By Connie Wardman, M.A., SDLT (she/her)
When is the appropriate age for one to come out, to announce to the world at large that you’re gay? If you’re Maybelle Blair, legendary baseball player for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), age 95 seemed to finally release the years of fear that had kept her secret safe – she’s gay.
As part of the inspiration for the 1992 Penny Marshall film, “A League of Their Own,” Blair was a panelist at the recent Tribeca Film Festival promoting Amazon’s series of the same name that’s based on the movie and being released this month. Surprising everyone with her announcement, including herself, she said, “I hid for 75, 85 years and this is actually, basically the first time I’ve ever come out.”
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She may be 95 and walk with a cane that’s a modified baseball bat, but Maybelle Blair still has baseball fever running through her veins, and she’s devoted to encouraging young girls not only to play the game she loves but also to not be afraid to come out as queer.
As a consultant to Amazon on the sports comedy project, Blair has provided authentic background information on both the sexual and racial issues that weren’t an integral part of the movie but are more fully developed in this new series.
The AAGPBL was a direct result of the World War II draft emptying baseball fields and stadiums of eligible men, concerning many that America’s pastime would die out. So in 1943 the girls’ league was formed and Blair was one of over 600 women who left insular small towns, farms and ranches to play baseball in an all-girls league that lasted until 1954. Blair played in the 1948 AAGPBL season before moving to the National Women’s Softball League in Chicago where she played during the 1950s.
— A League of Their Own (@LeagueOnPrime) July 26, 2022
Talking about the isolation she felt growing up as a lesbian, Blair thought she was the only queer in the world. When she had a crush on another girl in high school and “finally, we sort of had a little thing you know how you do,” she thought, “Oh my god Maybelle, what’s wrong with you?”
However, Blair’s first team in Chicago was the Peoria Redwings and she revealed that when she got to Chicago, “I’ll tell ya’ it was the most amazing time of my life because they asked me to go out to a bar. Well, it turned out to be a gay bar,” she said, “and I was never so happy in my life.”
Blair’s happiness has morphed into a lifetime of telling the story of the AAGPBL, of promoting girls and women’s baseball, of encouraging queer girls to live an authentic life and lastly, to building the International Women’s Baseball Center in Rockford, Illinois, home of the famous AAGPBL team, the Rockford Peaches.
— A League of Their Own (@LeagueOnPrime) August 23, 2022
Photo Credit: Courtesy The History Museum