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September 22, 2012

Girls of summer gather in C'town

It has been 58 years or more since the ladies of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played professional ball together, but they still gather each year.

This year’s reunion of about 50 members included a stop in Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where many of their achievements are on display as part of the Diamond Dreams exhibit. The exhibit is on the second floor of the museum and salutes the role women have played in baseball at every level.

The reunion began Wednesday and will conclude  Sunday. The women will then play in a charity softball game Saturday at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse.

Maybelle Blair, who pitched for the Peoria Redwings of the AAGPBL in 1948, said she will manage the team and that its opponents better be ready to play some serious ball because she has got her girls in tip-top shape. She also indicated that she has some secret signals up her sleeve.

“We are really going to get it on tomorrow, and we can hardly wait,” she said in Cooperstown on Friday.

Although these women were not the first to hit the diamond, (there were college clubs and Bloomer Girls teams before them for example), they pioneered a trail, both on the field and off, for generations of athletes to follow. They became the inspiration for the film “A League of Their Own.” A few scenes from the movie, which was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1992, were filmed in Cooperstown.

The film taught America “there is no crying in baseball,” and will be debuting on Blu-ray Oct. 16 -- just a week before the 2012 World Series.

The AAGPBL started in 1943 when World War II threatened to shut down Major League Baseball. It was formed in the Midwest states by Chicago Cubs’ owner Philip Wrigley. The women who played came from all over the country.

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