positions—starting the game as the pitcher and rotating to a different position of the field each inning. She continued to play city league softball while attending Brackenridge High School. Alva Jo Fischer and city league teammate Ruth Lessing attracted attention from the National Softball League and the newly-formed All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1944. Lessing signed with the AAGPBL in 1944, and Fischer joined in 1945.

At the age of seventeen, Fischer joined the AAGPBL during the 1945 season and was assigned to the Rockford Peaches, where her teammates began to call her “Tex.” Primarily a pitcher, she won four games and pitched ninety-eight innings as part of the Peaches team that won the league championship. During the 1946 season she was assigned to the Muskegon Lassies, where she remained for the rest of her AAGPBL career. Although manager Buzz Boyle experimented with her as a shortstop, she was primarily a pitcher that season and pitched 224 innings with a 2.77 earned run average (ERA). She also had a .309 batting average in 97 at bats. For spring training in 1947 Fischer traveled with the league to Havana, Cuba, where teams recruited talent and played against Cuban softball teams. In 1947 Muskegon Lassies’ new manager Bill Wambsganss moved Fischer off the mound and to shortstop for the season to utilize her strong arm. Although she struggled in the field, she drove in 35 runs and stole 28 bases that season with a .202 batting average.

Fischer played shortstop and pitched during the 1948 and 1949 seasons for Muskegon. During the 1948 season, she had a .252 batting average and set career highs in hits (89) for the season and runs (31) as a hitter, while her defense improved in the field. As a pitcher for the Lassies, during a season that saw the league transition from full sidearm pitching to overhand pitching style, Fischer compiled a 1.47 ERA and struck out 55 in 129 innings pitched, while winning nine games. Her highlight year as a defensive player and pitcher was 1949. On the pitching mound, she struck out a career high 86 batters, won ten games, and posted a 1.78 ERA in 157 innings pitched. Although she struggled as a hitter in 1949, she still drove in 47 runs, stole 22 bases, and played stellar defense at shortstop that positioned her as one of the league’s top middle infielders. She ended the season as a second team All-Star Selection as a pitcher. After the 1949 season, Fischer returned to San Antonio to be closer to her family after the death of her father in 1946. During her time in the AAGPBL, the exploits of her and fellow San Antonio native Ruth Lessing were chronicled by the San Antonio newspapers. Teammates remembered Fischer as a strong player with a jovial personality. Teammate Doris Sams recalled an instance when Fischer mimicked a radio broadcaster in the clubhouse; she was unaware that the microphone was live and heard by the people in the stands.

After returning home to San Antonio, Fischer worked for San Antonio’s Parks and Recreation Department as a director for the Denver Heights Center, as well as acting as the co-coordinator of special events for the Economic Opportunities Development Corporation in the 1960s. After obtaining an education degree at Our Lady of the Lake University, she was employed by the San Antonio Independent School District as a physical education instructor and taught seventeen years—fourteen with Highlands High School and three with Connell Junior High School. Fischer continued playing sports through city league fast pitch softball and represented teams like Thompson Motors, Pepsi-Cola, Dr Pepper Girls, Budweiser Bubbles, Lamp Post Inn, and Unique Painting. Fischer was one of the stars of the San Antonio city leagues and played into her mid-forties—being a part of the city and state championship teams in fast pitch softball, continuing to pitch shutouts and no-hitters, and gaining acclaim for her defense at shortstop and third base. In 1961 the Pepsi-Cola team Fischer played for that had won the Texas state championship faced off against a championship softball team from Mexico City in a six-game exhibition series at Mission Stadium. Fischer pitched a two-hit shutout in the opening game.

Fischer continued to play city league softball until 1970, when she was diagnosed with leukemia. She died of leukemia at the age of forty-six in San Antonio, Texas, on August 15, 1973. She was survived by her mother and siblings. She was considered one of San Antonio’s greatest women athletes, and a softball facility, the Alva Jo Fischer Softball Complex, was named in her honor by the city of San Antonio in 1975. U.S. Representative Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio acted as the principal speaker for the field’s dedication. Fischer and other alumni of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League became part of the Women in Baseball permanent exhibit in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, in 1988. Fischer was also posthumously honored as a member of the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006 for her contributions to baseball, the city of San Antonio, and the state of Texas. She shared the 2006 Texas Baseball Hall of Fame honor with fellow Texas AAGPBL players Ruth Lessing and Marie Mahoney.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Merrie A. Fidler, The Origins and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2006). W. C. Madden, The Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League: A Biographical Dictionary (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997). Official Website of the AAGPBL: Alva Jo Fischer (http://www.aagpbl.org/index.cfm/profiles/fischer-alva-jo/390), accessed November 25, 2017. San Antonio Express, June 10, 1961; August 17, 20, 1973. San Antonio Express and News, August 16, 1970. San Antonio Express-News, March 30, 1975. San Antonio Light, July 6, 1939; June 13, 1940; June 14, 1944; August 27, 1946; January 5, 19, 1947; June 12, 1961; July 20, 1969; August 16, 1973. Jim Sargent, We Were the All American Girls: Interviews with Players of the AAGPBL, 1943–1954 (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013). 

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Handbook of Texas Online, Manuel Grajales, "FISCHER, ALVA JO [TEX] ," accessed November 15, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffisc.

Uploaded on January 23, 2018. Modified on May 24, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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