Long before there was Dottie Hinson and Marla Hooch in “A League of Their Own,” there was Maybelle Blair, also known as “All the Way May.”
In fact, the legendary 1992 film was inspired by Blair and all those other amazing trailblazing women who played in the World War II era’s All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which ran from 1943 to 1954.
Even though she’s 91 years old now, Blair is still as passionate about the game as ever. Recently, she met up with Ila Borders, 42, a former left-handed pitcher who was the first woman to earn a college baseball scholarship and the first woman to play men’s professional baseball since the 1950s. Of course, the two pioneers put their gloves on at the Boston Red Sox Women’s Fantasy Camp, where they were speaking, and fired up their arms.
“Throw it hard enough so it sticks,” Blair said from the pitching mound.
“Oh throw it harder than that. … Yeah, throw it,” she said again as others looked on smiling. “You gotta throw me the ball! … Atta girl.”
Born in California, Blair was a softball pitcher before joining the Peoria Redwings of the AAGPBL in 1948. She played one season there, making $55 a week, which was more than her father made, and then moved to Chicago to play professional softball.
“I wasn’t really convinced until I put on my spikes, and there’s no sweeter music in this world…you get those spikes on, and you start walking, and hearing ‘click, click, click, click’ if you’re walking on the cement. I said, ‘Oh my God, I’m a ballplayer, and I’m going to get to play professional baseball. My dream has come true,” Blair told a group of young women in May.
Eventually, she retired her mitt and landed in California, where she attended the LA School of Physiotherapy and worked at a treatment center in Los Angeles. However, her days of blazing a new trail for women were far from over. After changing careers, she started as a chauffeur at global security company Northrop Corporation, and worked her way up to becoming one of only three female managers.
While she’s an accomplished well-rounded woman with many years of wisdom under her belt, Blair’s heart still ticks to the crack of the bat and the sweet “music” of baseball spikes. That’s why when not watching the game on television, she makes numerous appearances throughout the country to encourage younger generations of women to embrace the sport, and to help push for a women’s professional league.
And, clearly, she’s not afraid to grab a glove and show them how it’s done either.
If you’d like to learn more about Maybelle Blair, check out this video from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.