Feb. 11, 1930 – May 30, 2017
Like the well-oiled palm of a catcher's mitt, Ruth Irene McGinty of Akron stayed primed for the sliders, curveballs and screwballs in life, including a missed opportunity at a college scholarship to play softball.
A member of the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame, Ms. McGinty died May 30 in the hospice unit at Buffalo General Medical Center. She was 87.
"Her dad wouldn't let her go," recalled Ms. McGinty's niece, Meg Wolinski, who couldn't remember the college for which her aunt was offered to play.
"It was somewhere in the south," Wolinski recalled.
Not one to miss the ball, Ms. McGinty, who was born in Buffalo and was a 1947 graduate of Riverside High School, instead, went on to play for two teams in a local women's league over the next eight years.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, she was the catcher for the Holling Press Debs softball team, which won the U.S. Softball Championship in 1951. More than two decades later, Ms. McGinty became the fifth woman to join the Softball Hall of Fame when she was inducted in 1979.
Ms. McGinty also played for the Frontier Press during her years in the Allie Seaback League. According to a 1979 Buffalo News article on Ms. McGinty's induction, the best teams in the league played against other leagues in Western New York. The best Western New York teams then went on to play in the Mid Atlantic Region championships, with the winner going to the World Series of Softball. The women's games were usually played at the North Fillmore Stadium against teams from all over New York State, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan and Canada.
Of the two times she made it to the World Series of Softball Games, Ms. McGinty recalled her most memorable time was when her team came in third in San Antonio, Texas.
"She told me that when they were playing softball, the coach didn't want them to not be a team (during the off-season). So he made them play basketball in the winter. She was barely five feet tall, so it was always kind of funny when she told me about that," her niece said.
Wolinski said her aunt kept a newspaper clipping about the time her team had to forfeit a game in Toronto because their four best players arrived late.
"They didn't get there until the game was half over because they thought Toronto was in a different time zone. I asked my mom, 'how could they not know what time zone they were in?' She said, in those days, time zones were not standardized. You could choose whatever time zone you wanted to be part of," Wolinski said.
Years after she hung up her cleats, Ms. McGinty cheered on her niece on the field.
"I was on the softball team and she came to all my games. She'd be behind the bench, kind of coaching me. She kept telling me, 'you've got to watch that third base coach for hand signals. Figure out his hand signals.' So I'm watching this guy and I said to my aunt, "Aunt Ruth, what's that guy doing?' And she said, 'he's having a heart attack.' So she ran over and started resuscitating him. They called an ambulance and that was the end of the game," Wolinski said.
Off the field, Ms. McGinty worked for more than 30 years as a payroll clerk at Dunlop Tire Co., retiring in 1985.
A proud moment for Ms. McGinty came in 1983 when, as national president of the female auxiliary of the Improved Order of Redmen, the Degree of Pocahontas, she was invited to lay a wreath at the Tomb on the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
For many years, she wintered in Lake Suzy, Fla., where she was a volunteer at Fawcett Memorial Hospital and served as an extraordinary minister at San Antonio Church, visiting hospitals and nursing homes.
In Buffalo, she regularly attended the Victory of Christ Prayer Group at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna. She also volunteered every Tuesday to load trucks with supplies for poor villagers in Nicaragua.
She traveled to the mission in Nicaragua and visited Ireland and the Holy Land.
She was a volunteer usher at Shea’s Performing Arts Center and the Kavinoky Theatre.
Survivors include two sisters, Patricia Scive and Elizabeth Eschborn, and several nieces and nephews.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in All Saints Catholic Church, 205 Esser Ave.