Dorothy Kamenshek,

     who helped inspire 

     the lead character in

     “A League of Their Own,” 

     has died.

                   – AP Press, May 23, 2010 

When my brother and I

visited Rockford relatives in the 1940s,

aunts and uncles took us out to see

the Rockford Peaches, one of the teams in the 

All American Girls Professional Baseball League

that operated from 1943 to 1954.

Sixty-five years later, in 2007

in Palm Desert, California, we met 

for the first time their star first baseman,

Dorothy Kamenshek, an 84-year-old 

in a wheelchair who joined us for lunch.

Her teammates called her Kammie,

to distinguish her from several players

who were also named Dorothy.

Soft spoken, steady handed and alert, 

she reminisced about the times

her widowed mother, on the way to work, 

would drop her off at a Cincinnati park 

where boys enjoyed playing baseball.

At first averse to the southpaw joining in,

they changed their minds when they saw

how well she played the game.

Invited to a Wrigley Field tryout

in 1943 at the age of seventeen,

she made the final cut and joined 

the Rockford squad, the anchor team 

in the league that included cities like 

Grand Rapids, Kenosha, Racine, 

Kalamazoo and Fort Wayne.

An All Star several times, she won

two batting titles and Wally Pipp,

the Yankee player, said that she

was the best fielding first baseman, 

man or woman, he had ever seen.

Sports Illustrated in 1999 selected her

as the 100th greatest female athlete

of the twentieth century.

Kammie chuckled when she recalled 

lessons in etiquette given to players,

dress codes and hairdos required,

the curfews they were supposed to keep 

while boarding with host families 

who provided rooms for them.

Players earned $50 to $125 a week,

received an expense allowance and saw

the Great Lakes countryside by bus.

In August, 1950, three thousand fans

honored her at Beyer Stadium 

in Rockford on “Kamenshek night”

and showered her with gifts.

When her playing days ended in 1953,

she attended Marquette University,

embarked on a career in physical therapy,

went on to head that department of the 

Los Angeles Crippled Children’s Service, 

an experience she said gratified her 

as much as baseball accomplishments.

Kammie gave us each an autographed photo

of herself, taken in her Rockford uniform,

was pleased that we remembered her

and delighted in revisiting the past,

as if she had risen from her wheelchair

and trotted back to the on deck circle
with her favorite bat in hand.