20 Years of A League of Their Own
Twenty years ago, Hollywood released the film A League of Their Own. It was a box-office hit in 1992 and remains a signature film today. From Tom Hanks’ famous line “There’s no crying in baseball!” to Madonna, Geena Davis and Lori Petty’s popular characters, Penny Marshall’s movie tells the beloved story of women who came from big cities, small towns and farms to play baseball on the teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). As a repository for League artifacts and photographs, the Center for History is kicking off a summer-long celebration of the anniversary on June 9 with the opening of the display A League of Their Own: Behind the Scenes. A community celebration takes place at the Cove on June 29 when Betsy Jochum, a member of the original South Bend Blue Sox team, will throw out the first pitch.
Friday, June 29, 2012
July 1, 2012, marks the 20th year of the film “A League of Their Own,” which immortalized the South Bend Blue Sox as one of the first teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. To celebrate the anniversary, Betsy Jochum, a member of the original South Bend Blue Sox team (1943), will participate in a pre-game ceremony and throw out the first pitch at the South Bend Blue Sox baseball game at Coveleski Stadium. Admission charged.
The women who made up the teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) were pioneers in sports–yet played for the love of the game. They crisscrossed the Midwest making history in ball parks–yet just wanted to drive in the scoring run. They were immortalized in the film, A League of Their Own–yet still gather at annual reunions simply to see “old friends.” Their story is told in Women Who Played Hard Ball: The Real “League of Their Own,” on view at Center for History.
With the entrance of the United States into World War II, Philip Wrigley was apprehensive that major league baseball would suffer due to the number of players being drafted into the armed services. In creating the women’s teams, he hoped that stadiums would remain full and public support of major league baseball would stay active.
And it worked. In the mid-sized towns of the Midwest, there was significant support for the 14 women’s teams that were part of the AAGPBL. The teams included the Rockford Peaches, South Bend Blue Sox, Kenosha Comets, Racine Belles, Milwaukee Chicks, Minneapolis Millerettes, Grand Rapids Chicks, Fort Wayne Daisies, Muskegon Lassies, Peoria Redwings, Chicago Colleens, Springfield Sallies, Battle Creek Belles and Kalamazoo Lassies.
The Center for History is a repository for the League’s artifacts, photographs and documents. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League collection includes photographs, programs, film footage, scrapbooks and playing equipment used by the teams. Individuals and institutions from across the country turn to the Center for History for research and information on the AAGPBL.
South Bend was one of the four original cities to first field teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The South Bend Blue Sox remained a team for all 12 years of League action, one of only two teams to play for the entire duration. Virtually every single AAGPBL team member who ever pitched, caught, batted, or fielded on a team was in South Bend at one point during her career. Every player has a history, no matter how brief, of baseball play in this community. Even after League play ended, South Bend Blue Sox players have continued to live and work in the area.