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Helen Emelia “Nordie” Nordquist

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March 23, 1932 – July 11, 2023


After 91 years of living a full life on earth, Helen “Nordie” Nordquist has passed to the next life. Born

in Malden, Mass., to Otto and Ebone (Spongberg) Nordquist, Helen grew up into a strong Swedish heritage of self-sufficiency and determination.

Best known in her life for her athletic prowess, Helen first displayed this formally at Beebe Junior High School where, at age 14, she was the first female ever to receive a “certificate of excellence” and a school letter “B” for athletics. (Her second school letter earned there was for her three years of perfect attendance!) The next three years at Malden High School found Helen excelling in all three girls’ sports (field hockey, basketball and softball), even as a sophomore being chosen over a senior to play shortstop. And as a junior, now called by the nickname “Nordie,” as coined by Coach Virginia Gardner, Nordie was chosen co-captain of the softball team. Nordie co-captained all three sports when a senior. Her senior year of 1950 culminated in her election by her coaches as “Best Girl Athlete”, an honor for which she received a gold loving cup. (And whoever knew Nordie understands why she was runner-up in the “class clown” category.) A plethora of MHS “M”s decorated her bedroom wall(s) from 1950 to 2023.

Shortly after graduating, Nordie saw an article in a Boston newspaper announcing tryouts in Virginia for a mid-western girls’ baseball league, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). She and her mother boarded a Greyhound bus and headed south. After several days of hitting and fielding, Nordie was chosen by coach Johnny Gottselig to join the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Comets. Reflective of her talents in her hometown sports, Nordie completed her rookie season of 1951 playing in a career high 82 games and “leading the league in assists” from the outfield…at 19 years of age. Her professional career continued in 1952 – playing for the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches, made famous in Penny Marshall’s “A League of Their Own”. Nordie also elected to play in a winter league (the International Girls Baseball League) in 1952, later in life providing extensive details through her computer research for the history of that league. It was for this research that in 2014 she was recognized by AAGPBL with the Peppas Award for her service to the league. After two seasons with the Peaches, which made the playoffs in 1952 & 1953, Nordie played in 1954 for the South Bend (Indiana) Blue Sox as pitcher as well as outfielder. The league ended when male baseball players returned to the baseball fields after the wars…and also because of the advent of television, allowing fans to watch baseball from home.

Nordie’s return to Malden saw her employment as a switchboard operator, later a billing supervisor, and later a cost accounting clerk at several large companies in the area, also playing or coaching their sports teams, including bowling, at which she also excelled. Lest we think that only work and sports kept Nordie occupied, her many hobbies and talents included: creating (and electrifying) table lamps out of baseball bats, bowling pins, field hockey sticks, her own hand carvings of duck decoys; building birdhouses and feeders; adding a family room to her grandfather’s house, doing the brickwork on the hearth, the ductwork for heat, woodwork carvings for the décor…not to forget to mention her automobile motor and electrical prowess…or her sewing talent, which led to her creation of a fly-front skirt for easier changing while on long, hot AAGPBL bus rides.

Several years later, in 1959, a women’s softball team of the then recently formed Tri-State Softball League found a home in Malden. Now at age 27, Nordie tried out and joined the “‘Malden Collegiates” team, which played its home games at Malden’s Roosevelt Field. Nordie’s hitting and fielding (including, while at shortstop, engineering a triple play) contributed to the team’s Metropolitan Boston Championship at the end of the season. (Nordie’s sewing talent showed itself again when she created for her two-year-old nephew, Ronnie, a “team mascot” uniform, an exact replica, in miniature, of the team uniform.)

Nordie relocated to New Hampshire in 1983, where later she was employed by the state until retiring in 1994. But baseball still remained an important part of her life. In 1982 the AAGPBL had begun annual reunions of the former players, reawakening in the aging players that important part of their youth.

And the following years saw more attention to the league beyond just the players: In 1988, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., recognized the AAGPBL in a display called “Diamond Dreams”, showing memorabilia and posting a list of all the players in the league from its inception in 1943 through its final year of 1954. In 1992, after seeing a documentary about the AAGPBL, Penny Marshall introduced to the movie-going public the very existence of the league and the exceptional talent of the women who played.

This attention caused cities in Massachusetts and in New Hampshire to invite Nordie to throw out the first pitch for the semi-pro team, the Brockton (Mass.) Rox, and for the youth team, the Rochester (N.H.) Girls Softball opening ceremony.

And because of this now widespread publicity, many of the players were recognized so many years later by their hometowns. This includes Helen “Nordie” Nordquist, who in 2019 was inducted into Malden’s school sports club, the Golden Tornado Club’s Hall of Fame. And a further honor that the City of Malden announced in May is the naming of a baseball field at the renovated and renamed Roosevelt Park as the “Helen ‘Nordie’ Nordquist Field”, the dedication date of which will be announced.

It was Nordie’s wish that all her memorabilia from her Malden years be donated to the Malden Historical Society and that her extensive collections of AAGPBL and IGBL materials be donated to Bridgewater (Mass.) State University’s The Kathleen Bertrand and Linda Lundin “Honoring Women in Sports” Collection.

Predeceased by her parents and her siblings Roy and his wife Helen (Nickerson) and their daughter Carol; Ebone (Burle) Bond, and Jon; also her niece, Claire (Bond) Courdemanche and nephew Karl Bond; and cousins Raymond and Sharon Howard. Nordie leaves behind her beloved nephews, formerly of Malden: Ron Nordquist and wife Ruth, John and Janice Nordquist and family, who currently reside in Canada; nieces Cindy Nordquist; Sonja Cembalisty (Rick) of New Hampshire; and cousins Carol (David) Low, Eric (Barbara) Low of Maine, Rick (Wendy) Howard of Connecticut; and many dear friends.

Interment will be at the Forestdale Cemetery in Malden alongside her parents and niece, with a remembrance of her life to be held at a later date.

More extensive information about the life of Helen “Nordie” Nordquist can be found on the league website (www.aagpbl.org) under her name. Also, donations in Nordie’s memory may be made to the AAGPBL (a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history of the league and to supporting women and girls to play baseball) either on the website at “donations” or by sending a check made out to “AAGPBL Players Assoc.” to association treasurer George Chapman, 1320 Bluff Drive, Howell, MI 48843.

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