ChrisDunmire.com

Rockford Peaches: A Closer Look at 'The Girls of Summer'

All-American Women's Baseball Team (1943-1954) Home Run Exhibit at Midway Village Museum

By Chris Dunmire | Updated 7/28/15

I wrote the reflection, A Moving Tribute to 'The Girls of Summer' about the Rockford Peaches (below), famed all-American women's baseball team featured in the movie A League of Their Own (1992), after visiting Midway Village Museum's The Girls of Summer: There's No Crying in Baseball exhibit in Rockford, Illinois. (This exhibit is in their permanent collection and can be viewed today.)

Shortly after, I relocated to the Rockford region and discovered a few more Peaches goodies. Two in particular will interest fans of this team: The baseball diamond where the Peaches played, and the Rock River tribute signs.

Yes, a walk along the downtown Rock River path will take you past several tribute signs of various leagure players with information about the indelible mark the Rockford Peaches made in Women's Baseball and in the area's history.

And if you're up for a literal field trip, saunter down to 245 15th Ave, where you'll find Beyer Stadium, the original Rockford Peaches home baseball field, now an historic landmark with the original ticket booth rededicated in a 2010 ceremony attended by fans, former players, and Friends of Bayer Stadium. (Dedication news: Rockford Register Star, WREX)

Does Rockford still have an all-women's baseball league? They do now. The Rockford Starfires play at Beyer Stadium. And if you're looking for a bigger venue, get a ticket to a Rockford Aviators game, the all-men professional league who play in nearby Loves Park.

My little reflective essay follows. If you're a fan of the Rockford Peaches, it's easy to fall into the rabbit hole of their history and memorbilia online, which I highly recommend. I've included some bonus resources at the end. Batter up!

A Moving Tribute to 'The Girls of Summer'

By Chris Dunmire, 2004

I'm listening to the soundtrack from the baseball movie A League of Their Own a baseball movie featuring Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell, and Madonna. My favorite track is number 10: "The Final Game" by Hans Zimmer. In the movie, this track was the instrumental backdrop to the climatic events of the movie and a winning baseball game for an all-women baseball team.

"A League of Their Own" was based on the real-life story of the Rockford Peaches, one of the charter teams of the All American Girls Baseball League from 1943 to 1954. This classic American story is not only entertaining, but quite moving.

I had the opportunity to visit the Midway Village & Museum Center in Rockford, Illinois, to see an exhibit about the Rockford Peaches. It was so cool! Greeting visitors at the exhibit entrance was the sign "The Girls of Summer":

"World War II touched every part of life in the United States. This included baseball, the 'national pastime.' To keep people interested in the game while many of its best players were in the army, chewing gum businessman and Chicago Cubs owner Phillip Wrigley started a professional women's baseball league. The 'All-American Girls Professional Baseball League' (or AAGPBL) lasted from 1943 until 1954.

"The Rockford Peaches was one of the first four teams in the league. Other teams were started in Racine and Kenosha, Wisconsin, and South Bend, Indiana. At its peak in 1948 the league had 10 teams across the Midwest.

"The Peaches was one of the league's best teams, winning the championship 4 times. They played in Rockford for all 12 years of the league's existence. Only one other team played in its original city for all 12 years. Interest in the AAGPBL declined after 1948 and the league struggled financially until 1954 when it was discontinued."

The exhibit was very moving and showcased dozens of authentic photographs of the team players, authentic baseball gear and equipment like creased shoes and worn-out gloves, and the original documentary video also titled "A League of Their Own" which inspired the later Hollywood movie directed by Penny Marshall.

The documentary video played continuously in the corner of the exhibit and brought to life snippets from yesteryear: game highlights with women baseball players sliding into bases with their skirtish-bottoms and exposed legs. It contained player interviews from then and now, and nostalgic perspectives we can only get from looking back on history from our 21st century.

It's really too bad that the AAGPBL was discontinued due to lack of interest after the second world war. When the men came home, America wanted to see men playing again, and didn't need the diversion of short skirts. That's what makes revisiting this unique timestamp in history even more special. It's long over and gone, but left its mark. Now I can more fully appreciate why they are referred to as 'a league of their own.' I wonder if we'll ever see something like the AAGPBL brought to life again, and this time, without being a stand-in for the guys.

My second favorite song is "The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Song" by the Rockford Peaches:

"Batter all, hear that call.
The time has come for one and all...
to play ball."

It tears me up every time. •

AAGPL images courtesy Midway Museum Center in Rockford, Illinois.

Rockford Peaches Rabbit Holes:

The Girls of Summer - There's No Crying in Baseball
Rockford, Illinois, Village and Museum Center exhibit about "The Girls of Summer" Rockford Peaches. If you want to see it in person, visit the museum at 6799 Guilford Road.

All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL)
"League History, photos, articles, and other resources related to the League and the women who played in it."

Polished in Public, Fierce on the Field: The AAGPBL
This permanent collection gives the history of the AAGPL, noting the "all-female professional baseball league was begun by Philip Wrigley in 1943 and stayed active until 1954. The women chosen to play in the new league were serious athletes on the field who were expected to be beautiful and ladylike at all other times. These special women were successful on both counts."

Rockford Peaches at Wikipedia
Features an All-Time Roster of players and managers.

©2005-2016 Chris Dunmire, www.chrisdunmire.com. All rights reserved.