‘Rockford Peaches’ comes to Muncy
MUNCY – Opening ceremonies for Muncy Little League’s 65th season opened at Kiess Park in Muncy Creek Township with special acknowledgments by Vice President Chris Hann for the volunteers and contributions to make this year ready in time for Muncy’s 17 teams. Thanks to Crestwood Cabinets and installation by Wayne Wilk, the concession stand was totally remodeled since it was severely damaged by last September’s historic flooding. Other thanks and support went to Chad Bigelow who did all the plumbing and electrical work.
After the invocation by Royce Eyer and the national anthem sung by Becca Kriner, Hann introduced special speaker and guest, Sarah Fergeson, who spoke about her experiences playing right field with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
The League was formed in 1943 in the Mid-west by Philip Wrigley (the mastermind of chewing gum) and owner of the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball Team. He wanted to keep the baseball fields from being in danger of collapse because most young men over the age of 18 were being drafted into war.
Along came Sarah, known to her peers as ‘Salty’, Ferguson from Orangeville, PA who professed her love for baseball since she was old enough to hold a ball. “Since I was 8 years old, I always wanted to be a professional baseball player,” she said. “The boys in my town left me play and I was a bat girl for the local men’s adult baseball team when I was six.” She said she was the local ‘tomboy’ and wanted to play whatever sport the boys were playing. Whenever they organized a ball game, the boys would come to her house and announce that “we got a game going.” While she was a student at Bloomsburg High School, she was invited by Paul Richard, a friend of her family’s, to the home of Charles Shuler who was a scout for the AAGPBL. “I only had to do five pitches for him at a neighborhood park, and then he walked up to my dad and said, ‘I am sending her to the Rockford Peaches!’ Although we had to play in skirts, I fell in love with baseball, and my feet haven’t touched the ground since,” she added.
To the youth and team players, Fergeson stressed the importance of obtaining a high school diploma. She had to complete her school credits before she was allowed to play pro-ball. Her father accepted her diploma graduation night while she was in the Mid-west with the AAGPBL from 1953 to 1954. “My dream came true,” she recalled and encouraged the student leagues to follow theirs quoting Connie Mack, “It is not the win or the loss, but how you play in the game.” She also stressed, “Use your God-given talent and give 110 percent of your abilities. And always play fair!”
Fergeson spoke briefly about her role in the making of the movie, “A League of Our Own” which was made to show how the women played with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Over 600 female athletes had the opportunity to play professional baseball and to play it at a level never before attained. The League operated from 1943 to 1954 and today it represents one of the most unique aspects of America’s baseball history.
“I was in the movie and I met all of the actors except for Tom Hanks and Gena Davis,” said Fergeson who spent ten days during the filming in Cooperstown, New York. “Penny Marshall who directed the film, is a great person,” Fergeson added. “We walked up the street talking like we knew each other for years. Her daughter played Betty Spaghetti in the movie.”
Being in the Baseball Hall of Fame is another wonderful accomplishment noted by Salty Fergeson. “I was told that I have the fattest file there of the women,” she said noting sadly that there are only 225 women left from the original 600. “And here I am 65 years later, still playing baseball.” Today, Fergeson drives a school bus for Central Columbia School District. She has also coached Little League and girls softball in Orangeville. She is looking forward to an AAGPBL reunion this September in Syracuse, NY which includes a scheduled trip to Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
Dugout, Little League’s famous mascot was on hand to help Fergeson throw out the first ball and to escort the teams onto the Brelsford Ball Field.
This year’s Board of Directors for Muncy Little League are: President, Mat Meyer; Vice President, Chris Hann; VP Softball, Brian Kustanbauter; VP T-Ball, Angie Kustanbauter; Secretary, Nicole Meyer; Treasurer, John Fry; Umpire-in Chief, Angie Kustanbauter; Player Agent, Gabe Gush; Safety Officer, Bob Rosario; Equipment Manager, Adam Wolf; Field Maintenance, Mike Diehl; Fundraising Manager, Janele McKeta; Concessions Manager, Dawn Palmatier; Concessions Asst. Manager, Janine Alpaugh; Information Officer, Katie Dgien.