Sports Wall of Fame

Mulligan, Mary Jane

Mulligan, Mary Jane
Click to view a larger image of the plaque

In January of 1970, a kitchen table discussion at the home of Mary Jane Mulligan pursued the idea of organized team sports for girls in Niagara Falls. At the time, only winter church basketball was available to the city’s young female population.

Summer would soon be upon her and her family, and there were no activities for her two active daughters. If boys could play baseball, why couldn’t girls? Mary Jane quickly sent notices to a number of primary grade schools to gauge the interest of similarly aged girls and the response was overwhelming.

The first registration for Niagara Girls’ Minor Softball League was held in March of 1970 at St. Patrick’s Hall. A resounding 200 plus girls registered. Mary Jane called in the cavalry!!

She called on her long time friend and then President of the GNBA- Leo Burger, for a few pointers on organizing teams, schedules, equipment, ball diamonds, coaches, etc. The league quickly formed in a very bare bones format. So with very little money (garnered through registration fees and a few meager donations), Niagara Girls began its fledgling year on ball diamonds that no longer exist - i.e. Kitchener Street School and Kimberley Clark Field on Bridge Street.

The next year, the league grew quickly, which made Mary Jane realize the need for sponsors and a more sophisticated operation. Three years later, there were some 350 plus young girls playing a variety of house league and travel softball, both locally and provincially.

Niagara Girls’ Minor Softball League was the pioneer of organized girls sports activities in Niagara Falls due to Mary Jane’s foresight and exhaustive efforts. Softball was soon joined by soccer, ringette and hockey.

Summer activity for girls was sadly lacking and due to Mary Jane’s wishes to provide a physical activity, girls in Niagara Falls were able to grow and develop athletic skills, sportsmanship, friendships and self-esteem. In years to come the league could be seen as having come full circle as many of the original players, including Mary Jane’s daughters, returned to the league as volunteer coaches, umpires and executives.

After 34 seasons it is rewarding to Mary Jane to know that second generation girls now play softball in Niagara Falls. 

Additional Images & Resources

Click to view photograph of Induction Ceremony  Click to view photograph of Induction Ceremony
From the library's image database (click the link to view the full record)

Title 15th annual Sports Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony - Mary Jane Mulligan
Creator  Simon, Pat
Description  award being presented to the late Mary Jane Mulligan's daughter by Mayor Ted Salci (right)
Date  January 18, 2004.
Click to view the original photograph  Click to view the original photograph
From the library's image database (click the link to view the full record)

Title Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame - Mary Jane Mulligan Builder Softball era 1971-1990
Notes  Image may not be reproduced without the written consent of the City of Niagara Falls, Parks, Recreation and Culture Department ; induction January 2004 ;
Date  January 13, 2004.
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