Elizabeth “Lizzie” Murphy was born on April 13, 1894, to former semi-pro ball player, John Murphy, and Mary (nee Garan) Murphy. She and her siblings were raised in Warren, Rhode Island.
She excelled in several sports, but her passion was baseball. Attempting to play with the boys on local teams, she was often turned away because of her sex. Even so, she did manage to play for the locally sponsored Warren Shoe Company while employed as a ring spinner at the Parker Mill in Warren.
She spent years honing her talent so by 1918, she was good enough to play for the Boston All-Stars along with several ex-pros. The team hit the road, traveling to Canada and the eastern United States, playing over 100 games in a season.
By the 1920s, baseball became “America’s favorite pastime,” so Lizzie took advantage of the country’s interest in leisure activity, to pursue her dream of becoming a famous player.
In 1922 she faced the Boston Red Sox in a charity game at Fenway Park sponsored by the American League. Six years later in 1928, she played with the National League All-Stars against the Boston Braves. By 1929 she was the only woman on an all-male black team, the “Cleveland Colored Giants”. She later commented, “I didn’t have any trouble with the boys. Of course, they cursed and swore, but I knew all the words.”
She also earned fame as a feminist during her early days as a player. At the age of fifteen, she refused to board the bus to Newport for an away game, because the manager would not pay her. Her tenacity won out, however, since he eventually paid her the going wage.
Nonetheless, Lizzie had some shortcomings. Her small stature meant that she could not hit as far as the male players. However, she still managed to earn a .300 lifetime batting average and made up for her “lack of power” by excelling in the field. Her love of the game soon waned, however, and when she retired in 1935 at the age of 40, she refused invitations honoring her baseball career. Instead, she led an ordinary life; she married mill supervisor Walter Larivee and earned money shell fishing and working at the local mills in Warren.
Lizzie Murphy passed away in Providence on July 27, 1964. Buried in Warren at St. Jean Baptiste cemetery, she left a brother Henry and sisters Lena Boufard and Mary Ella Lynch. Her husband predeceased her. Her hometown of Warren named April 13, 1994, the hundredth anniversary of her birth, “Lizzie Murphy Day.”
For Further Reading, see:
Carolyn Thornton, “First ‘baseman’ shone in semipro ball” in Women in R.I. History: Making A Difference (Providence: The Providence Journal, Co., 1994).