Maybelle Blair, who inspired Madonna’s character in the sports comedy-drama A League of Their Own, recently came out at age 95.
Blair played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League — the first professional women’s baseball league in the country — in the 1940s. Her story and that of the league were picked up by the 1992 film A League of Their Own, but LGBTQ representation in the movie remained subtext at best.
Now, the 2022 Amazon Prime Video television reboot is highlighting AAGPBL’s queer women. At the same time, Blair is speaking up about her own story.
“I hid for 75, 85 years and this is actually basically the first time I’ve ever come out,” Blair said at the Tribeca Film Festival in June, where she was promoting the new show.
The AAGPBL started in 1943, when many young men left to fight in World War II. The league operated until 1954 and created a blueprint for future women’s sports.
Blair pitched for the Peoria Redwings in 1948 before switching to play softball for the Chicago Cardinals. Her nickname, “All The Way Mae,” made its way into Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own movie: Madonna’s character Mae Mordabito picked up the monicker.
But Mordabito, like the film’s other characters, doesn’t get to be gay on screen. Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, the reboot’s co-creators, now aim to center the stories of women of color and queer women left out by the movie.
“There’s so much there that hadn’t been told,” Graham told The Hollywood Reporter. “In talking to a few of the former players about their experience as queer women at the time — one of them said to us, ‘It was a party.’ As a gay person, I never heard anyone say that about a pre-Stonewall event in gay history.”
In fact, almost 80 years after the AAGPBL began, homophobia still clouds acknowledgement of the league’s queer history. Since the show’s release on Friday, it’s been review-bombed by people complaining of its “wokeness.”
The show’s creators, however, hit back.
“I have seen a lot of people angry and mad at our inclusion of more experiences (POC, QWOC, queer) and that anger (aka fear) has only made me more sure about why this reimagining needed to be made. Why representation matters so much,” Jacobson tweeted on Monday.
Blair’s thoughts on the importance of the show, as expressed at Tribeca, dovetailed neatly with Jacobson’s.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for these young girl ballplayers to come realize that they’re not alone, and you don’t have to hide,” she said.
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