For years, they were a wartime footnote in baseball history, perhaps fondly remembered in the Midwest, where they had replaced minor-league teams lost for the duration.
The All-American Girls Baseball League operated from 1943 until 1954. It became the subject of a permanent exhibit in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988 and became known to the larger world in the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own."
The "girls" who signed autographs at ballparks 50 years ago are now the Legendary Ladies of Baseball (incorporated for tax purposes in 1993), doing card shows and with their own line of memorabilia.
"We do it differently than the guys do today. You can read it, and we put everything on it," says Pepper Paire Davis, as she neatly autographs a photo, adding her teams, dates and "Hall of Fame 1988" for the AAGBL's exhibit. She, Marge Wenzell, Dottie Kamenshek and Lefty Hohlmayer were signing last weekend at the Fifth Regiment Armory. These four do shows nationally. Other former players travel to shows in their region. The regulars are sometimes joined by women who live near the show or actors from the movie.
Davis, a catcher for three teams between 1944 and 1953 and technical adviser for the movie, estimates she did 58 card shows last year. She says most people want their autographs personalized. "You know they're a true fan if they want it personalized," she says.
Wenzell, a nine-year veteran who played for the champion South Bend Blue Sox in 1952, enjoys the shows. "We love to talk to people," she says.
A merchandise catalog is in the works. To get a price list (cards, pennants, lapel pins, photos, replica jerseys, etc.), write to: Legendary Ladies of Baseball, c/o Gina F. Casey, 2388 W. Adrian, Newberry Park, Calif. 91320.
Enviromint has issued a medallion and a metal collector card in honor of Mickey Mantle. Both will be offered in bronze, silver and gold. There will also be a three-piece medallion proof set. Call (800) 299-MINT.
Today, card show, Eastpoint Mall, (410) 682-4375.
Oct. 21, card show and silent auction, Camden-Wyoming Fire Station, Camden, Del. (expected signer is Larry Sheets), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (302) 284-9331.
Oct. 22, card show and auction, Reflections Restaurant, Freedom Village Shopping Center, Eldersburg (expected signers are Bill Swaggerty and Larry Sheets); show begins at noon, auction at 4 p.m., (800) 230-4312.
Card of the week
Fleer's Ultra basketball will be shipped in mid-October and features thicker paper and two foil-stamped colors per card. There are 200 basic cards, a gold-foil parallel set and six insert sets. (Shown is Glenn Robinson of the Milwaukee Bucks.)