ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Another former Rockford Peach has left us. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League reports that Shirley Burkovich died Thursday.
Burkovich grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania playing sandlot ball with boys near her home. She reflected on that with me in an interview three years ago.
“I was the only girl in my neighborhood that played.”
And the boys welcomed you?
“Yea they liked me,” said Burkovich. “I was pretty good.”
Scouts agreed when they saw her perform at a tryout camp.
“A couple weeks later I got a telegram saying to report to spring training in Indiana. Well, my dad, my brother and I, we were all happy. Oh boy, we were going to play baseball!”
Burkovich played three years in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The last year was 1951. That year she was a Rockford Peach. One thing she remembered the most about that time was the crowd support for the team.
“Oh, I would say Rockford had the best fan base that I can remember. They were so supportive.”
She also remembered fondly Peaches’ manager Bill Allington.
“I learned more in that one year with Bill Allington about baseball. The first thing Bill Allington did was give me a rule book and he said, ‘Read it’. That’s the way Bill was. You better know those rules.
Burkovich was a fan of the movie A League of Their Own. She said for the most part it’s an accurate depiction of what the league was like.
“I thought Penny Marshall did an excellent job of portraying the way it was as far as telling the story, the bus rides, the camaraderie of the girls that was all true.”
Burkovich wasn’t a star. She had a career batting average of .229, but she was versatile. She played every position except catcher. Her biggest contributions came later in life when she traveled around the country making appearances, promoting women’s and girls’ baseball, and helping to keep the memory of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League alive. She made several appearances in Rockford.
Burkovich was 89 years old.