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Rockford Peaches — Team That Inspired 'A League Of Their Own' — Celebrates 75 Years


Seventy-five years ago, a team of ball players walked onto a baseball diamond in Rockford, Ill. They were all women. And their team, the Rockford Peaches, was part of a brand new league that was called the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. You might have heard a little bit of their story before.


TOM HANKS: (As Jimmy Dugan) Are you crying? There's no crying. There's no crying in baseball.


That's from the 1992 film "A League Of Their Own." It is based on the Rockford Peaches, who played their first game 75 years ago today. It was a historic moment - women playing professional baseball at a time when they were very rarely the public face of a major sport.

CORNISH: In Rockford tonight, the city kicks off celebrations of that day, but the Rockford Peaches are just one of the teams of women who went up to bat in the 1940s and '50s. Thousands of fans once flocked to see the South Bend Blue Sox, the Kenosha Comets and the Racine Belles. Dolly Konwinski, who's now 82, played third base for the Grand Rapids Chicks.

DOLLY KONWINSKI: I probably thought I was in heaven and playing on God's team. It was such a wonderful feeling.

KELLY: Konwinski got her start playing ball as a kid in Chicago.

KONWINSKI: I played with the boys in the Chicago neighborhood. I didn't want to play with dolls, so my father got me a ball and a bat. And off we went to the open fields in Chicago to play baseball.

KELLY: Sue Macy, who wrote a book about the league, says it gave girls like Konwinski the chance to play in the big leagues. In the midst of World War II, Macy says P.K. Wrigley of the Chicago Cubs came up with the idea of a women's league.

SUE MACY: He decided that maybe he should draft women to play an alternative to Major League Baseball because he wanted the public to still, you know, want to watch baseball when the war was over, and he wanted to keep the product going.

CORNISH: For baseball player Dolly Konwinski, the league did more than just keep baseball alive.

KONWINSKI: We laid a path for all the young ladies who want to follow their dreams. Whether it was in baseball or whatever sport or whatever endeavor they take, they don't have to be afraid that they're going to be put in the back of the line and not get the chance.

CORNISH: And though the celebration in Rockford wraps up this weekend, dozens of the league's players will gather in Kansas City this fall to celebrate the boundaries they broke all those years ago.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) We are the members of the All-American League. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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