Valley welcomes All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

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PHOENIX – The Valley was buzzing with all kinds of MLB All-Star festivities this week.

While people couldn't wait to catch a glimpse of their favorite ball player, there was another popular group added into the mix.

A Hollywood movie put them on the map and almost 70 years later these history making ladies are still drawing huge crowds.

“A League of Their Own” was more than just a hit movie with big name stars. It’s a story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. A league formed in 1943 to keep baseball alive while the men fought in World War II.

“It was wonderful, but of course we didn't know it was going to be history,” Elma Steck Weiss said. “We just thought we we're going to have a good time playing.”

Weiss, a Valley resident, was one of the more than 600 women who played in the league that lasted until 1954. “I remember traveling a lot,” Weiss continued. “And on the road we had a little time we could go to the movies and shop, but there was a game every single night, unless it rained and sometimes double headers.”

The 88-year-old played for a team called the Peoria Red Wings back in 1948. She was an outfielder who even has her own baseball card to prove it. “I'm very proud of that,” Weiss said. “I don't know if I earned it or not, but I really like having that.”

If it wasn't for these ladies breaking those barriers, us in general, women, would probably not be out on the ball fields like we are today,” Denise Fairbanks said.

Fairbanks learned about the league after watching the movie. She now helps promote the ladies at events like FanFest. “They think we're history and I’m grateful that they do,” Weiss said.”

They tell us how proud they are and how they loved the movie and how many times they've seen it. I think it's wonderful because prior to that we were not known.” Well that's definitely not the case anymore. It’s been almost 20 years since the movie's release and the ladies are still in "A League of Their Own".

“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Weiss said. And we just think of ourselves as a family, even if you only played a week or two, you’re a part of it.” The ladies still get together every year. This year’s reunion will be in San Diego.

For more information on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League go to www.aagpbl.org.