October 23, 2014

Elyria
Partly cloudy
42°F
test

Black River dedicates softball field for women’s sports pioneer

Audrey Daniels of Bay Village signs her baseball card for some Black River softball girls during a weather delay at Monday’s varsity softball game against Firelands. Daniels played against Dorothy Chapman in the 1940s in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. AARON JOSEFCZYK/CHRONICLE

Audrey Daniels of Bay Village signs her baseball card for some Black River softball girls during a weather delay at Monday’s varsity softball game against Firelands. Daniels played against Dorothy Chapman in the 1940s in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. AARON JOSEFCZYK/CHRONICLE

Brad Bournival
The Chronicle-Telegram

SULLIVAN TWP. — They came from across the nation to honor an icon in North-Central Ohio on Monday.

They came from Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit. There were others who never knew Dorothy “Mickey Maguire” Chapman, who died in 1981, and many others who weren’t even born yet when she died.

Yet they showed up in droves to see the Pirates softball team dedicate their field to a woman who helped transform women’s sports.

Chapman was born in LaGrange, lived in Spencer Township and played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943-49. Chapman played on championship teams for the Racine Bells (1943), Milwaukee Chicks (1944) and Muskegon Lassies (1947).

The next time Black River plays a home game, it will be on Dorothy Chapman Field and they’ll do it with pride.

About 300 fans filed in to see the field dedicated. Firelands, which lost 7-5 to the Pirates, even stuck around for the festivities that followed.

“Some of the people who grew up here didn’t even know about what she did,” said her son, Rick Chapman, who made the trek from Kansas City, Mo. “They got engaged into it and it got new people in the community involved with a piece of history that got lost.

“It blossomed in the early ’80s with the movie (A League of Their Own), but it’s a history that’s a part of the Black River community. A lot of us knew her and how hard she worked. It was the right thing to do to come out and remember her. She’s been gone since 1981, so it makes you feel good that people didn’t forget.”

Rick was on hand to pay tribute and so were his brothers George and Rob as well as his sister Debbie. All Black River graduates, George returned from Detroit, while Rob made the trip from Dallas. Debbie lives in Sullivan Township. All of them were amazed at the outpouring of support.

So too were the 20-some relatives who braved the cold and a three-plus-hour game to see Dorothy, a mother of six, honored by Black River.

“I think it’s awesome,” Rick said. “It’s good for Mom. She never complained about anything, never asked for anything. She just did it.

“This also keeps also keeps the legacy of the women’s league alive. She was one of the ones who started it in 1943. It’s not just Mom, but all of the women.”

Some of those women attended. Eileen “Ginger” Gascon, 82, made the trek from Chicago to be a part of the festivities.

Gascon played in the AAGPBL after Chapman, but knew her well. So did Audrey Daniels, 86, of Bay Village, who played against her.

“This means so much to those of us who played,” Daniels said. “To think how wonderful and precious it is now. You tell people about this and their eyes start gleaming and they can’t get enough of it.

“Dorothy was a hard worker, a ball player. She was the best. She had great ability. I think she’d be so darn thrilled to see this. People coming out to see all of it. It’s wonderful. To think of how many years it’s been, for people to think how valuable it was. We opened the door for sports. We didn’t know it then. We were just kids having fun.”

Monday, it was certainly about fun.

A statue in her likeness is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. She also influenced the character Betty Horn, who was played by Tracy Reiner, in “A League of Their Own.”

The Scheck family, who have a daughter Bailey on Black River’s team, brought the idea of naming the field in Chapman’s honor to Pirates athletic director Josh Calame a few months ago.

“It’s amazing,” Calame said. “It not only speaks for the history of Dorothy and the family and friends not only in this district, but around the country who came back. It has become a national thing.”

With the field dedicated — a banner hangs on the backstop behind the plate and a huge sign sits behind the center-field fence — Chapman’s legacy now is etched at Black River forever.

Like us on Facebook: