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December 15, 2022 19 mins

In a live interview at MAKERS Women, we talk with the professional baseball player who inspired the classic movie and now TV show A League of Their Own, Maybelle Blair. 


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Speaker 1 (00:03):
I'm Sam Edis and I'm Amy Nelson. Welcome to What's
Her Story? With Sam and Amy. This is a show
about the world's most remarkable women their professional and personal journeys. Together,
we'll hear from gold medalists, best selling authors, and leaders
of the world's most iconic brands. Listen every Thursday or
join the conversation anytime on Instagram at What's Her Story Podcast.

Our guest in this episode is the women's professional baseball
player who inspired the classic movie and now TV show
A League of their Own, Mabel Blair. What is your
chick for keeping in such great shape? Oh? My god?
Just having fun every day of your life. You know,
if you can't have fun, you might as well laid
out and die. As far as I can serve, wife,

I hang around. Why do you do for fun? Every day?
When you wake up? What are you looking forward to?
Looking forward to? Is watching a base small game or
an athletic game, things like that, because that's why I'm
very interested in all sports. So, going back to the
other side of things, When you were a little girl,
what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh my gosh, I never even thought it because I

was too busy playing baseball with my family, because that's
all we had to do in our day. We didn't
have TikTok and rethe this or Yahoo or what all.
You know, we did have all that stuff. So we
were very poor. But we had a baseball and we
had a bat. At our baseball had to have a

bunch of tape on it because we couldn't afford another tape.
And our bat was broken a lot, and we just
hammer in another tack or two. You know, I keep
playing baseball, and that's what I did. You started your
own team in fourth or fifth grade? Oh yeah, what
did your parents think of that? Well, they didn't even
think anything about it. They just took that for natural,

you know, because it was at our family. But boy,
I had all those teachers and even the principal. You know,
there's all back at me because I don't know, I
guess they thought. I don't know what they were thinking.
But anyway, I had my own team, and uh, I
was so thrilled because one of the teachers had a
friend that I was right down the street or about

two or three miles away from where I was going
to school, and so she talked her into putting a
team together. So we so I had somebody to play against.
So we had a couple of games or four five,
and it was so much fun, and my team one.
You know, of course, otherwise I went kicked him in
the rear. Ind So what was next for you after

your your baseball career was done? After my baseball career,
I went to work for Northern Aircraft and very fortunately
I became the third woman manager of northn p Aircraft.
It was amazing. I was very very fortunate. And when
I was in there, I wanted to learn how to

operate all the equipment because he told me, says, maybe
how you have skills to be a manager? And I said,
you're out of your cotton pick and mind you know,
no no way. He says, well, i'd going to try
to train you to be a badge. I says, I
don't think so, and he says, yes, I'm going to it.
I says, well, I won't even consider it unless I
can learn every piece of equipment that's in this organization.

So I learned to drive craives, semi trucks, trucks, bandies, forklifts.
I learned every piece of transportation that was in there,
and then I said, I was reading. I became a dispatcher.
I wanted to learn that too, and then from that
that he may be manager. What was your management style?
How did you lead? How did I leave with fairness?

I want to production out of my people. And people said, well, Babel,
how did you hire? Are six good truck drivers and
this and that? I said, well, number one, especially in transportation,
I wanted somebody that had coordination. So where do you
get it? Into sports world baseball? You've got eyes, you've

got coordination, you've got quickness. So this is what I
really went after with athletes crew. So what would you
say has made it so that you've been successful in
multiple fields that a lot of people have frankly failed
in is you've got to be motivated and if you

do it or something, give it a hundred ten percent.
That's one thing even about Major League Baseball players today,
they don't give it there all until it's contract tiber,
it's getting close to it. Then man, do we go
out and play it. Our averages start glade up, and
our field leads better, we make better, spectacular plays. It's amazing.

And these are the things that you have to go
buy you just gotta give it. Do you counsel baseball players?
Do you talk to major league players? Oh? I talked
to major league ball players. Yes, I don't manage them
or anything. No, I could talk. I talked to them.
But my goal is to have a league of our

own again for the girls. And I go to Baseball
for All with Justine Siegel. I've been with her ever
since she started Baseball for All and all these little
girls all they want to do is be able to
play baseball, not softball. So we're trying to give them
a chance in life to have this. This is why
what the International with as Baseball Center for Women in Rockford, Illinois,

where we could have a home of our over we
can develop our old umpires at all of this because
you know, like I said, girls have eyes. We could
be umpires. We don't have to go compete with them
in as far speed and strength of that, and you know,
being a major league baseball player, but we can't stand
behind that plate and see if it's over the plate

