SARASOTA - Nearly 70 years ago hundreds of women helped save the game of baseball. Their story inspired the popular movie "A League of Their Own".
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball Team played for 12 seasons. Now, those players are working on the first-ever museum dedicated to women's sports.
In 1953, Sue Parsons Zipay was fresh out of high school and found her field of dreams with the Rockford Peaches in Illinois.
Sue says, “I played right field, some second base and pitched a little bit. I got $50 a week and $2 a day for meals.”
Sue joined the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Between 1943 and 1954, 640 women took over the baseball diamond, keeping the game alive while the men players went off to war.
“We played a hundred games in a season. We played every day doubleheaders on Sunday, traveled by bus…not air conditioned either,” recalls Sue.
The Rockford Peaches won four championships, the most in the league, inspiring the movie that helped erase the stigma these women athletes endured.
Sue says, “After that, we became celebrities. Only then was it okay to say I played baseball.”
Now 82, Sue is in the Hall of Fame but she thinks women in all sports should have their own museum.
“There are so many athletes who weren’t stars but need to be talked about,” she says.
The players association is holding a reunion in Sarasota this weekend at the Hyatt Regency. There are 17 players - a few are from the first season, now in their 90s.
“You can see the camaraderie in here. We’re a band of sisters,” says Sue.
They hope Sarasota’s vacant GWIZ building along the bayfront will become the nation’s first Women’s Sports Museum.
The group has a board of directors, non-profit status and a plan in place. On Saturday they’ll launch a fundraising campaign and hope to begin building or renovating in a couple of years.
Sue’s message to girl athletes is never to give up. “We all loved to play baseball. Girls have the same athletic ability like boys.”
The players will be signing autographs on Saturday from 3-5 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency as part of a fundraiser for the museum.