|Faye Dancer, 1940s baseball player, dies after
06/01/02 05:39 EDT
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Faye Dancer, one of the top players in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s, has died. She was 77.
Dancer, the inspiration for the ``All the Way Mae'' character played by Madonna in the 1992 film, ``A League of Their Own,'' died May 22 after breast cancer surgery at UCLA Medical Center, a former teammate and lifelong friend said Friday.
``She was a great all-around ballplayer,'' said Lavonne ``Pepper'' Paire Davis, who served as technical adviser on ``A League of Their Own'' and was a model for Geena Davis' catcher character.
For six seasons from 1944 to 1950, Dancer played center field and pitched for the Minneapolis Millerettes, Fort Wayne Daisies and Peoria Redwings.
In 1948, Dancer stole 108 bases.
``She was that rare breed of ballplayer that could get up to bat, lay down a perfect bunt, then steal second base,'' Davis said. ``Then, the next time up, she could hit the long ball and knock it out of the ballpark.''
Known for her hustle, Dancer's playing style was captured in a 1948 photograph that shows her sliding into third base to avoid being tagged. It is displayed in the All American Girls Baseball League exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., which includes Dancer's spikes and gloves. Dancer joined Davis and more than 75 other former league members for the opening of the exhibit on Nov. 5, 1988.
Dancer was born in Santa Monica in 1925 and grew up in West Los Angeles. She discovered softball in grade school, but threw the ball so hard she typically had to play on the boys' teams.
As Davis recalled, ``You had to walk and talk and act like a lady at all times, but play baseball like a guy.''
Dancer retired from professional baseball in 1950, four years before the league disbanded, after injuring her back while sliding.
She returned to her offseason job as an electronics technician for Hughes Aircraft. She then worked for 35 years as an electronics technician for a power generator manufacturing company in Santa Monica, where she lived.
In 2000, not long after being laid off, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
``She was a tough lady,'' Davis said. ``She fought every step of the way to win in baseball and she went out that way, fighting every step of the way.''
Dancer never married after her fiance was killed in World War II.
She is survived by her brother, Richard Dancer, of Westchester, Calif.
A graveside service will be held Tuesday at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica.