From 500, League Of Their Own Down To 23 As Roster Thins, Famed ‘Girls’ Share Memories With CCS Student-Athletes
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Whenever brothers Rick and George Chapman want to see their mother, Dorothy “Mickey” MacGuire Chapman, they can come
“When the Hall of Fame was building the ‘Woman at Bat’ statue, they found a photo of my mother in 1948,” said Rick. “She didn’t talk much about playing baseball, but I’ve learned a lot about her from these woman.”
Rick, now the president of the player’s association of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, joined the players at the Baseball Hall of Fame for their annual reunion on Friday, Sept. 21. “Mom died in August 1981, just before the first reunion,” he said. “But being part of the AAGPBL helps keep her legacy alive.”
In addition to being the inspiration for the statue, their may have also been the inspiration for a scene in “A League of Their Own,” when Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) has to tell a player her husband had been killed in the war.
According to Tim Wiles, former director of research, on June 10, 1944, Maguire, then the catcher of the Milwaukee Chicks, learned from her mother that her husband, Cpl. Thomas J. Maguire, Jr., had been killed in action in Italy, but rather than cry on the bench, she played and got a hit.
Two months later, she found out that her husband had not been killed, but rather lost his dog tags and was severely burned, and was unable to contact her. He pressured her to quit baseball, and she declined. The couple divorced in 1945, and she retired in 1949.
Twenty-two original AAGPBL members were at the Hall for the annual reunion, touring the Diamond Dreams exhibit and examining artifacts from the touring “Women in Baseball” exhibit, posing for photos and reminiscing as they looked through their teammates’ scrapbooks and photo albums in the library.
Several of them also met with students from the Cooperstown High School, including the sophomore class and the girls soccer teams.
“I heard that the women of the All American Girls Professional Baseball Team were coming to the Baseball Hall of Fame,” she said. “I reached out to the Hall and worked with our administrators. These women are living history, this is a great experience for students.”
In all, she took 85 students – the entire sophomore class and the JV and Varsity girls’ soccer teams – to a panel featuring Lois Youngen, Dolly Ozburn, Jeneane Lesko and Sarah Ferguson, all original members of the AAGPBL.
“They were mesmerized,” she said.
“Jeneane didn’t mention that I hit a home run off her!” said Youngen, a catcher for the South Bend Bluesox and the Fort Wayne Daisies. “Not a lot of us could hit home runs, but I did!”
Later that evening, the Hall screened, “A League of their Own,” with Chapman and players Maybelle Blair, Shirley Burkovich, Mary Moore, Sister Toni Palermo and Sue Zipay.
“People say to you, ‘How could you spend all that time on the buses and play ball?’” said Birkovich, a Rockford Peachers pitcher. “We had a lot of fun. We sang, we played cards – like Maybelle lost all her money in the poker games.”
And although Birkovich and others appeared in the film’s final scene, some, like Palermo, a former didn’t see the movie until recently.
“I didn’t know about the film until 2003 because I was busy doing God’s work,” she said. “When I finally did watch, I was touched because I saw all my buddies in there. It showed the camaraderie and the togetherness, how they felt the pain and the joy of one another, and that’s what we experienced.”
“Once you played ball, you were friends for life,” said Moore.