Lavonne Paire-Davis


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lavonne "Pepper" Paire-Davis, a star of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s and an inspiration for the central character in the movie "A League of Their Own," has died, her son said Sunday.

Paire-Davis died of natural causes in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles on Saturday, her son, William Davis, told The Associated Press. She was 88.

Paire-Davis was a model for the character played by Geena Davis in the 1992 hit "A League of Their Own," which also starred Rosie O'Donnell, Madonna and Tom Hanks as the crusty manager who shouted the famous line, "there's no crying in baseball!"

In 1944, Paire-Davis joined the league, created out of fear that World War II would interrupt Major League Baseball, and played for 10 seasons.

She was a catcher and shortstop, and helped her teams win five championships. She chronicled her baseball adventures in the 2009 book "Dirt in the Skirt."

"I know what it's like for your dream to come true, mine did," Paire-Davis said in an AP story in 1995, when she was 70. "Baseball was the thing I had the most fun doing. It was like breathing."

After graduating from high school, she enrolled at UCLA as an English major, worked as a welder's assistant at the shipyards in Long Beach, and spent every spare moment playing in local softball leagues.

Her heart, however, belonged to hardball.

"Don't get me wrong, I was glad to be playing softball," she said in 1995. "But I'd rather have played competitive baseball."

The All American Girls Baseball League was founded in 1943 by Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley. Most of the league's talent came from greater Chicago, but Paire-Davis was one of a half-dozen players scouted and chosen from California.

The players wore skirts and the teams often had cutesy names, but the players maintained a genuine big league lifestyle, playing 120 games over four months.

"We played every night of the week," Paire-Davis said, "doubleheaders on Sundays and holidays."

She won championships with the Racine Belles, the Grand Rapids Chicks and the Fort Wayne Daisies, but she never actually played for the team featured in the film, the Rockford Peaches.

"That's Hollywood," she said. "They had to take 10 teams and 12 years and make it into two hours."

The league was "temporarily suspended" in 1954. Play was never resumed.

Davis said his mother spent much of the rest of her life as a sports fan — she rooted for the Dodgers, Angels and Lakers — and an advocate for her favorite game.

"She taught me how to switch hit when I was 3 years old," said Davis, one of two sons, a daughter, four grandkids and an older brother who survived Paire-Davis. "She touched a lot of people around the world with her baseball exploits. She was a great ambassador for the game."

Paire-Davis said, looking back from 1995, that she couldn't "honestly tell you I knew the history we were making back then."

But, she said, "I can tell you we knew we were doing something special."

Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Guest Book

Not sure what to say?

Amazing lady and friend. I miss her more than words can express.

Pepper I'm so glad we got to meet. I aways enjoy spending time with you gals. All of you ladies have change my life. Till we meet again. Save me a spot in the lineup!

Pepper will forever be you and your families guardian angel. She put a smile on my face the few times I meant her. I will always remember her smiling face. She will smile down upon you and your family forever.

Pepper Paire was an amazing baseball player. I joined the Future Daisy League as a 13 year old in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I lived 6 blocks from Memorial Park and went to every game. It was always a great game when Pepper was in town and she made for a very exciting game with all her talented play. I am now 74 and just found this site of "notable women." I am so happy to have found Pepper's and other players' obituaries. It was the best time of my life. I will always feel sad that the...

I was so saddened to hear about the loss of pepper. I loved the league of their own, and what she did for women's sports. I also thoroughly enjoyed her book "Dirt in the skirt", it was awesome, just like her. prayers and thoughts to her family and friends. She will be remembered and missed always!!

2006 girls softball world series in park city, Utah

My daughter and I met Pepper at the park city Utah world series, girls softball tournament. Lavonne was so kind and sweet we will always remember her!Thoughts and prayers to her family.
Tina Castillo and Kelsey Hernandez

park city Utah world series girls softball Player Kelsey Hernandez pinning a pin on Peppers Jersey.

Pepper was all everyone thought, and yet even more. She was kind, thoughtfull, always willing to help others and by the Grace of God, she was able to do it all until she passed. I will NEVER forget her and the things she did for our Girls Softball Association in McKinney Texas. What a great friend and Lady.