October 1, 2011
A juicy misspelling, straight from the streets of New York.
October 25, 2011
Thirty years ago, I picked up a copy of Women’s Sports magazine and saw a Letter to the Editor that changed my life. The letter was from Fran Janssen of South Bend, Indiana, and it reported that some women who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) in the 1940s and 50s were looking for their teammates and opponents in the hopes of holding a reunion in 1982. As it happened, I had started searching for information about the AAGPBL a few months before, finding some articles from the league’s heyday, but no links to actual players. I quickly called Fran, who put me in touch with June Peppas, another former player who had compiled a list of the current addresses of more than 100 league veterans. I had hit the mother load.
Me, with the irrepressible--and irreplaceable—ballplayer Maybelle Blair
I attended the 1982 reunion and have gone to countless more. (I really have lost count. It’s somewhere between 20 and 30.) I wrote several articles about the league before my book, A Whole New Ball Game, was published in 1993, and I’ve written a few since. But mostly I attend the reunions to see old friends, celebrate the achievements of these wonderful women, remember those who are no longer with us, and have fun. And do these ladies know how to have fun! Back in 1982, a bellman at the reunion site, a Holiday Inn in Chicago, said he never saw women drink as much beer as they did. Last week, the folks at the Crowne Plaza in San Diego said this was the rowdiest bunch of women they’d ever seen—and they’re now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s!
Forty-five or so former players showed up this year, along with about 100 family members and friends and a few celebrity guests including Penny Marshall, director of the film, A League of Their Own, and actresses Tracy Reiner, Anne Ramsay, and Patti Pelton from the movie. Penny was presented with an honorary membership in the AAGPBL Players Association for plucking the league from obscurity and making each of the players a celebrity in her own right. It was great to see her, her daughter (Tracy Reiner), and her grandkids at the reunion banquet.
Actress Anne Ramsay and AAGPBL vet Jeneane Lesko
Beyond that, the high point definitely was the evening on the aircraft carrier USS Midway at San Diego’s Navy Pier. It started with an autograph session that attracted more than 625 people—a huge crowd that required the players to keep signing long beyond the advertised one hour. Then came a showing of A League of Their Own, which I watched from start to finish for the first time in a long while. It was amazing to see it with such a great mass of people, and it was thrilling to hear them applaud when the actual players took a bow at the end. Watching the film also reminded me of the unanswered question it poses: does catcher Dottie Hinson drop the ball on purpose after her sister rams into her (to give Kit a confidence-building win), or was it really the force of the collision that causes the ball to drop from her glove? I firmly believe it was on purpose, and Anne Ramsay agreed when I asked her. But Penny Marshall refuses to answer, leaving it up to the viewer to decide.
Other highlights of the reunion: Spending time with my pal Tiby Eisen (left), one of the league’s few Jewish players, who I accompanied a few years ago when she was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Commack, Long Island; seeing 96-year-old former chaperone Helen Hannah Campbell, who’s still sharp as a tack; and helping to launch the AGPBL Players Association’s first-ever writing contest for kids. If you’re a parent, teacher, or librarian with kids in grades 6, 7, or 8, be sure to check out the Web page for this contest, which asks entrants to write short essays (500 to 750 words) addressing one of three questions that consider the legacy of the AAGPBL. Essays are due this March, and the winner and a parent or guardian get a trip to the 2012 reunion in Syracuse and Cooperstown, New York. Like this year’s reunion, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience.
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Misspelling of the Month
I don't often turn to Chinese restaurant menus for misspellings because they can be easy targets. But this one invented a new word that has a bit of charm. Quite accidentally, it's the second "steak"-related Misspelling of the Month in a row. So thanks to Empire Szechuan Village on Seventh Avenue, South, in New York City for this meaty mistake. (Of course, "waterchestnut" should be plural and two words as well.)
Click on the photo to see a larger image.