Gertrude “Gert” Hern, 94, began playing baseball when she was 6 years old and likes to say she was born with a baseball in her hand. Her uncle, who was an avid baseball player, took her to the ball park with him as she was growing up and she remembers the day he bought her a glove. “That was it,” she says. “It made a new person out of me.”
Gert played baseball on grade school teams and was pretty good as she recalls. The Roth Rangers of St. Louis thought so, and they signed her up as a catcher when she was 17 years old. She broke her fingers three times while playing professional baseball and will show you her crooked fingers to prove it. Once during a game, as she was squatting down in the catcher’s position, her equipment became tangled in her uniform. When she stood up, her uniform pants pulled off and she suddenly found herself standing near home plate in her underwear. The audience was amused and Gert says “That was a day I’ll never forget.”
Gert had a job in a grocery store during her time playing baseball. The store manager was very nice about letting her off work so she could play on the team. She says she and her teammates didn’t get paid much to play for the Roth Rangers, but all of their travel and meal expenses were paid. She remembers what an adventure it was traveling with all her friends on the team.
The Roth Rangers played their home games in south St. Louis and would also travel to South Side Park in Chicago quite often, which was one of Gert’s favorite baseball parks.
The team traveled to small towns to play other teams as well. Gert recalls, “The women on the team were like family to me. We practiced together, we went to church together on Sundays, and we never went to the bars to drink, and we never cursed. My mother knew all of their mothers and we always had chaperones when we traveled to away games.”
Gert points out that “Some of the teams we played would be drunk as they played, and we always beat them pretty easy.” Gert was always happy she was not on a team that acted like that. Her motto, she says, was “to be honest with everyone and never fight in a game.” Gertrude Hern was born in 1922 in St. Louis, Missouri and lived there most of her life. As a child she went to a Catholic School. She had dreams of one day becoming a nun, but her family didn’t think she would be able to play baseball and be a nun. She stayed with her first love, baseball, and the rest is history. Watch a short clip of Gert’s One Legacy video interview, click here. Many thanks to Hitz Memorial Home for introducing us to Gert!