Mary Pratt, Rockford Peaches pitcher of ‘A League of Their Own’ fame, dies at 101

Former women's professional baseball players Mary Pratt, left, of Quincy, Mass., and Maddy English, right,  of Everett, Mass., are joined by their friend Marie Cronin, center,  at the opening, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 1999, of the New England Women's Sports Hall of Fame in Saugus, Mass. Pratt and English were members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s. The musuem honors New England women athletes in every major sport. (AP Photo/Steven Tackeff)
Mary Pratt, left, was the last living member of the 1943 Rockford Peaches. She's joined at the 1999 opening of the New England Women's Sports Hall of Fame by fellow player Maddy English, right, and their friend, Marie Cronin. (AP Photo/Steven Tackeff)

Mary Pratt, the last known living member of the original Rockford Peaches, died this week at the age of 101 in her home town of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League said Friday.

The Peaches were the most successful team in the league, which launched in 1943. Their early success was featured in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own” with Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. Pratt was not featured specifically in the film adaptation, but many of the supporting characters were based on a combination of players.

Pratt pitched for the Peaches in 1943, then transferred to the Kenosha Comets. In her first season there she won 21 games and threw a no-hitter, leading the Comets to the championship series.

“The good things I used to think about sports . . . memories, you live on with them, because baseball is baseball, whether it’s today, or tomorrow or 50 years ago,” she said at her 100th birthday celebration in November 2018, via the Patriot Ledger.

Pratt’s suitcase is part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Diamond Dreams’ exhibit focused on the league. It has American flag decals, a nod to the patriotism at the time during World War II, and miniature pennants from the teams she played against — though none of Rockford and Kenosha.

After college she worked as a teacher at the Quincy school district in Massachusetts, where she asked for early leaves to begin spring training in the AAGPBL. But she eventually left when the district did not grant her one. Pratt returned to the school after ending her baseball career in 1947, serving as a physical education and special education teacher as well as coach for more than 40 years. She led 10 championship softball teams.

She was also an assistant professor and coach at Salem State College in the 1960s. Pratt contributed to the welfare of female athletes in the state after the passing of Title IX in 1972. She also committed to working with community organizations to promote youth recreation and initiated an AAGPBL program to keep track of former players and track their speaking engagements. Her memoir, “Preserving Our Legacy: A Peach of a Game”, was published in 2013.

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