In 1992, Geena Davis, Madonna, and other actresses played baseball stars in the movie A League of Their Own. On August 4, 1993, the real women behind the movie met in South Bend, Indiana. About 200 former players came to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Philip K. Wrigley started the All-American Girls league in 1943. Wrigley owned the Chicago Cubs, a men's major league baseball team. At the time, the United States was fighting in World War II. Most of the nation's top male ballplayers had gone to war. Wrigley wanted to make sure fans did not lose interest in baseball. So he paid women to play in their own league.
Wrigley's league lasted long after the war was over. But by 1954, team owners were losing too much money to keep the league going. The All-American Girls league ended. The players almost became a forgotten part of history until Hollywood told their story. What follows is a play based on the All-American Girls League.
Annie Abbott, age 10
Davey Abbott, age 14, Annie's brother
Mrs. Abbott, Annie's mom
Shirley "Babe" Walker, baseball player
Blue Sox Announcer
Joe Hinkle, drug store clerk
Narrator: It is August 4, 1943, in South Bend, Indiana. Annie Abbott is at the table with her mother and brother. Her mother is dressed in overalls.
MRS. ABBOTT: Now remember, Annie. I want you to go straight to bed after you finish that letter to your father.
ANNIE: But Mom, I have to stay up. The Blue Sox are playing the Peaches tonight. It's a big game. I can't miss it.
MRS. ABBOTT: Honey, when I signed up to work the night shift at the factory, you promised you would help out.
DAVEY: Don't worry, Mom. I'll make sure she goes to sleep. The Blue Sox will probably lose again, anyway.
ANNIE: Don't say that!
DAVEY: The way Babe Walker has been hitting it's a wonder the team is still in second place I can't remember the last time she got a hit.
ANNIE: She's just having a bad week.
DAVEY: Or maybe she's proving that baseball is a man's game, not a woman's.
MRS. ABBOTT: Alright, Davey, that's enough. I have to get to work. You two, please behave yourselves tonight.
NARRATOR: Annie is lying in bed. Her left hand tucked into a baseball glove. The bedroom window is open. ANNIE strains to hear the announcer from the ballpark nearby.
BLUE SOX ANNOUNCER: It's the bottom of the 9th inning, two outs, and there's a runner on first. The Sox are down by a run, as Babe Walker steps up to the plate.
ANNIE: Come on, Babe. Hit a homer.
BLUE SOX ANNOUNCER: Here comes the first pitch. Strike one. Now pitcher Olive Little winds up again. Strike two.
ANNIE: Come on, Babe. Smack the ball.
BLUE SOX ANNOUNCER: Little throws the pitch. Strike three, Walker strikes out! The Blue Sox lose the game, three to two. But don't worry, Sox fans. These two teams will meet again tomorrow night.
NARRATOR: Then next afternoon, Annie and her mother are downtown, shopping. Mrs. Abbott heads to the drug store. She gives Annie 10 cents for a soda.
JOE: What can I do for you, Annie?
ANNIE: I'll have a chocolate soda, please.
JOE: Don't look now, but Babe Walker just came in. Maybe one of my sodas will help her start hitting again.
NARRATOR: Babe sits at the counter, on the stool next to Annie.
JOE: What'll it be, ma'am?
BABE: Just a cola. Or, wait a minute. What's that you're making?
JOE: It's a chocolate soda for my friend, Annie.
BABE: My brother used to love chocolate sodas. I'll have one, too.
ANNIE: You can have mine, Babe. Joe can make me another
BABE: You know who I am?
ANNIE: Sure! The baseball field is just a few blocks from my house. I listen to your games from my bedroom every night.
BABE: Then you know I haven't been hitting very well lately.
ANNIE: It's just a slump. The only way to get out of it is to keep on swinging.
BABE: You sound like my brother, Bobby. He says sometimes it seems like I'm afraid to swing at the ball.
ANNIE: Maybe he's right. Was he at the game last night?
BABE: No, he's fighting over in Italy. I really miss him. I haven't heard from him in over two months.
ANNIE: My dad is fighting in the Pacific. My mother says it's amazing that we get any mail from there. But I send him a letter every day.
BABE: I write to my brother as often as I can. Every time I step up to the plate, I start worrying about him.
ANNIE: Maybe that's what's causing your slump. Bobby wouldn't like that.
BABE: No, I guess not. Annie, you should be a ball player. You've got a good head for baseball.
NARRATOR: That night, Annie is back in bed, listening to the game. The score is tied, four to four in the bottom of the ninth inning. Babe has driven in all four Blue Sox runs. As Annie listens, Davey comes in.
DAVEY: Sounds like a good game tonight.
ANNIE: Shhh. Babe Walker's up at bat.
DAVEY: Mom says you met her today.
ANNIE I did! We had a soda together. And I told her how to start hitting again.
BLUE SOX ANNOUNCER: Folks, we are seeing a different Babe Walker tonight. What a turn-around. Here's the pitch. And Walker slams the ball. It's a home run! The Blue Sox win the game, five to four!
ANNIE: I knew she could do it. She just had to stop worrying about her brother.
DAVEY: What's he got to do with it?
ANNIE: Oh, you know. Sometimes brothers can really get on your nerves.
DAVEY: Lucky you don't have that problem. Hey Annie, maybe we could go to the Blue Sox game tomorrow.
ANNIE: Really? I thought you said baseball was a man's game.
DAVEY: I'm trying to keep an open mind. Uh, do you think you could introduce me to the Babe?
ANNIE: Sure, if you do me a favor.
ANNIE: Practice baseball with me. One day, I'm going to be hitting homers for the Blue Sox. Just you wait and see.
Adapted from Scholastic News Ed. 4, March 5, 1993.