The start of the baseball season, however tardy, and a late night chance viewing of the movie “A League of Their Own” got me thinking about the women who achieved so much for little girls of the future who dreamed of playing professional sports. The 600 women who played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League really were remarkable. I knew a little about them, but not a lot. It was time to do the customary research, and I found out some interesting things. For example, there were ten teams during the League’s existence. The ladies took a charm course, as they did in the movie. The League lasted ten years, and the song the ladies sing, ‘Batter Up, Hear that Call,’ really was the official song of their league. I had always assumed it was written for the movie.
Some years ago, I was lucky enough to meet several of the players at a card show. Dottie Kamenshek, one of the most talented players in the League, talked with me for a bit and signed my cap. She taught me how to properly shape the bill of the cap so that it looked like a true ball cap. All the players there signed a baseball for me. The cap and ball are two of my prized possessions. I knew Dottie Kamenshek was a person I needed to share with my little viewers. I consider Dottie and her fellow players heroes.
My poem for this episode was only about the ladies of the League. But my husband reminded me that there are also plenty of heroes among the men who play pro ball as well. Professional athletes can certainly be heroes because of their talent and skill in their sport. But the ladies of the AAGPBL are heroes to me because they paved the way for girls who came after them and dreamed of playing professionally, no matter the sport. So my standards were pretty high; my sports heroes need to contribute more to the world. My favorite ball player of all time, Roberto Clemente, certainly fits the bill. Clemente was a player I used to tell my students about, mostly for that reason. Through the years I’ve collected Clemente items, cards, caps, etc. This was a man who was a phenomenal player but who was so much more. He was actually killed when his plane went down as he was escorting supplies to a Nicaragua devastated by an earthquake. So obviously I had to include him in my list of baseball heroes. The Roberto Clemente Award was established to recognize baseball players who make a difference in the world in some notable way. The list of winners was a good source of other ball players I could present in our episode. Stan Musial made our list, as did Ozzie Smith, Derek Jeter, and several others. All have started foundations or been very active in charities and worthwhile causes.
It was a pleasure to introduce the little ones to the women of the All American Girls League, and I suspect for most it would truly be an introduction. I think it’s important that they know about those who came before so that they can appreciate them. It was a bonus to be able to tell them about Roberto Clemente and others who, like him, have tried to make the world a better place. It gives our sports heroes a valuable other dimension that elevates them a bit above their sports expertise.
Incidentally, I mistakenly say in the video that Clemente was taking supplies to Puerto Rico when I meant Nicaragua. Clemente was from Puerto Rico, so I tripped over my facts. I know better, of course. He is, after all, my hero. ❤️