Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Women of the Tri-Counties
Clara "Babe" Cook, Athlete
Chemung County NY
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Written Virginia R. WHEELER McElroy
Southport Town Historian
Dated: 2006

One of our very own Southport women represented us in the big league of girls' softball competition, Miss Clara Cook B or "Babe" as she is know best in athletic circles.
Clara Ruth Cook was born June 19, 1921 in Pine City, N.Y. She was the youngest of eleven children of John H and Clara B Cook and this is why she was called "Babe". Their home was on Pennsylvania Avenue, just past the blinker light on what we now know as Route 328.

Clara's schooling days were spent at the Pine City School, but her free time was spent playing baseball with her brothers, who played ball in the field of Van Kuren's.  While they were playing baseball one day, a man from Remington Rand , Mr. Riley, drove by and stopped to watch them play.  Clara caught his eye in the way that she handled herself on the field. He found out who she was and went to their home and asked her parents if she could play on the Rand baseball team.  Her parents called her to the house and asked her if she would like to play for the Rand.  She was excited, as she had a great love for playing softball, and only being 12 or 13 years old, she knew this was a great opportunity.  Clara's parents agreed to let Clara play and Mr. Riley agreed to bring her to and from the games.  Clara played for the Rand through her teens.

After graduating from Southside High School, Clara went to work at the Remington Rand plant. Here she helped organize friends to play ball for the company.  When the women's professional teams were organized during World War II, a baseball scout from the "Rockford Peaches" ball team of Kenosha, Wisconsin saw her play and recruited her to play for the Peaches. The team is depicted in the Penny Marshall movie, "A League of Their Own".  The women were required to wear skirts, and they actually were required to take etiquette classes. But real life as a left-handed pitcher for the team wasn't as lax as life in the movies.  It was a lot stricter than what the picture showed.  They had it rough.

Babe played for the Peaches for the life of the team, about two years. Then she  returned to her native Elmira and to Remington Rand, where she worked until the plant closed. Miss Cook continued to encourage and organize teams.  She also helped coach young women interested in pitching.  Any girl who felt like pitching, she was one to go out and help them wholeheartedly. Upon the closing of the Remington Rand plant, Clara moved to California and worked at an aircraft plant until she retired.

After retiring from the aircraft plant in California, she returned to the Southport area to live. Here she continued to play softball and she also got interested in fishing.  She could be seen at Catherine Creek every year for the opening day of the fishing season.  She also played in an "Old timers" game at Eldridge Park around 1974, pitching to the men for the game and retaining her old form.

In 1975, Miss Cook, along with three other women was  inducted into the Metro-Elmira Sports Hall of Fame. This is documented in the book, "100 Years of Glory" by Al Mallette. Her picture hung in the entranceway at Dunn Field for many years, and she is also featured at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Clara Cook was laid to rest in July of 1996 in the Webb Mills Cemetery, with her parents. Her tombstone depicts her fame to pro softball.

Sources of Information: Star Gazette Article by April Hunt, July 26, 1996
                                      Star Gazette Obituary
   An interview with Walter ABill@ Cook
Compiled by:      Town Historian Virginia McElroy
   Deputy Town Historian Mary Jerram
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Chemung County NY

Published On Site On 20 NOV 2006
By Joyce M. Tice

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