Ragersville Hall of Fame to induct Alta Weiss as first female semi-pro baseball player

By Maxine Renner Eberle

The fifteenth inductee into the Ragersville Hall of Fame will be Alta Weiss Hisrich, M.D. on Wednesday, October 20.

An open house will be held in the Emmanuel Lutheran Church and the 1830 Schoolhouse from 5-6 p.m. for members and guests to view the progress and see new museum exhibits.

“You Can’t Play Ball in a Skirt: Alta Weiss, and American Hero” will be presented following the 24th Annual Ragersville Historical Society Dinner Party, which will be held in the sanctuary of the Zion United Church of Christ.

The program will include the unveiling of the Ragersville Hall of Fame plaque and the performance, which will be presented by Eden Valley Enterprises, a respected group of actors who specialize in historic programs. In 2003, it was a bi-dentennial event presented locally at the Kent Tuscarawas campus.

The catered sit-down dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to the sanctuary presentation at 7:30 p.m. for a fee of $5.

Born to Dr. George and Lucinda Zehnder Weiss in 1890, above her father’s general store in Berlin, she moved with her family in 1895 to Ragersville, where her father practiced medicine. At age 3, while throwing a corn cob at a cat who was chasing squirrels, she exhibited the skills that would eventually make her a distinguished semi-professional woman baseball player in the early 1900’s – an American hero.

In the summer of 1907, Dr. Weiss sent his daughter Irma, 19, Alta, 17 and Nita, 16, to Vermillion for a vacation. It was here that Alta asked a couple of boys to “play catch.” They were amazed and told Mayor Williams, himself an ardent baseball fan. She was signed to play with the Vermillion Independents, a men’s team. Cleveland newspapers sent staff sports writers to see Alta in action. She was eventually to play in League Park, Cleveland’s big league ball yard in the fall of 1907. She won the game 7 to 6!

Her father Dr. George, realizing he had a star on his hands, built a big gymnasium (south of the Lutheran Church in Ragersville) where Alta could practice during the winter. John Berger, who worked for Dr. Weiss, was her catcher.

In 1908, Alta graduated from the Auburn Township two-year high school. That same year, Dr. Weiss bought a half-interest in the Vermillion team and changed the name to Weiss All-Stars. He outfitted his daughter in black uniform to contrast with the white suits worn by men.

By 1914, Alta had pitched her way through Starling Ohio Medical College, as the only woman member of the Class of 1914.

In 1922, she played her last game in uniform. By 1927, she married “Johnny” Hisrich of Ragersville and they lived in Norwalk, where she practiced and John had a garage. He died in 1947.

Following the death of her father in 1946, Alta returned to Ragersville. Within a few years she completely retired from medical practice and lived out her remaining years with her cats in her home on the square of Ragersville – across the street from the little building where her father had his office.

Dr. Alta Weiss Hisrich – student, musician (violin, piano, and voice), hunter, athlete, animal lover, physician – died in 1964 in Ragersville and is buried in West Lawn Cemetery, Winesburg with her mother.

Later this fall, Alta’s baseball uniform will travel to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. There it will be on exhibit as the new wing of the Women’s National Baseball Hall of Fame opens, in 2005.

Other Ragersville Hall of Fame inductees have been: Conrad Ranger, Dr. Herman Peters, Daniel Zimmerman, Abraham Youngen, John Garver, Frederick Andregg, William Levengood, David Shearer, George Travis, Frederick Eckert, Gottlieb Ladrach, Asher Walker, Joseph I. Putt and Rev. William Reiter.