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Mary Pratt, women’s baseball hero, who inspired 'A League Of Their Own', dies at 101

Mary Pratt, women’s baseball hero, who inspired 'A League Of Their Own', dies at 101

She is believed to have been the last surviving member of the original Rockford Peaches.

Mary Pratt, one of the first members of the Rockford Peaches—a powerhouse Illinois team that was part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League—passed away last week at the age of 101. She also pitched for the Kenosha Comets in the AAGPBL, which inspired the 1992 A League of Their Own and later went on to build a career in physical education, lifting thousands of girls and young women to new heights in sports. The icon's nephew, Walter Pratt, confirmed her death to The Patriot Ledger, revealing that she "passed away peacefully at the John Scott nursing home in Braintree" on May 6.



 

 

She was laid to rest the following day in the Pratt family plot in Mt. Wollaston Cemetery, Massachusetts. The AAGPBL mourned the news of Pratt's death on Twitter on Friday, tweeting: We are terribly sad to report that former Rockford Peaches and Kenosha Comets pitcher, Mary Pratt passed away on May 6th. She was 101 years old. Mary was the last known original Peaches player that played on the 1943 team. Her stories, her energy will be missed for a long time.



 

 

Pratt is believed to have been the last surviving member of the Rockford Peaches. David Allen Lambert of Stoughton, chief genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, shared a fond memory of the time he'd met the legendary pitcher, saying, "It is a sad day in baseball this week. I met Mary over 20 years ago at the Stoughton Historical Society when she gave a talk. She was such a wonderful lady to chat with. She brought the days of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League alive to those who were not alive to see these ladies play ball."



 

 

Rose Somensini, a Boston University Sargent College alumnus like Pratt, remembered her as "a wonderful and a very unique person." Speaking of her dear friend, Somensini said, "We won’t see her kind again. It was just wonderful knowing her. And as for physical education and coaching girls and women’s sports, she was a wonderful promoter of girls and women’s sports." According to The Washington Post, Pratt helped keep the legacies of the Rockford Peaches and the All-American league alive long after they folded after a dozen seasons. "As some of the other former players will tell you, once she was on the stage you couldn’t get her off," said Ted Spencer, former chief curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.



 

 

"She was very dedicated to telling the story that young women and girls deserve an equal chance in all sports, not just baseball," Spencer added. Pratt was a 24-year-old physical education teacher in suburban Quincy, Massachusetts, when she joined the Peaches on a $60-a-week contract during the first season of the All-American league. Although women had played baseball since the game was invented, the league marked a new pro showcase for female athletes. "The league was a forerunner for women's professional team sports in the United States," said Carol Sheldon, a board member of the AAGPBL Players Association—a nonprofit that promotes the league's history.



 

 

Pratt and her fellow athletes, referred to as The Belles of the Ballgame at times, were expected to follow a strict set of rules even beyond the baseball diamond. They had to attend charm-school classes overseen by cosmetics mogul Helena Rubinstein, wear their hair in either short curls or at shoulder length, and were forbidden from smoking or drinking. Chaperones accompanied them to every game to make sure they followed the rules. "We were going to look like ladies, dress like ladies, and act like ladies. I lived the life," Pratt said in a 2012 interview.



 

 

"I shouldn’t do it, but sometimes I look today and see how the boys are treated well. They can’t pitch nine innings. And to think that we were playing every night, so we must have got a few aches and pains," she said in a 2009 oral history. "Not that it mattered, she added: "I think everybody will tell you that we were having so much fun." 



 

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