Mets honor women's baseball trailblazer Maybelle Blair

AAGPBL veteran receives inaugural Amazin’ Mets Foundation Legacy Award

September 15th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Seventy-five years ago, Maybelle Blair first took the field for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Since then, she has enthusiastically dedicated her life to bettering the world of women in baseball.

On Thursday at Citi Field, her life’s work was recognized by the inaugural Amazin’ Mets Foundation Legacy Award, which “celebrates the people and organizations in the baseball community that are making a difference and driving impactful change, on and off the field.”

“This award means something that you'll never realize to me,” Blair said. “They have opened the door up to us women. We are now executives, we are the owners. We are a little bit of everything in baseball, and if a girl is as good as a man, we should be able to perform that duty.”

As she addressed the media on her day of honor, Blair was donning a getup fit for a former pro: her signature baseball bat cane, a “League Of Their Own” white jacket with red piping, bright red sunglasses and sparkly pendant earrings.

After posing for photos with Mets manager Buck Showalter, Amazin’ Mets Foundation president Alex Cohen, and a group of women Mets employees, Blair participated in a series of meet and greets with the Mets’ women and LGBTQ+ employee resource groups, who got a chance to chat with Blair one-on-one.

“I’ve never seen so many women in baseball!” Blair said upon entering the room.

Blair’s time in the AAGPBL was short, but impactful. She debuted in 1948 as a pitcher for the Peoria Redwings, but a leg injury cut her time there to one season. Blair returned to the league briefly in 1951 as a second baseman with the New Orleans Jacks before the AAGPBL folded in 1954.

Even though the league that helped her turn pro was no more, Blair’s involvement in women’s baseball was just beginning. For years, one of her biggest areas of focus has been the International Women’s Baseball Center. Blair has worked tirelessly to raise money for the center, which she hopes one day will have a facility for girls baseball, a women’s baseball hall of fame and an umpire school, all in Rockford, Ill. She estimates the IWBC needs about $1 million more in funding.

“Before I get on the other side of the dirt, it's got to be done,” Blair said. “I got to get the shovel in the ground. I’m 96 now, so I got about four more good years.”

Blair is also a fixture at MLB’s girls baseball events, particularly the Trailblazer Series, an annual baseball tournament for girls at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla.

“As far as women, as far as baseball, I will go anywhere [to] support them or do anything I can,” Blair said. “I don't care what it is or where it is, whether it’s a sandlot game or here at the Mets’ stadium, I will be there. All you have to do is ask me, and I got my coat ready to go.”

Even in her nineties, Blair has shown no signs of slowing down. She was a consultant for the Amazon Prime show “A League Of Their Own,” an updated adaptation of the 1992 film. This TV series incorporated many of the queer and racial storylines that the movie did not, and at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere, Blair came out as gay publicly for the first time.

To honor Blair as part of the inaugural Legacy Award, the Amazin Mets Foundation presented her with a $5,000 check to Athlete Ally, a “nonprofit organization that educates athletic communities on how to understand obstacles for LGBTQ+ people in sports and build inclusive environments.”

Blair then threw out a ceremonial first pitch to another baseball trailblazer -- Liz Benn, the Mets’ director of Major League operations and the highest-ranking female baseball ops employee in franchise history.

Blair’s life has spanned the end of the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, multiple major wars and a technological revolution. But despite living through all of that, she still views the game today with a sense of wonder. Before Thursday’s game, she received a tour of the women’s locker room and the Mets’ clubhouse and commented on how wonderful it was that an MLB stadium even had a women’s locker room.

“I absolutely [almost] cried … They took me in the [women’s] locker room area, and they have one that says it's my locker. You have no idea how I feel,” Blair said. “First time in my life I felt this wonderful. To be able to say I had a locker in a Major League Baseball [stadium]? I can’t believe it.”

As she viewed the plush setup in the home clubhouse on her day of honor, Blair’s signature competitive spirit shined through the awe.

“I could take ‘em in ping pong,” she said. “I bet I’d be a champ.”