Mary Pratt, believed to be the last surviving member of the inaugural Rockford Peaches girls’ baseball team, died peacefully in her sleep on May 6 at the age of 101.
Her team, one of several formed by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGBPL) in the face of male baseball players being drafted for World War II, was immortalized in the star-studded 1992 movie “A League of Their Own,” which featured Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Geena Davis and Jon Lovitz.
The news was given by her nephew to a local paper, The Patriot Ledger, near her home in Braintree, Massachusetts, and also reported by the AAGBPL. “Her stories, her energy will be missed for a long time,” the organization said in a Twitter post announcing her death.
We are terribly sad to report that former Rockford Peaches and Kenosha Comets pitcher, Mary Pratt passed away on May 6th. She was 101 years old. Mary was the last known original Peaches player that played on the 1943 team. Her stories, her energy will be missed for a long time. pic.twitter.com/dKFlbbBzf8
— AAGPBL Official (@AAGPBL) May 8, 2020
Mary Pratt was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Nov. 30, 1918, and grew up during the height of the Great Depression. As a young woman, she followed her heart’s desire, going to college and majoring in physical education. Pratt graduated from Boston University in 1940 and earned advanced degrees from BU and the University of Massachusetts. Her goal was to become a teacher. The idea of becoming a professional athlete was not something she ever dreamed could happen.
“My athletic competition through most of my growing up and teaching years was limited,” she wrote in a brief autobiography on the AAGPBL website. “I competed with and against boys. Competition at the high school and college levels for girls was limited to intramural and class competition. I did, however, have the opportunity to compete in a local church basketball league and with both the Boston Field Hockey and Lacrosse Associations.”
But while still in college, Pratt earned a spot as a pitcher for the Boston Olympets. The southpaw played for the indoor softball team from 1939 to 1940 and earned a reputation as a star ballplayer before leaving the team for a teaching job.
Then, in 1943, an opportunity came along that Pratt simply couldn’t pass up. After being contacted by the AAGPBL, she flew to Chicago and signed on with the Rockford Peaches, one of the original teams in the league.
The AAGPBL was in existence from 1943 to 1954. Pratt, affectionately known as “Prattie,” played for what she referred to as “five wonderful summers as a member of the league,” from 1943 to 1947.
In the image above, she is on the left with her friend Marie Cronin and fellow AAGPBL player Maddy English at the opening of the New England Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
“It was an honor to play with so many of the girls who signed up for the League in those first years,” she wrote.
Pratt enjoyed a lengthy teaching career, retiring in 1986 after 48 years. From 1999 to 2000, she served on the AAGPBL Board of Directors and initiated the “Out and About” project. During this time, she recorded responses from former players, associate members and officials about their experiences with the league.
Pratt never lost her love of the game. In an interview recorded on her 100th birthday, she happily talked about baseball and her memories as a player, shown in this video by The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass.
Our sympathy to her friends and family.