A Rockford Peach turned 90 Friday -- and her family and fans are throwing her a drive-thru surprise party, in keeping with stay-at-home guidelines, of course.
Helen “Sis Waddell” Wyatt played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1950 and 1951, for the Rockford Peaches and the Battle Creek Belles. The Pennsylvania native stayed in Rockford after her professional baseball career ended. She left her ballpark memories behind until the Penny Marshall film A League of Their Own came out in 1992, introducing new generations to the World War II era story of women who played professional hardball – in skirts.
Greg Schwanke has worked with Wyatt for a couple of decades on the restoration of Beyer Field, where the Rockford Peaches played.
“And when the project finally got off the ground to do something, she was there almost every day cheering on the workers, helping the workers, telling her stories, signing autographs," Schwanke said. “Just being such a great person to help promote this whole renovation of Beyer Stadium.”
Wyatt lives in Heritage Woods assisted living, 202 N. Show Place Dr., on Rockford’s far east side. Schwanke said she has a room with a view of the parking lot, so she’ll be able to safely watch the parade of well-wishers, which starts at 2:00 PM. He urges people to “decorate your cars, wish her a happy birthday. Let’s make it big!”
How big? Schwanke said to think about another great baseball film. “Remember at the end of the movie Field of Dreams when the cars are lined up for as you can see? That's what I'm hoping for.”
For fans who can’t make it, Schwanke encourages them to send Helen a card at Heritage Woods of Rockford.