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Winthrop exhibit, talk honors female baseball players

Winthrop University’s resident baseball historian will lead a presentation called “Skirts, Dirt and Diamonds: The Rock Hill Connection” this month.

The event is part of the Winthrop library archives’ October exhibit that commemorates the accomplishments of three star players in the World War II-era All-American Girls Softball League.

The league was later renamed the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

It was the inspiration for the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own,” which featured Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and Tom Hanks.

Two of the professional league’s best players have Rock Hill connections: Elizabeth “Lib” Mahon and Jean Faut.

Mahon, a 1942 Winthrop graduate and Greenville, S.C., native, played in the league between 1944 and 1952. She was an outfielder, known for her talent at the plate and her speed. Mahon, a two-time all-star, stole 114 bases in 116 attempts in 1946. Mahon died in 2001.

Faut was a pitcher for the South Bend Blue Sox, playing in the league from 1946 to 1953. She won the league’s Player of the Year award twice and recorded the league’s lowest-ever ERA of 1.23.

A longtime Rock Hill resident, she was the league’s only pitcher to throw two perfect games during her career. Faut led her team to two league championships.

Winthrop’s exhibit honors the professional players’ history and contributions to the sport during a time when minor league baseball franchises in the United States were on shaky ground. Many of the minor league teams lost male players to military service in World War II.

Philip Wrigley, chewing gum mogul and then-owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, started the women’s league in 1943.

Winthrop’s exhibit also includes a tribute to league player Sue Kidd, a star pitcher and occasional first baseman who played from 1950 to 1954.

Like Faut and Mahon, Kidd also once played for the South Bend Blue Sox and threw a no-hitter while traveling with the Springfield Sallies.

Winthrop’s historical look at the league includes photos and memorabilia from the three players.

The exhibit is open until Oct. 30 from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays. On Tuesdays through Fridays, the exhibit is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Bob Gorman, head of Winthrop’s Dacus Library reference department, will lead a discussion about the league and its players on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Louise Pettus Archives, 700 Cherry Road, Rock Hill.

He has published several articles and two books on the history of the game and the more than 500 women who were pioneers in the sport’s professional ranks.

For more information about the event or the exhibit, call 803-323-2334 or email archives@winthrop.edu.

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