Mary Pratt was born in Connecticut in 1918 and went on to graduate with a degree in Physical Sciences, not the usual path for women in the 1940s. Pratt was an enthusiastic supporter of women’s sports and so, when she had the chance to play for the Rockford Peaches during World War II, she did so with vim and vigor. Sadly, Pratt passed away on May 6th, 2020, but her legacy as the last surviving Rockford Peach endures.

Via/ State Archives of Florida

Pratt is believed to be the last surviving member of the Rockford Peaches one of the teams of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. This league was founded in 1943 as a way to save American baseball. At the time nearly all the eligible male players were overseas at the frontlines, so stadium owners and promoters worried about how to forego closures and keep Americans interested in baseball until the men returned from war.

Pratt was signed as a pitcher to the Rockford Peaches in 1943-44 (representing Rockford, Illinois) and the Kenosha Comets in 1944-45 (representing Kenosha, Wisconsin) before returning to the Peaches for the 1946-47 season. Pratt was a left-handed pitcher and once pitched a no-hitter game.

After that Pratt retired from professional baseball, and the league itself largely faded from the public eye. In the 1950s with the troops returned from battle, stadiums and promoters focused on Major League Baseball instead and the women’s league suffered from lack of promotion.

In the years following her retirement from baseball, Pratt spoke often about the importance of women’s sports and physical education for girls. At the time women were expected to be ladylike and even AAGPBL members wore skirts and could be fined for not wearing lipstick at all times.

Pratt had left teaching when the schedule conflicted with her baseball training, but returned to the profession afterwards. Pratt’s teaching career spanned nearly 5 decades.

In 1986 Pratt went on to co-found the New Agenda-Northeast, an organization dedicated to the advancement of girls and women in sports. Upon entering one of two nursing homes in Massachusetts in her later years, Pratt found that many of her former students were also living there as residents. She was 101-years-old when she passed away.

Uniforms of the Rockford Peaches, Kenosha Comets, and South Bend Blue Sox on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Via/ Flickr

Over the years Pratt’s willingness to talk about her time in the league, as well as her book on her time playing for the AAGPB, Preserving Our Legacy: A Peach of a Game, made her an integral part of the education on the league’s history. Her suitcase, from when she had been traded to the Kenosha Comets, is held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as part of the permanent display about the league, Diamond Dreams.