Maude Nelson was one of the earliest barnstorming players in women’s baseball leagues, though she occasionally played with the men’s squads, too.
Something of a mystery woman, Clementina Brida moved to America with her family when young. She learned to play baseball as a child and took the name Maude Nelson. Before she was even 16, she was pitching for the Boston Bloomer Girls, who traveled across the country in 1897. She started virtually every game, usually pitching a few innings, then moving to third base.
Nelson joined the all-male Cherokee Indian Base Ball Club in 1908, and through that squad, met her first husband John. B. Olsen, Jr., the team’s manager. Together, they organized the Western Bloomer Girls in 1911. Despite the name, the team often had three male starters. Olsen died in 1917, though, and Nelson rejoined the Boston Bloomers. She then went on to play for the American Athletic Girls and the Star Bloomers.
She retired as a player after the 1922 season and organized yet another team, the All Star Ranger Girls, which she managed until the Great Depression made barnstorming unprofitable.
Later married to Constante Dellacqua, they would retire to a home in the shadows of Wrigley Field.
She died on February 15, 1944 and was elected posthumously to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.