A woman who is thought to be the last of the original Rockford Peaches has died. Mary Pratt pitched in the inaugural season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943. That team was immortalized in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own.”
Pratt was a tiny woman with a big voice, especially when it came time to sing the League’s official song at one of the many reunions she attended later in life with her former teammates. She was committed to keeping women’s baseball history alive: She served on the AAGPBL’s board of directors and shared stories from other players through the organization’s newsletter.
The southpaw from Massachusetts pitched for the Peaches and the Kenosha Comets from 1943 through 1947. It was a time when skirts and charm school were required if a woman wanted to play a “man’s sport.” But it was also a time when they were paid well to play the game they loved, with men off fighting in World War II.
The Rockford Peaches were one of the four original women’s baseball teams assembled by Philip K. Wrigley, chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner, to play professional baseball in medium-sized manufacturing towns in the Midwest.
Pratt’s best season was 1944, which she split between Rockford and Kenosha. She won 21 games, lost 15, and her ERA was an enviable 2.50.
“Prattie,” as her teammates called her, went on to a 48-year career as a gym teacher and advocate for women’s sports. She died May 6 in Braintree, Mass. at the age of 101.
There are five players from the original Peaches lineup who are unaccounted for by the AAGPBL’s players association. Pratt is believed to have been the last surviving member, however.