I would be remiss as a woman baseball writer if I didn’t dedicate some words on the passing of a woman who was an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player for 10 seasons. Lavonne “Pepper” Paire-Davis died at age 88 of natural causes on Saturday in Van Nuys, California. She was the woman baseball player who inspired the character Dottie Hinson played by Geena Davis in the 1992 film A League of Their Own.
In 1995 at the ripe old age of 70, Paire-Davis explained her love of the game to the Associated Press:
"“I know what it’s like for your dream to come true, mine did. Baseball was the thing I had the most fun doing. It was like breathing.”"
Philip W. Wrigley organized the women’s league during World War II because a lot of the men were overseas during wartime. Major League Baseball never had to shut down, but the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League became popular nonetheless.
Pepper Paire, then 19-years old, was recruited to play for this new league’s Minneapolis Millerettes team. She played the positions of catcher, shortstop, and third base for the Fort Wayne Daises, The Racine Belles, and the Grand Rapids Chicks. While winning pennants for those teams, she collected 400 career RBI.
The 5’4″ 138 pound catcher and infielder batted and threw right-handed. The Los Angeles-born Paire-Davis wrote a book entitled Dirt in the Skirt in 2009.
While A League of Their Own fictionalizes the story of the AAGPBL and changes many of the names, Pepper was a technical advisor for Penny Marshall’s film. As one of my favorite baseball films, or any film for that matter, the quote “There’s no crying in baseball!” exclaimed by Jimmy Dugan is one of the most famous film quotes of all time.
Between 1943-1954 over 600 women played in the AAGPBL. During their annual reunion the women players sing this song:
Batter up! Hear that call! The time has come for one and all To play ball.
We are the members of the All-American League We come from cities near and far We’ve got Canadians, Irishmen and Swedes, We’re all for one, we’re one for all We’re all Americans!!
Each girl stands, her head so proudly high, Her motto ‘Do or Die’ She’s not the one to use or need an alibi.
Our chaperones are not too soft, They’re not too tough, Our managers are on the ball. We’ve got a president who really knows his stuff, We’re all for one, we’re one for all, We’re All-Americans!
Rest in peace Pepper.