On the 25th anniversary of the release of the film A League of Their Own, the Brooklyn Cyclones honored The Rockford Peaches; both the real players and the actresses from the film. The Peaches are one of the founding four teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). Shirley Burkovich and Maybelle Blair were invited to represent the league, while actresses Megan Cavanagh and Tracy Reiner were on hand to represent the movie cast. Baseball umpire Perry Barber and MLB Mary Beck rounded out the honorees of the Cyclones Winning Women Power Panel.
Honoring the past
The Cyclones invited Burkovich and Blair to their festivities Saturday. The two have been very active in maintaining the history of the AAGPBL. Both have served on the organization’s Board of Directors, and have helped convene player reunions.
During a panel discussion for fans, Blair showed off her personality, alluding to how tough one must be to play baseball in a skirt. “When I got in my uniform, I thought I was the cutest girl in the world. I really did, said Blair. She also notes that players in her day didn’t have elbow pads or sliding pads, “when we slid, we slid. And I’m telling you today, I’m still dragging out blisters from … my rear end here [crowd claps and cheers].”
She and Burkovich also appreciated the support and friendship forged with the movie cast. As a matter of fact, without the support of the actors, the AAGPBL might not receive the notoriety it does today.
Art impacts life
Over time, Tracy Reiner and her co-stars have become a part of baseball culture. “I will do this until the end of my life on behalf of these ladies,” said Reiner, “we [hear] from PE coaches, athletes, kids who were gonna give up, women who were confused and didn’t know what to do with their lives and did not know that they were actually being given permission to play ball …” With countries like Cuba, Brazil and 13 other countries making baseball accessible, Reiner is content to give all she can to the growth of the game for females.
To this day, the actors help open doors for girls and women, including the original Rockford Peaches, “At first, the sports card shows wouldn’t let the ladies in. Real players, real athletes, unless the actors came,” shared Reiner during the women’s panel. So, Cavanagh and Reiner tagged along to help promote the league and the film.
Reiner also mentioned she was given lifetime access to Cooperstown for her part in A League of Their Own. However, other than a lifetime guest pass, only one woman has formally been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Negro Leagues owner and contributor Effa Manley was inducted posthumously in 2006.
The future is female
Together, the players – actors or not – are unified in their commitment to growing opportunities for women in baseball. “I was 16 years old when I signed my first contract, and I thought it was gonna be my career, I planned on playing forever. It never happened and I was devastated, as [were] all the girls in the league when it folded,” said Burkovich.
Now, at 84, Burkovich is one of many torch bearers of women’s baseball. From umpires, to athletes, to actors, women are ready to blaze a new trail. “I’d like to see an opportunity for now all you young girls to have that same opportunity that I had, and have our own, league of their own.” said Burkovich, closing out the panel.
Tune in to the next episode of Beyond The Game on Double G Sports radio. I will have clips from the panel, a one-on-one interview with Perry Barber and more.