or not. We got those eyes and we know the
rule book back and forwards. So what's the problem. Why
can't we They have it in football and basketball and
They're much harder to referee and ump player than baseball.
I have to say. I have four little girls who
are eight, six, five, and three. I got how wonderful,

and three of them are playing softball regular already asked
me why do girls play softball and boys play baseball? Oh? Really,
you're getting it already. Well, is because Jolie, the good
old boys have pushed them into softball on account of scholarships.
And believe me, I understand that thoroughly. I mean, you know,
if you could have the parents get a scholarship, saves

thousands of dollars for your family and yourselves. But I'm
hoping it will change where it will be a baseball
for women. But after they get out playing uh softball,
they could play baseball because I played professional softball also,
and a lot of people don't know that, but I

play both. And the girls that played the professional baseball
in the league of their own all Americas. We went
from league to league, you know, back and forth. It
could happen. And these are the doors that we want
to open up for girls in baseball. Well, it does
start early. My daughter is a varsity softball player in
high school. But I will say that it frustrates her

so much how much attention and sort of money is
put into the baseball program versus the softball program. For you,
having seen so much in all of your ninety five years,
what would you say is sort of the biggest excitement
and disappointment that you see today in terms of gender equality.

It's getting closer. Our problem is, uh, if you're a
paid customer, you want to see the best. And this
is this is one of our problems now until the
girls get better in their sport. The basketball and the
soccer are coming along great right now as far as

a fan participation, and if we keep up the good quality.
We got to have the quality for somebody to go
out and see it. You're not going to go out
there and see a girl miss a ball that should
have caught right in her hand, or you know, miss
a basket nineteen times and the scores four to six
at the end of the game. You want like they're

doing today. Well, it's growing and it's will grow as
long as we keep up the good uh quality of
our ability. And this is why I like to see
the league of their own or a new league start
for women's baseball. You've got to have the quality before
people will pay. And I don't blame them. I wouldn't

go see it either, even as you know what I'm saying.
I mean, it makes sense if you think about you know,
women and soccer. Women like the women's soccer teams in
the United States are just remarkable. They're getting much better.
But when they were compleating about the salary, well, I
could understand the owners. They gotta make money. They can't
pay you a hundred thousand dollars and you a hundred

thousand dollars. And the guys that are the guy's got
twice attendance that you're getting. How can I pay you
a hundred thousand? Right, these are the reasons because we
got to have the quality, and they're getting it now,
and you notice the attendance will start even going higher.
They're starting in right now, going great for the women's
soccer and I love it and basketball and basketball, and

just like the w n b A and the NBA,
you've got to realize, our greatest women basketball player right
today is either Sue or of Candas Parker. And they
couldn't sit out amids mab a bitch because they're not
strong and physical enough not that they're the greatest in
their ability, Yes they are. But the women and fans

now are going to go see these girls play because
they are so good and when they go to that basket,
when they shoot it, they're going to get it in.
But you know, when you've got Shack O'Neil under there
and Canadas Parker, you know who's going to win the battle. Right,
There's just no doubt. This is why we got to
have the good product out there and we're doing it.

And now a quick break. Now, your personal life recently
came into a lot of sort of a spotlight and
you came out as gay. What kind of bravery did
that take and what made you decide to do that? Well,

it took a lot of bravery. It took ninety five
years to come out because I've been gay all my
life and it was my whole life. I could have
ruined it very early in life because nobody understood how
es gay people are. It's not that we choose our sexuality.

It's there like they say, well, it's because I've been
hanging around with Da Da Da. Well that's not true.
You could hang out with me for years and you
wouldn't change your mind, right, right, Well, it's the same
way you're not going to change anybody's sexuality. In fact,
I have a lot of gay friends that have raised

daughters and sons and they're not gay. You know, by God,
what else is more closer than mother mother or two
mothers or two fathers right, or single gay girl or
a single gay guy. And I have known so many
of them. Girls or boys are just perfectly normal because
that's your sexuality. You can't help it. So what made

you come out now? Because at I said to myself
that if I could help one individual, I would be
thrilled to death. If I could just do it and
let people know at my age now that it's not
bad to be gay, that people now are understanding and

I can understand what's going on, And if I could
keep open that door a little bit more where more
people get the idea, it would be worth coming out
at And if I could save one little boy or
one little girl, all the misery that I went through
trying to hide it by going out with men that
I didn't want to go out with, and I was

just miserable, but I had to put on a good act,
and I did. And now I'm out and I'm very
happy about it. How has your life changed since you
shared your story publicly, Well, it's been only about six months.
My family has accepted me. So many people now have

accepted me, and I am so thrilled about it that
I don't have to hide and I can be myself.
And that's what it's all about, be yourself, if you
can be yourself and live your life, because life is
very short, as I finding out, and and I got

just take in there, and uh, I got trying to
get that door open and get a league of their own,
for our women to be able to have a league
of their own in a home of their own in baseball.
Before I get under the grass and sit on this
side of it, you've been fighting a very long for decades.

