A League Of Their Own actresses stop in Rockford to celebrate director Penny Marshall

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Rockford honors a late director who helped bring attention to the Rockford Peaches.

“Penny Marshall Celebration Weekend” kicked off Friday evening at Rockford City Market.

Dozens filled Indoor City Market to honor the A League Of Their Own director. Supporters say she was essential in putting the Rockford Peaches and The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League on the map.

“[Penny] brought women’s baseball to the forefront,” said Rockford Peaches fan Toni Altamore. “Things that I didn’t know about when I was a kid so it was nice to be proud that it started, or not started, but that Rockford was a big part of it.”

Vendors filled the room with all types of Peaches merchandise and goods.

Former AAGPBL players Mary Moore, Maybelle Blair, Shirley Burkovich, Toni Palermo and Rockford Peach bat girl Clara Helleman signed autographs.

“If it weren’t for Penny Marshall and the movie, you wouldn’t be standing here talking to me and I wouldn’t be here standing talking to you,” said former Rockford Peach Shirley Burkovich. “So we have such a debt of gratitude to pay to Penny Marshall.”

Tracy Reiner, Penny Marshalls’ daughter, was the guest of honor. She says while she wishes her mom was around to witness the celebration. She’s amazed to see the outpouring of support for the film so many years later.

“Movies, you know, they can change your perspective or change your intentions,” said Reiner, who also played Betty “Spaghetti” Horn in A League of Their Own. “But this changed a lot of people’s lives, us as actors, personally.”

Fans dressed up as Rockford Peaches or in 40s styles, including Linda Watson and her daughter Lauren. She says they’ve loved Penny’s movie for years.

“We met Megan [Cavanagh] last year,” said Lauren Watson. “That was really exciting for us. So, I’m excited to meet Betty Spaghetti and some of the other actresses that I have been watching my entire life.”

League players also got the chance to reunite with the actresses who brought their accomplishments to the big screen.

“It’s amazing what Rockford is doing for Penny Marshall and for the league and for all of us,” said former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League infielder Mary Moore. “It’s just amazing and we appreciate it so much.”

Megan Cavanagh and Anne Ramsay played Rockford Peaches in the movie. Both say they’re forever grateful to Penny for connecting them to pioneers in womens sports.

“I am honored for [the players] to call me friend and I love them dearly,” said Cavanagh who played Marla Hooch in A League of Their Own. “Being part of this changed our lives.”

“Thank you Penny Marshall! Beyond!,” said Anne Ramsay who played Helen Haley in A League of Their Own. “It’s their story. We just got lucky to try and closely immolate them to try and tell it.”

On Saturday, Sept. 14, the International Women’s Baseball Center will unveil a replica of the first of nine pylons – large commemorative signs that will honor individuals or groups important in women’s baseball history. The unveiling is open to the public will take place behind the original Beyer Stadium ticket booth, 245 15th Ave.

Beyer was home to the Peaches from 1943 to 1954. The Peaches were the New York Yankees of the AAGPBL, winning the league four times (1945, 1948, 1949 and 1950) and finishing second three other seasons.

The first pylon will honor Marshall and her role in bringing A League of Their Own to the screen. The fact that so many of the actresses will be coming to Rockford to honor Marshall is a testament to her pioneering role as a female director in Hollywood.

For more information about the weekend go to internationalwomensbaseballcenter.org/iwbc-events/penny-marshall-celebration.

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