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AT THE NATIONAL: Former AAGPBL player talks baseball, movies

By Susan Lulgjuraj | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor

We all know the movie. We know the famous line. But the women who were really part of it don’t resonate with many baseball fans.

“A League of Their Own” was a popular film about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League of the 1940s – a league and film that gave hope to girls who could one day play baseball because there were women before them who did it.

One of the actual players, Dolly Niemiec Konwinski, 81, was at the 2012 National Sports Collectors Convention talking about her playing days. She was also in the movie as one of the extras playing baseball on Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Niemiec Konwinski played second and third base for the Grand Rapids Chicks from 1949 to 1952. She also played in Chicago the two years earlier before she got promoted.

Like many girls who played baseball, she learned from the boys in her Chicago neighborhood. She would run around outside, getting dirty and bruised with the rest of them.

“We would play in a huge lot behind a factory,” Niemiec Konwinski said. “We used sickles to cut the grass and cardboard boxes for the bases. Then we put big rocks on them so that they wouldn’t blow away.”

Then when Niemiec Konwinski was 15 her father saw a newspaper article for tryouts in a women’s baseball league.

Niemiec Konwinski’s first reaction: “Girls don’t play baseball.”

Not that they can’t. She just didn’t know of any other girls who did.

But she arrived at the field to find dozens and dozens of other women. Niemiec Konwinski was amazed.

“I thought I was the only girl in the city who played baseball,” Niemiec Konwinski said.

Niemiec Konwinski loves talking about the game and the movie that made the women’s baseball league famous. The most popular question she gets is how much of the movie was true. About 85 percent, she said.

There were no kids like Stillwell running around and the managers never went into the ladies room.

But the women did sneak out on the fire escape.

Not many of the women who played baseball travel to shows anymore. Niemiec Konwinski only does about two to three shows a year.

But it’s OK. After all, there’s no crying in baseball.

Susan Lulgjuraj is the editor of Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazine. You can email Susan here with ideas, comments and questions. Follow her on Twitter here.

5 Comments

Kelly Simpson

I’ve attended the show the last 3 days, and got autographs from a few players, but meeting Dolly has been the highlight of the show for me. What an awesome lady.

Posted August 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

I went to a show a couple years ago and got an autograph from one of these ladies (not the same one). She was great to talk to and shared lots of great stories. I’d highly recommend for any baseball fan that if one of these ladies is coming to a show near you, go see her and have a chat. You’ll be glad you did. This living history won’t be with us forever …

Posted August 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Permalink
tuch

I saw her 2 years ago at the National in Baltimore, she was tucked away in a back row in no where land. I was glad to see her in the main fair way getting her just deserves!

Posted August 5, 2012 at 1:25 am | Permalink

I took my daughters (10 & 8) to the show and we stopped by to chat with Ms. Dolly. She was a delight 2 years ago and just as wonderful this time. Here’s hoping she’s still doing these shows for many years to come!

Posted August 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
Ben

I bought an autographed card from her before I knew Susan was writing the story. Thought having her there was awesome.

Posted August 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

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