Mother's Day at baseball mecca
Women in baseball to be celebrated this Sunday in Cooperstown
Baseball is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a special holiday like Mother's Day. But the association between the two beloved American institutions might become a little stronger for those who happen to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, this Sunday, May 14.
Continuing a tradition that began nearly ten years ago, the Hall of Fame has organized a series of special programs and events to honor the historic role of women in baseball. The Mother's Day slate will be highlighted by the unveiling of an outdoor statue paying tribute to the legacy of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and by the appearance of women baseball stars Ila Borders and Julie Croteau. In total, over 50 women baseball figures are expected to travel to Cooperstown this weekend.
The newly created bronze statue will serve as a testament to the legacy of the All-American League, which operated from 1943 to 1954 and served as the influence for the popular 1992 film, "A League of Their Own."
Former AAGPBL player Delores "Dolly" Brumfield White, who is the president of the league's players association, explains how the statue came about.
"[League treasurer and former AAGPBL catcher] Jane Moffet came up with the idea and got it done," White says. "The statue is based on a photograph of Dorothy 'Mickey' Maguire taking her batting stance. We wanted someone holding a bat because everyone in the league got to take their turn at-bat. [Maguire] was a catcher in the league. Three of her sons will be there in Cooperstown this weekend."
A veteran of the AAGPBL from 1943 to 1949, Maguire also provided part of the influence for the character of "Betty Horn" in "A League of Their Own." In the film, Horn's husband is killed in combat during World War II, forcing her to leave the league in mid-season.
The commemorative outdoor sculpture, which will be dedicated in a Sunday morning ceremony at 11:30 a.m., will be located in what is known as Cooper Park, just a few yards away from a pair of existing statues that honor the Brooklyn Dodgers' World Series championship of 1955. Later this summer, the Hall of Fame will unveil another statue -- one that depicts Hall of Famer Satchel Paige as part of a tribute to the Negro Leagues. All of the statues will be visible from the first floor of the Hall of Fame Library.
As part of the weekend salute to "Women in Baseball," the Hall of Fame will also dedicate a newly-redesigned exhibit, known as "Diamond Dreams." Most of the nearly 50 surviving AAGPBL members, including Dolly White, are expected to participate in the afternoon ceremony, which begins at 2:00 p.m.
White, who played as a first baseman and middle infielder in the AAGPBL, offers little hesitation when asked to discuss her favorite part of league reunions in Cooperstown.
"It's sharing the stories, sharing the memories. It's recalling the times when we played, what life was like in the forties and fifties. It brings back good memories," White says. "And we can encourage young people of today to create their own memories."
Prior to the unveiling of the new women's exhibit, several players from the AAGPBL will participate in a 9:30 roundtable discussion on Sunday morning.
Later on Sunday, two women stars of the 1990s, Ila Borders and Julie Croteau, will headline a panel discussion of contemporary women's baseball. Borders became the first woman to record a win in a men's professional baseball league. Croteau was the first female to play NCAA men's baseball and later became the starting first baseman for the Colorado Silver Bullets, an all-women's professional team that played from 1994 to 1997 before losing its primary sponsor. Both women, now retired as players, will discuss their accomplishments as pioneers during the 3:00 p.m. panel discussion.
At 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, a different theme involving women in baseball will be discussed when three female Little League pioneers relate their experiences as groundbreakers in male-dominated youth baseball.
While the Hall of Fame has featured annual observances of women in baseball since 2000, this year's Mother's Day celebration carries special significance. Later this summer, former Negro Leagues owner Effa Manley will become the first woman to gain induction to the Cooperstown shrine. On July 30, Manley and 16 other Negro Leagues legends will be posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining former Cubs and Cardinals relief ace Bruce Sutter as part of the Class of 2006.
Notes: As part of the Mother's Day festivities at the Hall of Fame, the first 200 mothers to enter the Museum on Sunday will receive complimentary carnations. ... The final event of the Mother's Day celebration will actually take place on Monday morning, when a number of the invited women in baseball will be made available for a "meet-and-greet" session in the Museum. The morning session will begin at 10:00 a.m.
Bruce Markusen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.