Results tagged ‘ Diamond Dreams ’

A Little ‘Pepper’ in That Song

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

As I mentioned in my previous blog about the late, great All-American Girls Professional Baseball League star Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis, her other great love, besides baseball, was writing and singing – songs and poems.

All American Girls Professional Baseball League star Pepper Paire poses for a picture with her catchers gear. (NBHOF Library)

Lavonne “Pepper” Paire Davis putting on her catching equipment (NBHOF Library)

I had called Pepper while doing some research related to the centennial of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” back in 2008.  I knew that she was the writer behind a great parody of baseball’s anthem. Whenever several veteran players from the AAGPBL were gathered for an appearance at a ball game or a card show, they would often break into song, usually singing the league’s “Victory Song” (also written by Pepper along with fellow player Nalda Bird Phillips), and then they would go into their own version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”

AAGPBL Rosters were not nearly as large as major league rosters, usually featuring anywhere from 15-18 players.  Therefore, when injury struck, the ladies either played through the pain, or, if they had to sit out, often someone else had to play out of position in order to field a team.  These were tough women.

So, her parody makes fun of what she saw as the more frail players of later generations, though she was careful to note that not all modern players are like this.  Pepper told me that Ernie Banks and Duke Snider were great fans of her version of the song, and would ask her to sing it when they ran into each other at card shows and other events.  Here’s how it goes:

Take Me Out of the Ball Game
I don’t think I can play;
I’ve got a headache and a hangnail too,
What’s more I think I’m coming down with the flu;
So please, Take me out of the ball game,
If we don’t win it’s a shame;
But I’ll still get my
One, Two, Three million or more
At the Old Ball Game.

Tim Wiles is the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Perfectly Perfect

Odell_90(2).jpgBy John Odell

One of my favorite records is not from the pros; it wasn’t even set by an adult. It is a Little League record. The Hall of Fame rarely calls out such marks because there are so many games taking place, encompassing so many levels of competition, that the leagues themselves do not even keep track of them.

03-17-11-Odell_DiamondDreams.jpgOccasionally, though, a youth league accomplishment is so astounding that we learn about it here in Cooperstown. On May 14, 2005, 11-year-old Katie Brownell, the pitcher for the Dodgers in the Oakfield (N.Y.) Little League and the only girl in her entire league, set such a record.

Exceptional Little League pitching performances, while uncommon, are nowhere near as rare as they are in the majors. In youth leagues, the combination of talent imbalances and six-inning games means that good pitchers often strike out many batters.

But on this day, Katie was unhittable in a way I had never heard of before. She struck out every batter she faced in all six innings of the regulation game. Eighteen up, eighteen down. A perfect game. And more than that in my mind, because this was the best performance a pitcher could ever imagine. Striking everyone out in a game is the stuff of daydreams and legends. For a pitcher, this was a perfect perfect game. At our request, she donated the jersey she wore on that day.

Several aspects of this record make it special for me. First, if this record doesn’t make your jaw drop, whether a boy or a girl accomplished it, then you haven’t suffered through the agony of a youth league pitcher walking half a team around the bases, or surrendering hits when he (or she!) keeps the ball around the plate.

03-17-11-Odell_Johnston.jpgSecond, Katie was playing baseball because she loved to play baseball. Nothing against other bat and ball games, but if you are a baseball player, there is no substitute. As the curator for Diamond Dreams, our permanent exhibition about the history of women in baseball, I am especially attuned to the challenges girls and women have faced in order to play our National Pastime, even to the point of going to court.

As a culture, we no longer discourage kids from playing baseball because of their skin color or because of a differing ability that puts them at a physical disadvantage to their peers, and I believe that we should not discourage someone from playing simply because she is a girl. In this respect, I think that Katie’s performance shows how our love for baseball can be a uniting force, something that draws us together. 

Regardless of how many times other Little Leaguers may have reached this mark of perfection, either before or since, I am thrilled that we can illustrate Katie Brownell’s accomplishment for our visitors in our new exhibit One for the Books.

It’s memories like these that will be brought to life in One for the Books. The exhibit opens Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown.

John Odell is the curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Remembering Dottie

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Generally speaking, first baseman are not known for their speed. Hall of Famer Frank Chance was an exception to that rule, once stealing a league-leading 67 bases in just 125 games in 1903.

05-20-10-Carr_KamenshekMug.jpgBut All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player Dorothy Kamenshek didn’t just steal more bases, she shattered Chance’s number. Kamenshek, also known as “Dottie” or “Kammie,” stole 109 bases in 107 games in 1946.

Kamenshek passed away Monday at the age of 84. She was considered by many the greatest women’s baseball player ever.

“Kammie had no weakness,” said fellow AAGPBL player Lavone “Pepper” Paire Davis. “She hit left-handed line drives and was a complete ballplayer.”

In 10 years with the league (1943-1951, 1953), Kamenshek led the league in batting twice (1946 and 1947) and stands as the league’s all-time batting leader with a .282 lifetime average.

05-20-10-Carr_Kamenshek.jpg“I’m not one for statistics, really,” Kamenshek once said. “I never paid any attention to that. I didn’t consider myself an individual player, team victories were more important to me.”

She spent her whole career with the Rockford Peaches. She was selected to play in the All-Star Game in each of the seven seasons during her career that a game was held.

It wasn’t just women who were impressed by Kamenshek.

Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp called her “the fanciest-fielding first-baseman I’ve ever seen, man or woman” after seeing her play.

She was even offered a contract with the minor league baseball club in Fort Lauderdale in 1947. She turned down the offer because she thought it was a publicity stunt. Kamenshek led her team to four league championships and retired in 1953 after suffering back injuries.

The Baseball Hall of Fame has files of clippings and photos of Kamenshek in its collections, and her memory lives on in the Diamond Dreams exhibit on the second floor of the Museum.

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Former AAGPBL pitcher makes the pilgrimage

Wiles_90.jpgBy Tim Wiles

At age 85, Jane Jacobs Badini made her first trip to Cooperstown Friday. “I will definitely be back,” said the former pitcher for the Racine Belles (1944-45, 1947) and the Peoria Redwings (1946) of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

The native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, made the pilgrimage along with her extended family, Niece Jeannie McCrossin, her husband William McCrossin, and daughters Khloe (17) and Amanda (15).

8-10-09-Wiles_Jacobs.jpgBadini, known by her maiden name of Jane Jacobs in her ball-playing days, enjoyed the entire museum, but especially the Diamond Dreams exhibit on the history of women in baseball (including, of course the AAGPBL), and an extended visit to the A. Barlett Giamatti Research Center, where she both donated photos and clippings from her career and received copies of other photos from the Hall’s archives. She even helped identify some former teammates who were unidentified in old team photos.

Jacobs was a relief specialist, a control pitcher who specialized in what today are called breaking pitches. An interesting moment in her career came when a male manager ordered her to throw at the head of an opposing hitter. She refused, feeling that the order was unsportsmanlike. The manager benched her for ten days – except when he would get in tight spots and need to bring in his “fireman.”

These days Badini, who is retired from a career owning a dry cleaning shop which also offers ceramics, spends her time speaking to kids groups about fair play, sportsmanship, and the history of the AAGPBL, which the kids all know about because of the popular movie A League of Their Own.

Tim Wiles is the direcotr of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.



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