As the Great Depression brought America to the brink of disaster, a devoted single mother in Cleveland, Ohio, wrestled triumph out of adversity by creating a community activity that would inspire the nation.
Josephine Morhard never waited for something to happen. At twelve years old, fiercely independent Josephine left her family’s Pennsylvania farm to start a new life. Coming of age during one of the most devastating times in America, and weathering two bad marriages, Josephine put her personal problems aside to insure a productive future for her daughter and son. But Junior was a volatile boy of eight—until his mother came upon a novel sports idea to encourage discipline, guidance, and self-worth in her son. Out of a dream, an empty lot, and the enthusiasm of other neighborhood kids, Josephine established the first boys’ baseball league in America. Her city—and the country—was watching.
Beyond all expectations, the Cleveland Indians rallied behind her project. Indians legends Bob Feller, Jeff Heath, and Roy Weatherly helped hone the boys’ skills; renowned sports reporter Hal Lebovitz became an umpire; and they were given permission to play in historic League Park. All the while, as Josephine’s Little Indians graduated into the Junior American and Junior National Leagues, and finally a Little World Series, she instilled in her boys strong values, good sportsmanship, and an unprecedented sense of accomplishment. Some of them, like Ray Lindquist and Jack Heinen, would become Minor League players. Not one of Mrs. Morhard’s boys would ever forget her.
In this stirring biography of an unsung American heroine, Josephine Morhard’s daughter-in-law recounts the extraordinary life and accomplishments of a resilient, selfless, and determined woman. Her inspiring true story—a long time coming—is something to cheer for.
Her name was Mrs. Josephine Morhard, and she was the founder and undisputed “commissioner” of the boys’ leagues, where good deeds mattered as much as the number of wins. Her achievement was grounded in her own turbulent life and driven by a fierce determination to free her son from the clutches of his father’s alcoholism and violence that had scarred his early life.
In her leagues, women as well as men managed baseball teams (and sometimes scoured the local bars for their wayward husbands). There were rules every player had to abide by, and sportsmanship, respect, and fairness were mandated on the field and off. To her, baseball was more than a game. It was a way to help her son. It was a way to help all her young boys avoid the perils she’d encountered, and teach them fundamental values to help them grow up to become good men. Winning wasn’t all that mattered. Baseball was a way to help the boys grow up right.
--from Mrs. Morhard and the Boys