Working together, each is critical to the ultimate goal of the IWBC, to build #APlaceOfTheirOwn. It is a mindset, a dream of what we want baseball to be for women and girls – for everyone – around the world. And with your help, it will soon be a physical destination.
From an activities and community building serving Rockford’s Blackhawk neighborhood to a world-class museum honoring the pioneers and future stars of baseball, our vision is a shared vision. Join us on this journey!
Like so many girls of her generation, as a kid, Shirley Burkovich began playing baseball with her brothers and other boys in her neighborhood. But WWII and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) provided something she never thought possible, a chance to play baseball professionally. In 1948, with the blessing of her father and the encouragement of her brother, Shirley tried out for the AAGPBL and just a few weeks later she received a letter asking her to report for spring training in Missouri.
Shirley was only sixteen, and her mother refused to let her go alone. So, they both headed to spring training. Once her mother was convinced of the league’s legitimacy, she left her daughter and returned to Swissvale, PA.
Shirley never looked back. She played for the Muskegon Lassies in her first season, then the Chicago Colleens, Springfield Sallies and finally the Rockford Peaches in 1951. Shirley’s love for baseball, especially women’s baseball, never waned. She served on the board of the AAGPBL Player’s Association and was a founder and driving force in the creation of the International Women’s Baseball Center (IWBC) in 2014.
Along with her dear friend and former AAGPBL player, Maybelle Blair, Shirley traveled the country promoting girls and women’s baseball. She wanted nothing more than to see girls on the field, behind the plate, in the press box and running the teams. In the last years of her life, though, she was also dedicated to building a place for women in baseball to call their own. Rockford, Illinois is that place.
Just a few months before her death, the IWBC saw the drawings for the proposed activity center. And Shirley’s response? With a slight gasp, she said, “Oh. That is beautiful. We have to get this built.”
We will Shirl, we will.
Shirley had a small speaking part at the end of the movie, “A League of Their Own.” When Dottie shows up at the reunion game, Shirley says, “Dottie, having you here is good luck.”
Shirley, having you with us was our good luck.
Each of us will miss the sheer goodness that was Shirley, the quiet way she encouraged us and the fierceness with which she defended and supported her friends and her convictions. And we will never lose sight of her dream.
Rest easy, Shirl. We are on the job.
An IWBC membership opens a world of possibilities. As an IWBC member, you will join a worldwide network dedicated to helping us preserve the history of women in baseball and secure its future for all women and girls.
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