A League of Their Own inspiration dead at 88

Lavonne “Pepper” Paire-Davis, the inspiration for Geena Davis’ character in the 1992 film A League of Their Own, has died.

Tom Hanks and Geena Davis

If there’s any fairness in this world (or the next one), Lavonne “Pepper” Davis is now catching foul balls in heaven.

The 88-year-old former star of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League died of natural causes, her son said.

Her life was a model for the character played by Geena Davis in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, which also starred Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell.

The league recruited Paire-Davis from semi-pro women’s softball teams in 1944. The “girls” league was created in 1943 because baseball promoters wanted something to take the place of men’s baseball while many players were away fighting in World War II.

Paire-Davis was a catcher and a shortstop for the league, and her teams won five championships with her in the ranks.

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Paire-Davis had an interesting life. The California girl was one of just a few non-Chicagoans recruited for the All-American Girls Baseball League. League founder Philip K. Wrigley (the son of the guy Wrigley Field is named after) scouted most of his female players from around Chicago, where his Chicago Cubs were based.

She was pulled away from the West Coast when she joined the league, playing first for the Minneapolis Millerettes, then the Fort Wayne Daises, followed by the Racine Belles and the Grand Rapids Chicks.

Yes, the team names were pretty dipsy-doodle (let’s talk about the Rockford Peaches, the team portrayed in A League of Their Own!) and the players wore skirts so that spectators could ogle their legs. Still, as an obit by the Associated Press puts it, “the players maintained a genuine big league lifestyle, playing 120 games over four months. ‘We played every night of the week,’ Paire-Davis said, ‘doubleheaders on Sundays and holidays.'”

Paire-Davis chronicled her adventurous life in the 2009 book Dirt in the Skirt.

“I can’t honestly tell you I knew the history we were making back then,” she told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in 1995. “I can tell you we knew we were doing something special.”

Image courtesy WENN.com