AAGPBL Interview - Pepper Paire
Pepper Paire Davis was a shortstop and catcher in The All American Girls Professional Baseball League. She served as the key advisor for Penny Marshall in A League of Their Own and is writing a book on her experiences in the league.
1) How did you get interested in playing baseball and where did you play before you turned pro?
My bro was eighteen months older than me. Joe Paire took me with him everywhere! He's a wonderful brother and I love him and his wife Sally dearly. Problem was, I, got better at baseball than Joe - and he was very good (Ha! He still says "Sis, if I had your arm, I'd have been in the majors.").
2) Describe your signing.
Bill Arlington was a softball coach out in LA and was a scout for Wrigley. He signed six of us Californians in 1944 and we all made it. Fact is there never was a Californian prospect for our league that didn't make it. Bill went on to coach the Peaches and became the winningest coach in the All American.
3) What position(s) did you play? Which teams did you play for?
I started as a shortstop and was second in fielding and hitting in the League. I was a good one! But you don't win pennants without a good catcher and one who could throw to 2nd base so because of my strong arm and competitive spirit I wound up behind the dish for the good of the team.
4) What was the best thing about playing pro ball?
The wonderful camaraderie with your teammates and competitiveness of the sport playing baseball at the highest level. Doing the job for your country and getting paid for it on top of that! The satisfaction of making your fans happy and giving your all for your teammates.
5) What was the worst thing?
Being homesick. Also, losing! Feeling like you let everybody down. But the physical grind was pretty tough also. I am suffering now and really paying the bodily price.
6) How about listing an All-Star team from the League?
Dottie Kamenshek, Rockford Peaches, at first; Alma Ziegler, 2nd (also pitcher), Grand Rapid Chicks; Snookie Doyle (Harrell), Rockford, atSS.; Maddy English, 3rd base, Racine Belles; Twi Shivley, leftfield, Grand Rapids Chicks; Fay Dancer, CF, Peoria Redwings: Rose Gachock, RF.
also, Molly Ziegler, pitcher, Sophie Kurys, pitcher, Racine Belles; Ruth Richards, C, Rockford Peaches; and Pepper Davis backup catcher, or at third, SS, 2b. P-Jean Faut, Nick Fox. Hard job to pick, because there were so many wonderful players.
7) Do you think the fans and press accepted you more as the years wore on? (Describe how it was when you started. Did increased exposure change some minds?)
It was as you saw it in the movie. They didn't accept us for awhile. We made believers out of them by playing great, hard-nosed baseball. Then they fell in love with us and we became part of their towns. Whole family entertainment.
8) Do you think the movie was accurate?
I was the technical adviser and it was 70-80% of the truth -manipulated truth because of a money and a time element. But Penny listened to a lot I had to say. They read my scrapbooks, heard my stories and songs - and the young girls became All Americans.
9) Describe what you did as consultant.
They realized this was a true story and the truth came through. They listened to my stories, saw my films, and I also gave them baseball tips. There is a lot of me spread out in the film in other characters, like writing the baseball song.
10) Was Jimmie Foxx accurately portrayed?
Yes and no. Jimmie was my manager for the 1953 Ft. Wayne ballclub. He managed only one year. We did win the pennant and he did sit on the bench and go to sleep while I ran the ballclub. It was well known that he had a drinking problem. But he was not obnoxious - he was a gentleman!
11. Who were your favorite big league ballplayers during the era you played in?
Joe DiMaggio, Harmon Killebrew, Duke Snider, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Marty Marion, Pepper Martin.
12. Do you follow big league ball now? If so, how do you think it compares with your day?
It doesn't. Most of the guys are wimps and one or two dimensional players. They don't play hard, they don't play hurt and they aren't courteous to the fans. Also, they don't play together. Money is at the root of the evil for about 75% of them. But there are exceptions-Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken Mike Piazza, Ozzie Smith, etc.
13. Should women have their own pro league, should they play in the majors, or should we have both (a women's league and the chance for the best women players to play in the majors?)
Definitely yes to both of these. A woman good enough and physically able to compete should be allowed the chance to play in the majors. But on a team basis, women cannot overcome the physical handicap. It's not a question of skill - you don't put a flyweight in the ring with a heavyweight!
14. With all the progress women have made in recent years, why do you think there is no pro women's league?
Too much competition for the sports dollar and men won't put up the money for a woman's sport.
15. How do you feel about the Silver Bullets?
It's a joke. Coors got millions of dollar worth of publicity and then dumped them. No intention of following through. They should have backed two to six teams for a league and let an All Star team play men in exhibition games after they learned how to play baseball.
16. Briefly describe your life since your pro career ended.
Bowled a while, golfed a while. Played a little softball. No longer interesting - like chess and checkers. Got married and raised my family. Two boys, Bobby and Willy, one girl, Susie and grand children, Eric, 7, Keely, 9, Riely, 3, and Kent who lives with me, 24. Now travel and speak to schools and on television, do card shows, etc. Am writing a book.
17. What advice do you have for young women who want to become pro ballplayers?
Take up golf! Tennis! Bowling and basketball, volleyball, surfing, etc. More money and opportunity in other sports. Or prepare to have your heart broken.
18. If you had to do it all over again, would you have been a pro ballplayer?
Yes--yes--yes--a thousand times yes!
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