top of page
Irene Contos


Inducted 2023

Irene Krupinski Contos is everything an athlete, and a human, should be.  She stormed through the sandlots, tracks, and basketball courts of Syracuse starting at a very young age; all while being an example of fairness and equality for her community.  

Irene, born in 1925, grew up during a time when there was really no opportunity for competitive women’s sports.  Keeping stats for women’s sports wasn’t customary and there weren’t many accolades.  However, Irene’s athletic ability was something people noticed and, because of that, we are able to celebrate her today.  

Irene had a love for softball, but schools didn’t have women’s softball teams.  The only opportunity at the time was recreational softball.  At the young age of 13, knowing that she could compete, she was asked to participate on a team of 17 and 18 year olds.  There she met Katie Bear, part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s permanent recognition of Women in Baseball.  Irene played alongside Katie for many years and, ultimately, in 1946, Irene was asked to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.  At the time, there was no way to pursue her career as a ball player and fulfill her inclination to be a wife and have a family, so she regretfully declined to participate in the League.  

But that did not stop her from stepping into the batter’s box locally in Syracuse from age 13 all the way to age 92.  As she aged, she continued to play regular pitch softball with Syracuse City Parks and Rec and refused to join the senior league, stating “why would I want to play with those old people.”  During the first decade of the 21st century, Irene pitched in the Empire State Senior Games for Softball, with her teams winning gold, silver, and bronze medals. 

In addition to her softball career, Irene made it rain on the basketball court, scoring 46 points in one game while she attended the Porter School.  This was a Syracuse City record for more than 30 years when it was finally broken by Hall of Fame member Martha Mogish in 1976.  Interestingly, at the time, women’s basketball was not full court.  Two players played offense, two players played defense, and there was one floater.  The game was created this way because it was felt that women could not run from one end of the court to the other without too much exertion, a limitation that really irritated Irene.  

Sports are competitive, they are fun, but they always have some type of bigger cultural meaning.  For Irene, that bigger meaning was fairness and inclusion.  Aside from her athleticism and prowess on the field and on the court, she fought for inclusion whenever she could.  If there was a boys’ league and no girls’ league, Irene didn’t question “why?”  She quietly and quickly took the steps to set up a girls league.  When her daughter, Tess, debated pursuing her handball career (which eventually led her to the Olympics), Irene encouraged her not to pass up the opportunity, but to seize it without hesitation.   

Irene did all of this for 79 years.  There were no accolades, no awards, no real stats.  But there has been, without a doubt, real impact.  We hope that this will archive, in some way, the ripple effect she had on so many young female athletes lives within our community during a time when female athletes were dramatically underrepresented.   

Irene passed away in 2022 at the age of 97, but she lived by the mantra “you don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing.”  

For her accomplishments on the diamond and the court and being a trailblazer in every way, Irene Krupinski Contos becomes a member of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2023.

bottom of page