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Baseball Analysis  John Holway

In the spirit of women's history month, enjoy an interview with Faye Dancer, the model for Madonna in "A League of Their Own"


John B. Holway

In the All American Girls League we had to wear skirts and look like ladies at all times. The guys would look at our short skirts, then look at our legs and wonder how we could slide without taking all the hide off ourselves. Well, we did take the hide off ourselves.

I loved to slide. One year I think I stole 100 bases.

In 1944 I was just out of high school when I joined Minneapolis. I made $75 a week, which was a lot of money in those days and tops in the league.

I would say we were on a par with the Class A or Class AA minor leagues at that time. We had very sizeable crowds, I'd say a million a year. In '46 we went to Cuba for spring training and outdrew the Brooklyn Dodgers, who were also training there.

Our manager, Bill Wambsganss, didn't know too much about how to handle women. He was gong to school to become a minister, and when we'd cuss, he'd look at us with daggers. I thought, "How in the heck did he get in with a bunch of girls?" Because he made an unassisted triple play, that's why. Other than that, he didn't know too much about the game.

We'd get in the bus, travel all night, check into a hotel, try to sleep, and finally play the game with three hours sleep. Of course, we were young then.

Every team had a chaperone, and I was the one who always initiated them. I put Limburger cheese on their light bulbs, toothpaste in their oreo cookies, and peanut butter on their toilet seats. Some of them just couldn't take it.

We used to go out in a graveyard and drink our beers. We were supposed to be in our rooms no later than ten. The coaches and chaperones would be down in the lobby, so Pepper Paire and I used to go up the fire escapes. I'd stand on the car to pull the fire escape down, she'd hand me the beer, and we'd go through the window.

One night we got on the service elevator, and for some unknown reason that damn thing stopped on the main floor, and Wamby got a look at us. All he said was, "You better be able to play ball tomorrow." And up we went.

I tell you, we never played so hard in our lives as we did the next day.

Before the 1945 season we stopped in Arizona to watch Jim Thorpe, the Olympic champ in 1912. During the seventh-inning stretch he would drop kick a football, as old as he was. But his wife was a blonde-haired hussey, and he didn't have enough money to pay for the team's hotel rooms, so Pepper and I volunteered to stay and play a game to get him off the hook.

One night Tootie Harnett and myself went to Staved Rock Illinois and were having fun eating and drinking. When we got back we saw our new manager, Marty McManus, waiting in the lobby. Out back there were some beer barrels and a coal pile, and up the pile I went, but I couldn't quite reach the fire escape. Tootie said, "Let's bring a beer barrel. We finally got on the third floor, and I got a fingernail file to cut the screen.

Just then the elevator door opened, and out stepped McManus. I ducked, and finally we got in. My clothes were all black as the as the ace of spades. I threw them in the dresser drawer and got in bed.

Pretty soon my roommate, Tiby Eisen, is saying, "Heh, time for breakfast." I turned over and went back to sleep. Everyone was talking about the beer barrels, and McManus was saying, "As long as I've been in baseball, I've never seen anything like that before."

After that every day Tootie and I would go to church and put holy water on our foreheads. Tootie later became a nun.

I used to tape together love letters the other girls had torn up.

I asked Cooper Underwear Company, "Isn't there any way you can make shorts for women, same as for men? The front was different, that's all. All the girls had them made.

In '47 I played for Peoria. These two gangsters would come to see us play. Here would come this old blue Packard with bulletproof glass. The kingpin liked me. He offered to buy my folks a new car. He offered me a golden palomino and said he'd put me up in the sporting goods business. Once he even asked me if I wanted anyone killed. I told him, "Maybe the umpire."

A lot of these little taverns had blowfish, big round fish with thorns. We stole those.One owner said, "I won't charge you for your drinks if you'll give my blowfish back."

And paintings! I had to climb up on a table because one was up high. When I brought it back, my roommmate said, "You're going to take this damn thing back." I took this big old painting back and said, "I found this in the apartment where I live." He was real happy, and we got free beer the rest of the night.

In the Midwest there were a lot of fruit and vegetable stands. One night we must have stolen at least 32 cobs of corn. It's a wonder we didn't get shot.

In fact, two times people did shoot at us. It sure as heck scared us! I was running back to the car, and it was so dark, I fell right into a ditch, in mud clear up to my knees. A couple girls had to get me out.

When they were making "A League of Their Own" in Skokie Illinois, we went to a White Sox ball game. Ozzie Guillen wrote his telephone number on a ball and threw it up and and told us to give it to Tracy Reiner to write her number. She just kept the ball, didn't throw it back.

Now I'm on the board of directors of our All American Girls Assosciation. They said, "When you give an interview, why don't you leave out the beer? People will think everyone in the league drank." They're right. A lot of girls ever touched it. For 30 years I haven't had a drink either.

But it was fun, it was great fun. I always said, if it ever became work, I'd quit.

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