A new Major League Baseball season kicks off Thursday and hope springs eternal for all 30 teams vying to win the World Series, not to mention a group of women with a different goal in mind.
Maybelle Blair, 94, who pitched for the Peoria Redwings in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s, has teamed up with historian and author Kat Williams to raise funds in order to build the International Women’s Baseball Center, a museum that would honor women in the sport.
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"Women have been part of this game for since its inception, and we don't have that home,” Williams told Dylan Dreyer on the 3rd hour of TODAY.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cooperstown, New York, has been in existence since the 1930s, and Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum pays homage to Black athletes who played the sport while Major League Baseball was segregated. There’s even a National College Baseball Hall of Fame, based in Lubbock, Texas. But there is no entity solely for women.
"It is so important to me that I'm going to, if I can stay on this side of the grass, you know. ... We got to get this done. I think it's so important for girls and women and underprivileged children," Blair said.
Blair was a pitcher who is the embodiment of the living, breathing history of women in the game and isn’t afraid to boast about it, either.
“Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax had nothing on me. And I loved every cockeyed minute of it,” she said.
She said men are hardly the only ones who have played a role in baseball lore.
“There is so much history in women's baseball, people don't even know it,” she said.
Women have made strides in the national pastime in recent years and enjoyed a breakthrough moment last year when the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as the first female general manager in the major leagues.
"Listen, Kim Ng is probably the most wonderful thing that happened to women's baseball. This woman is so talented. So outstanding,” Blair said.
Ng is only one of many women who have contributed to the game, and the museum honoring them is coming along, with a plot of land and designs for the structure to be built in Rockford, Illinois, which was home of the Rockford Peaches, the team immortalized in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own.” It will cost about $8 million to actually get the museum up and running.
Williams said having a place that pays tribute to the women in the game would be priceless, including to the roughly 30 women who are still alive that played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
"It would mean everything. It would absolutely mean everything for us to deliver that to them, because they deserve it. And the thousands of women before them deserve it. And the thousands who came after deserve it," she said.