The Star-News


When 'Ish', 'Peanuts' and Buttercream rose to the top

Fri, Mar 26 2010 04:37 PM Posted By: Susan Walter

In the fall of 1937 a young woman who went by "Ish" but was named Elizabeth Galligan became interested in the women's softball games being played in "the great big field" where today stands Chula Vista's police station.

Initially assigned to right field - she scornfully said it was "a nothing field" as "no one hit balls to it" - she next was offered catcher. Ish exulted, "That was the best decision I ever made in my life!"

The field was conveniently near Dr. McCausland's office (located where the Civic Center is now), who patched up injuries. 

Once when Ish busted her finger  Dr. McCausland put on a brace and sewed her up. She griped that this injury spoiled her chances of playing until she healed.

The team's name was the Buttercream Girls. It came from their sponsors:  Creamer's Bakery. And they had yellow and red uniforms of satin. The tops were yellow trimmed with red with their names on the sleeves.  The yellow jackets had a red stripe down the sleeves. 

This team was filled with talented athletes. Local residents included Mary Up de Graf, a hairdresser from National City with a wickedly strong pitching arm. Helen Apple was a Chula Vistan living on Third Avenue between G and H streets.

Shortstop "Peanuts" McBride lived in Imperial Beach and eventually moved to Bonita.

Ish said you "didn't want to mess up" because Peanuts, as captain, would "unleash the flying fur that came at you like a thunderbolt!" The rest of the team was from San Diego.

The team was managed by Bill Ramage, part of a triad of sports-addicted brothers. 

Bill's older brother Cy played for San Francisco's Giants.  When offered a post with the New York Yankees, Cy's wife refused to move, so he didn't take up that offer. The youngest Ramage was named Lee. He was a fighter. Middle brother Bill played for San Diego's Padres as shortstop. Injured by a ball hitting his head, he terminated his own playing, but then became interested in girls' softball. Bill, his wife Maudie and his stepson lived on Elder Street.

The Buttercreamers, well, creamed their opponents, playing against other girls' teams in a regular season during the summer. 

Games were at night, once or twice a week, mostly along the coast, as far north as Escondido. 

Ish recalled that the name of one such team was the Kaiser Autotop Girls. The Buttercreamers triumphed in the county championship.

Their elated "boss" decided the girls should travel to St. Louis "to see what [they] could do elsewhere."  This trip was accomplished in a caravan of three cars. On both the trip to and from that city, the Buttercreamers played games against men's teams, because there weren't other women's teams available.

Ish's softball career ended late in 1938, when she returned to school at San Diego State. 

Still, the memory of her playing has remained in local memory, as one man, when suddenly recognizing her name six decades later, said: 

"You're Ish Galligan?  I used to watch you play!"

Walter writes about historic events and places in South Bay. Her column appears the last week of the month.


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