They named the movie, A League of Their Own. After listening to Mary Pratt speak at the library last Tuesday night, most of the people in the audience agree that Pratt is certainly in a league all her own. The 89 year old former pitcher in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League spoke for over an hour about her experiences playing professional baseball and her life long commitment to women in sports.
Pratt has lived in Quincy her whole life and has played just about every sport open to female athletes (she claims basketball was her best sport). She attended Sargent College and was a physical education major. During her first years as a teacher, she got the opportunity to play softball at Boston Garden. It was there that the scouts from the All American Girls Softball League (the name later changed) saw the pitcher play in 1943. Pratt played four seasons for the the Rockford Peaches and the Racine Belles. When she was pitching, the league required that pitchers toss the underhand throw that is used in softball. Before the league folded in 1954, overhand pitching became standard.
The women who played for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League were expected to be superior ball players and ladies. As the 1992 movie portrayed, early players had to attend charm school. Throughout the league’s duration, players’ uniforms consisted of short dresses. Mary Pratt had to pin her dress to keep it from flying up when she pitched. After Pratt’s playing days were over, she was asked to coach girls softball at North Quincy High. Determined that her players wouldn’t be mistaken for men, Pratt and her mother made all the Rangerettes uniforms that mirrored those worn by the AAGPBL players. [Pratt is posing with one of those uniforms in the photo above.]
After her years in the All Americans, Mary Pratt returned to Quincy and worked as a teacher for over 40 years. She remained active in sports as an official and a coach. In the 1970′s, she made news around the country by applying to be a football coach in Quincy. When asked what made her qualified to coach a sport she didn’t play, Pratt responded, “I’m just as qualified to coach football as men are to coach field hockey.”
It wasn’t until Penny Marshall made A League of Their Own that the All American Girls Professional Baseball League became well known to many Americans. The new interest in the league led to speaking engagements and reunions for former players. In 1988, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, honored Mary Pratt and her former league mates in an exhibit called “The Women of Baseball.” More recently, a $30,000 bronze statue was also erected in Cooperstown of an An All American girl swinging her bat.
Mary Pratt remains active in both in promoting women’s sports and being a women in sports. She currently teaches a weight lifting class. She also manages the AAGPBL “Out and About” program that keeps track of all former players public appearances.
Pratt and the 600 other women who played in the AAGPBL represent a unique part of women’s, U.S. and sports history. To learn more about the league, check out the All American Girls Professional Baseball League Player’s Association.
The Peabody Library has two great books dedicated to the history of the league:
- Johnson, Susan E., 1940- When women played hardball
- Macy, Sue. A whole new ball game : the story of the all-American girls professional baseball league
Children can read:
- Corey, Shana. Players in pigtails
The years of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League weren’t the only time women played baseball. For more women in baseball history, try one of these:
- Coleman, Janet Wyman. Baseball for everyone : stories from the great game
- Targ-Brill, Marlene. Winning women in baseball and softball
- Green, Michelle Y. A strong right arm : the story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson
- Gregorich, Barbara. Women at play : the story of women in baseball
- Patrick, Jean L. S. The girl who struck out Babe Ruth
Stayed tuned to learn more about the women who have played the game!