Film Fest Highlighted By 'A League of Their Own'
The 1992 movie, directed by Penny Marshall about the fledging women’s baseball league that lasted a dozen years from 1943 to 1954, launched the 14th Annual Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival on Sept. 20. The two-day event featured 11 films with subjects as diverse as the St. Louis Browns, a notorious ball hawk, Ernie Banks, a minor league team in Omaha, a former Yankees batboy and the longest professional game in baseball history.
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On Day 1, the Hall of Fame’s Grandstand Theater played host to five former members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League – on organization whose reunion included a trip to Cooperstown on the same day – before a screening of the movie that made their oft-forgotten time as professional baseball players more than 60 years ago inspiring to many. In fact, some of the women on stage that night acted in the beloved film.
“We came to Cooperstown to actually shoot the scenes here,” said Sue Zipay, who played with the Rockford Peaches in 1953 and 1954. “While I was here Penny landed in Doubleday Field in a helicopter – her hair wasn’t combed, her cap was crooked, she had a cigarette in her mouth and she hollered, ‘Where’s Beans?’ and I was supposed to be ‘Beans.’ The next day they had me batting over and over and over again. I was supposed to hit a line drive and run to second. So I did it and she said do it again. All day long. It was a long day and a good experience. But the problem was I ran to second base so many times that day I tore some ligaments in my knee.”
Burkovich, who played all over the field for a number of AAGPBL teams from 1949 to 1951, couldn’t restrain herself. “Now back to Mary Moore,” as the crowd roared with laughter, “if you freeze-frame that, if we had instant replay like they do today, you would know Mary that you were O-U-T out!”
Soon after, Maybelle Blair, a pitcher with the Peoria Redwings in 1948, chimed in with her own hilarious take on the ongoing topic. “I’m still mad. I had the part Shirley had all memorized within seconds. It took Shirley a week to memorize the lines. Penny chose her. It should have been me. And you know that she’s getting royalties today and she’s never bought me a hot dog. It’s very upsetting. I room with Shirley all the time – we travel a lot together – and I still don’t like her.
“This definitely falls into the ‘dreams come true’ category. It’s hard to believe,” Hample said. “Topps did a card of me a couple years ago, and that was like a boyhood dream fulfilled. And I always dreamt that I’d end up in the Hall of Fame and in a way I kinda am. It’s really strange. This is a huge thrill and an honor.
“This whole hobby of mine, which started for me back in 1990, this is my 30th year of catching baseballs. I was just doing it because I was obsessed and I loved baseball. And I still do it because I’m obsessed and I love baseball. The fact that it’s taken off like this and touched so many people is kind of mindboggling to just take a step back from it and see what this madness has turned into. This film is 90 minutes. I’m not perfect and I’ve certainly said and done some stupid things that have spilled over into the baseball world, but overall I try and be a positive influence on kids and the baseball world and give back. I think this film shows that.”
“To have this film selected just boggled my mind. I was very surprised, but extremely thrilled.”
Baseball Infinity: The Longest Game in Baseball History, which revisits the 33-inning game between the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings in 1981, was represented in Cooperstown by director Devin Hill.
“This has been awesome,” he said after the showing of his movie. “Anything that’s associated with the Hall of Fame is a good thing to be a part of, so we’re completely honored by it.”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum