A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
It Certainly Was
By Jack Coll
May 17, 2020
Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of baseball articles, with no baseball due to the coronavirus I’m hoping to fill the small hole in the heart of baseball fans everywhere.
I came across a piece of news that didn’t pertain to the stinkin’ Coronavirus. Mary Pratt, who pitched for the Rockford Peaches and Kenosha Comets in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, (AAGPBL) in the 1940’s and 1950’s, passed away at 101 years old on May 6th, she was the last remaining original member of the Rockford Peaches in the all-girls baseball league.
I heard the news and didn’t think anything more about it, about a week later I was finishing-up in my office for the evening and wandered into the living room and Donna was watching the movie ”A League of Their Own.” I thought isn’t that funny, (actually not-so funny) I just heard about Mary Pratt passing away about a week ago and here’s the movie on TV. So I sat and enjoyed the movie, I think I had only seen the movie once when it came out in 1992, so it was really enjoyable to revisit the film.
As I watched the movie I thought about my encounter with Dorothy “Dottie” Kamenshek some years ago, I can’t remember the year and to be honest with you I can’t remember the place. I’m guessing it was at a baseball card convention possibly in King of Prussia in the mid 1990’s. Among other guest at the show were a number of former female baseball players who were part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League who had played from 1943-1955.
I was a little bit familiar with the league before the movie came out. An old friend of mine named Chick McCarter had given me a number of boxes of old newspapers, mostly Conshohocken Recorder newspapers, mostly the sports sections. Chick had a lifetime interest in Conshohocken sports and passed that interest in local sports along with the old newspapers to me. (Actually there were dozens of boxes of newspapers dating back to 1900). In one of those boxes was a number of old magazines dating back to the 1940’s and 1950’s with photographs and write-ups on the AAGPBL, it was very interesting stuff.
I hadn’t thought about my encounter with Dottie in years and the following morning after watching the movie I thought “Let me see what ever happened to Dottie Kamenshek.”
So I get set-up on the computer and punch in Dottie’s name. I was a bit sad to see that she had passed away ten years ago in 2010, as a matter of fact she died on May 17, 2010, I was sitting at the computer on May 17, 2020 and I thought to myself that me looking up Dottie ten years to-the-day after her death inspired me to write about my brief moments with Dottie.
When I say a few brief moments with her I mean a few brief moments. If you recall watching the movie Geena Davis played as Dorothy “Dottie” Hinson, and was the team’s catcher and un-official assistant manager, always cool, quite, calm, and carried a big stick. Geena’s character was loosely based on Dorothy “Dottie” Kamenshek who was said to have many of the qualities shown in the movie by Geena. So I was thinking that “Dottie” in the movie and Dottie Kamenshek was basically the same “Dottie.” So as I recall it, with all my knowledge and an attempt to generate a little conversation, I recall saying hello to her and asking her how her knees felt after being a catcher all those years ago? She smiled and said “Honey I was never a catcher I played First Base.” I replied ‘Oh sorry about that I just assumed that Geena Davis was playing you in the movie, you know “Dottie and Dottie” and she replied to the effect that the movie was really great but there was a lot of Hollywood in it. I said it was good to see you and turned and walked away. I don’t think the whole conversation lasted 30 seconds and I remember just thinking to myself that I gotta do better than that, you know, you’ve heard Andy Reed say it a million times at press conferences, I think he got it from me.
I was intrigued that Tom Hanks roll as the manager named Jimmy Dugan in the movie was loosely based on former Philadelphia A’s Hall of Fame player Jimmie Foxx. Connie Mack signed Foxx at the age of 18 back in 1925 and for the next ten years played for the A’s helping to win two World Series Titles in 1929 and again in 1930.
He really was quite a player, in his heyday with the A’s and Boston Red Sox Foxx hit 30 or more home runs in 12 consecutive seasons and drove in more than 100 runs in 13 consecutive seasons. He was a nine-time All Star, a three-time Most Valuable Player, a two-time Batting Champ, a four-time American League Home Run Leader, a three-time American League RBI leader and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951 after playing 20 years finishing his final year with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The thing about Foxx was he played at the Spring Mill Country Club for five or six years when Connie Mack would bring his Philadelphia A’s to Spring Mill by train on Sundays to play exhibition games with local teams. Conshohocken residents would show up in the thousands to catch a glimpse of the baseball star.
In the end Foxx hit 534 major league home runs, a number that still stands in the top 20 all-time home run hitters. He fell just two home runs short of Mickey Mantle who had 536 career home runs and only 14 dingers behind Mike Schmidt who had 548.
Following his playing days Foxx worked as a minor league manager and coached after his playing days ended including managing the Fort Wayne Daisies of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of one season in 1952. He took them to the playoffs where they lost in the first round two games to one against the Rockford Peaches. Foxx did not return the next season, nor did he manage in 1943 like the movie portrayed, I guess that’s part of the Hollywood that Dottie Kamenshek talked about in our extremely short discussion.
Jimmie Foxx passed away in 1967 at the age of 59 in Miami Florida. Foxx became ill while eating dinner with his brother and was taken to the hospital, where resuscitative efforts failed. An autopsy showed that Foxx had choked on a piece of food. Ironically the year before, Foxx’s second wife, Dorothy, had also died of choking.
So anyway, I was sorry to hear that Mary Pratt passed away, even though I didn’t know her or ever met her, although she might have been at the baseball card convention all those years ago but I simply don’t remember all their names. I did enjoy watching the movie “A League of Their Own,” with a number of big stars including Madonna as “All the Way Mae,” I’m not a big Rosie O’Donnell fan but she did play a good part in the flick, Jon Lovitz, Garry Marshall, always a pleasure to see him, Bill Pullman, Tea Leoni and a number of others. And it was nice to recall my meeting with Dorothy Kamenshek, however short, but she did sign an autograph to me, wishing me luck, I don’t know for what but it was nice she took the time.
For the record, Dorothy “Dottie” Kamenshek played for the Rockford Peaches from 1943-1951, and again in 1953. She was a seven-time All Star, two-time Batting Champion, 1946-1947, the all-time leader in hits and total bases, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988 and later the National Women’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
Dottie was from Cincinnati, Ohio and considered one of the best athletes of her time, she was even recruited for a men’s baseball team from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She believed the team only wanted her for publicity and turned down the offer. In 1999, Sports Illustrated for Women selected Kamenshek as the 100th greatest female athlete of the 20th century.
I met with Dottie for maybe 30 seconds, man what an honor.
It’ always nice talkin’ baseball, see ya next time.