Jeneane Lesko sitting in a chair

Becoming a professional athlete in two sports—especially for a woman in the 1950s and 1960s— was nearly impossible. Jeneane Lesko, BA ’57, however, did just that, and her athletic career is only one headline of her amazing life.

Being outside all day engaging in physical activities was not commonly encouraged for a young girl in the 1940s, but Lesko did it anyway. After moving to Lakeview, Ohio in the sixth grade, she enjoyed running around with the boys, playing baseball, basketball, and eventually football.

Bending the social norms, including continuing to wear pants in high school when the administration mandated all girl students wear skirts and dresses, led to an incredible saga during her life.

Lesko loved playing sandlot baseball and pickup basketball and football games, especially since official girls’ sports were different from the boys’ games. For instance, girls’ basketball players were only allowed to dribble twice and then had to pass it across half court. She did, however, spend time as the bat girl for the baseball team during the school year and summer, throwing and hitting during practices and warmups, honing her skills at the same time.

One summer while bat girl for the boys’ team, one of the player’s fathers saw an advertisement in the Lima News about tryouts for a girls’ baseball league. Not only, though, was the tryout in Michigan, Lesko said she didn’t even know what position to try out for, since she had never played organized baseball. But since she could throw hard and was left-handed, it was suggested she try out as a left-handed pitcher. Already knowing how to throw a fastball, Lesko learned how to throw a curveball and a knuckleball.

Photo of Lesko

Lesko made the team for the Grand Rapids Chicks in the (AAGPBL), the league made modernly well-known by the movie, “A League of Their Own.” After graduating high school, Lesko would play the baseball season during the summer months and attend «Ӱҵ during the school year. She played right field and pitcher during the 1953 season and pitched for the 1954 season. The league disbanded before the 1955 season, but Lesko was invited to play in the Allington’s All-American Tour in 1955 and 1956, playing exhibitions across the country.

One of her greatest achievements on the field was throwing a one-hitter, unfortunately after allowing her first hit of the game in the ninth inning.

After graduating from «Ӱҵ, she took a position at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico to teach math and science to the children on base. While there for four years, she developed many skills, including bettering her golf game and learning to fly an airplane.

In 1962, she decided to leave Puerto Rico and went to Europe. After traveling through England, France, and Germany, she was assigned to teach girls' physical education and math in France. She spent the rest of the summer riding a motor scooter through Switzerland, Italy, and France.

In 1965, she transferred to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippine Islands, where she continued to teach and work on her golf game. Two years later, she returned to the United States and played professional golf in California. She played with some of the women who would go on to be called legends of the game. Returning to her calling as a teacher, she focused on raising her family while her husband worked as a golf pro in California, but she never strayed from her love of sports.

A champion of girls’ baseball, Lesko traveled the U.S. and internationally promoting the game, including to Australia and Hong Kong. Living in the state of Washington, she continued attending multiple reunions and other AAGPBL events and served on the AAGPBL Players Association Board of Directors from 2002-10.

Lesko has been honored by being inducted in the «Ӱҵ Athletic Hall of Fame in the 1998, and was a 2023 inductee into the Indian Lake Schools Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.

She said she hopes her greatest accomplishment will remain passing along her love of the game, so others may enjoy it with the same youthful joy that she experienced.