What keeps you going? The determination I'm determined to help
if I can at all, until I'm going to give
it all by all until I on the other side
of the dirt. Let's put it that way. What's your
morning routine? Oh, I get up and God, I gotta
shut up my cap because she's always hungry. So that's

the first thing I do is I have to feed her. God,
she's a Oh, she's wonderful, but starts sweetest scan I've
ever hit my life. Excuse me, I get up and
make my coffee and have toasted, get my friend and
feed her and open the break and just like everybody else,

is everybody you do when you get up, for God's sake,
same thing every day. Tell me, in speaking of longevity
and routines, what do you think are a few tips
that have helped you and the people that surround you
who have lived longer lives. What are the patterns you've seen? Well,
the main thing is you've got to enjoy life. Don't

go someplace that you don't want to go because you're
gonna be miserable. Don't go, I mean, you know, don't
make everybody else miserable. Right. If you're not going to
have a good time, stay home. And if you do
have a job, be sure that you enjoy it, because
if you're not enjoyed it, if people working for yours
not going to enjoy it either, So don't even give

it a try. So go to something else that you
can enjoy. And uh, there's doors opened all over the place.
If people would take advantage of education or falling their dreams,
it would be a wonderful place. But you can't give up.
And this is what the problem is. People will not
do it. They will put out the effort, and you've

got to have effort before you do anything. I don't
care what it is. If you had to put your
career into three words as a story, what would your
story be? I will, I will, And that's why it's
got to be is I always? I will, and it
will be done. Thank you so much, made Val, You're amazing. Oh,

thank you. I appreciate that. I know got it. I'm
very happy, you know, and I'm going to be happy
until I die. I think the temptation when you meet
someone like may By Blair, who's and such a histol.
I don't know how else to describe her but to say, oh,

she's so cute, but like she would she would eat
you for breakfast. I mean, she is cute, but she
is a fighter and you don't mess with me Bell No.
I mean I think that it's remarkable to me just
how many different things she is still doing every single
day and she's years old. I like, started our speed
round without really warning her, and I just said, well,

what's her morning routine? And She's like, what does anyone
do in the morning, I do what everyone else says.
She's just so funny, you know, she doesn't she pulls
no punches totally. She does pull up punches, and like,
it was really amazing to hear about her baseball career.
It's amazing to hear about what she's working on now,
trying to really continue to advance women's baseball. But one

of the things I loved learning about me about and
didn't know it was like her corporate career. I mean,
she became like the third women's manager for North Rep,
which is a massive corporation. I think one of the
things that I loved hearing from her is she was
talking about you have to always give a hundred and
ten percent. But she really was basically saying, like most
people aren't trying hard enough. And I know you and

I share that kind of sentiment where it's like the
people who try hard are the ones who are going
to succeed. And she put it into her baseball career,
and then she put it into her corporate career, and
now she's putting that energy and effort into creating a
women's baseball league. And I wouldn't doubt that she can

do it, Like I feel like I would never ever
bet against Maybel. Right. The other thing I think that
has to be noted is that she's someone that is
still constantly evolving, and I think that there is this
sense or just assumption, and maybe it's just an American
culture that like, you turn sixty or seventy and like, Okay,
it's all over now, nothing new will be happening to

you in life, like nothing new to dream about, or
do you know? Maybel came out as lesbian in her nineties, right,
like she's still learning, still changing, and still participating in
a cultural discourse. And when she did speak out publicly

for the first time about her sexuality, she did it
because she wanted young girl ball players to feel comfortable.
The fact that she came out at she might be
the oldest public figure to come out, right, But what's
remarkable about it is, like I found it. She's a
tough person. But then there was something like almost heartbreaking

when she said, you know, I don't want a young
person to have to suffer the way I did when
I was all my life going out with men. I
didn't want to go out with I mean, when she
puts it in those terms, It just it kind of
it really pulls your heart strings. I have the chills
just thinking about it. I mean, imagine for nine years
hiding who you are, and it really puts things in

a different light when you hear it that way, a
life that you look back on and realize that the
entire higher time you were socializing for nine years, you
weren't able to be your authentic self or to share
your authentic self with everyone. So I mean, I'm thrilled
for her that she was able to finally do that,
but it it does break your heart a little when
you realize how many people are probably suffering that way.

Thanks for listening to What's Her Story with Sam and Amy.
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