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The Peaches of Rockford, Illinois

Rockford was home to a unique era in baseball history. Many of the best players in the men’s league were in the military during World War II and to keep up the interest in the sport, gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, decided to organize the first professional baseball teams for women.

RockfordPeaches display at Midway Village Museum
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RockfordPeaches display at Midway Village Museum

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played from 1941 to 1954. Rockford’s Beyer Stadium was called the Peach Orchard while the Peaches played there.

Rockford Peaches trophies at the Midway Village Museum
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Rockford Peaches trophies at the Midway Village Museum

A section of Rockford’s Midway Village Museum is dedicated to the Peaches and has trophies and uniforms on display. Rules were strict, but pay was around $70 a week, more than many men earned, a rarity for women in that age.

Players were required to attend charm school classes, wear makeup even during games, and appear as physically attractive as possible in public, upholding Wrigley’s highest ideals of womanhood.

Uniforms were designed to highlight their femininity, not to protect them from injury. Peach-colored dresses with short, flared skirts were worn with satin shorts and knee-high socks. With no protection when sliding into base, scrapes they called “strawberries” were commonplace.

Dorothy “ Kammie” Kamenshek display at the Midway Village Museum
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Dorothy “ Kammie” Kamenshek display at the Midway Village Museum

The experience gave the women who were in the league the confidence to enter what had to then been all-male domains. A plaque on the wall quotes player Dorothy Kamenshek, “One thing about our league is that it gave us the courage to go on to professional careers at a time when women didn’t do things like that.”

The team’s fame was revived with the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell.

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