Wow, what a life. As a kid growing up in a small town, an old mill town in New England, I played softball. Girls didn’t play baseball. And, since it was years before A League of Their Own, I didn’t know of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. I did okay…played what I wanted. For the most part. I wanted to play football in junior high, though, and I let the coach discourage me (no, I don’t know if my parents would have agreed since it didn’t get that far), and discourage me in a sneaky — but admittedly smart — way. He told the 12-year-old me that I would have to do everything with the boys then, including changing with them in their locker room. No dice.
I probably could have fought to play, but it was 1979…not as common for that sort of thing as it is now. But now, in hindsight, I wonder if I might have tried if I knew about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and saw a bunch of grown (or at least mostly-grown) women playing a game they loved.
This ran through my mind as I saw the news that “Pepper,” Lavonne Paire Davis, died yesterday at 88. She was one of 600 women who played baseball during World War II … and she played it well. Like many other women during WWII, Davis worked as a welder, filling jobs left by the men who had gone to war. Unlike most women, however, she was recruited to play baseball and played for for teams during her ten-year career: the Minneapolis Millerettes, the Fort Wayne Daisies, the Racine Bells and the Grand Rapids Chicks. How many men today have a ten-year career? And, lord knows, they certainly get paid more than these women, or women in sports today, for that matter. But, that aside, imagine the kind of impact these women could have had on girls if they were know before A League of Their Own was ever released? I might have pushed harder to play football, other girls in my time might have opted for baseball instead of softball and…well, who knows? It’s amazing what a little inspiration can do and I, for one, continued to be inspired by the women of the All-Girls League — for what they accomplished in baseball, for the jobs they took during the war, and for their modesty and matter-of-factness. They loved baseball. They played baseball. If there’s anything that’s an awesome American story — and a fascinating addition to what women were already doing during World War II — it’s the women, like Lavonne Davis, who played baseball in the mid-1940s.
So, rest in peace, Ms. Davis. May your accomplishments on and off the field live on and may you always hear….
Batter up! Hear that call!
The time has come for one and all
To play ball.
We are the members of the All-American League
We come from cities near and far
We’ve got Canadians, Irishmen and Swedes,
We’re all for one, we’re one for all
We’re all Americans!!
Each girl stands, her head so proudly high,
Her motto ‘Do or Die’
She’s not the one to use or need an alibi.
Our chaperones are not too soft,
They’re not too tough,
Our managers are on the ball.
We’ve got a president who really knows his stuff,
We’re all for one, we’re one for all,