Baseball legend and inspiration for A League of Their Own comes out as gay, aged 95

Maybelle Blair, an original All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player, wears a white and red coat with dark red rimmed glasses and she poses for the cameras with a baseball bat as if she is ready to hit a ball

Maybelle Blair, one of the inspirations behind the iconic film A League of Their Own, has come out publicly at 95 years old. 

Blair was among the original players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), a professional women’s baseball league which existed from 1943 to 1954. The league represents a unique aspect of the US’ baseball history and was a forerunner of women’s professional league sports in the country.

The AAGPBL also served as the inspiration for the 1992 comedy-drama film A League of Their Own which starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty and Rosie O’Donnell. 

Blair, who was a pitcher for the AAGPBL’s Peoria Redwings, came out as a lesbian for “basically the first time” during a panel for a new Amazon Prime series based on the baseball league. 

The AAGPBL legend expressed her happiness that young players no longer have to hide their sexuality and can live as their authentic selves while playing the sport they love. 

“I think it’s a great opportunity for these young girl ball players to come [to] realise that they’re not alone, and you don’t have to hide,” she said. “I hid for 75, 85 years, and this is actually basically the first time I’ve ever come out.”

Blair added that she thought she was the “only one [gay person] in the world” and thought there was something “wrong” with her because she had a “crush” on a girl in high school.

“We sort of had a little thing, you know how you do,” Blair said. “I was with a girl. It was really bad because in our day you wouldn’t dare tell your family or hint anybody…”

A League of Their Own is a fictionalised retelling of the AAGPBL’s formation as a way to keep baseball in the public eye in the wake of World War II. During the war efforts, many professional male players were drafted into the war, essentially shutting down Major League Baseball. 

Over 600 women played in the AAGPBL which eventually consisted of 10 professional baseball teams across the American midwest. In 1948, the attendance of spectators at league games peaked at over 910,000, according to the AAGPBL’s website

The 1992 film followed competitive sisters Dorothy “Dottie” Hinson (Davis) and Kit Keller (Petty) join the Rockford Peaches, which is part of the first female professional baseball league, and struggle to help it succeed amidst their intense rivalry. 

Both the 1992 film and the Amazon Prime show, also titled A League of Their Own, take place in 1943 at the inception of the AAGPBL. But the Amazon version will follow a different team than the one depicted in the film, and thus have a different storyline. 

Amazon’s A League of Their Own stars Abbi Jacobson, Chanté Adams, D’Arcy Carden, Roberta Colindrez, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Kelly McCormack and Priscilla Delgado. Nick Offerman will play the new team’s manager. 

The show A League of Their Own will debut on Amazon Prime on 12 August.