Pepper Davis: A Ballplayer
When I called LaVonne “Pepper” Paire Davis to interview her about the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” she immediately broke into song, selecting another classic written by Jack Norworth: “Shine on Harvest Moon.”
Pepper told me that her two passions in life had always been baseball and writing – specifically songs and poems. She also told me about a book she was just wrapping up, her autobiography, “Dirt in the Skirt,” which she released in 2009.
Pepper was an irrepressible, good-natured lady who loved the game – whether the game was baseball or life. She never failed to bring a smile to anyone she met. She played for 10 seasons (1944-53) in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and her teams made the playoffs nine of those 10 seasons. She was a member of the 1946 Playoff Champion Racine Belles.
Pepper passed away on Saturday at the age of 88.
On the field, she was a fine catcher with a fielding percentage of .977, as well as playing shortstop, third base and occasionally pitching. She was a line drive hitter with good plate discipline, whose 400 RBIs are believed to rank fourth all time in AAGPBL history. On her website, she wished to be remembered as a fiery leader who did whatever it took to win and gave it her all.
Fans of the AAGPBL and the movie “A League of Their Own” can be thankful that she served as a key consultant on the film, and that she co-wrote (with Nalda Bird Phillips) the official league song. She was the first female coach for the World Children’s Baseball Fair, an annual summer baseball program founded by American and Japanese home run champions Hank Aaron and Sadaharu Oh. In 1999, she was one of two AAGPBL players, along with Dottie Kamenshek, to be featured on a Starting Lineup action figure.
Here are the lyrics to her famous “Victory Song.”
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
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,
Tim Wiles is the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum