The woman whose baseball career served as inspiration for the classic movie A League of Their Own has come out as gay at age 95.
Maybelle Blair, a former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player, opened up about her sexuality for the first time while promoting Amazon Prime’s reboot of the 1992 film at the Tribeca Film Festival in June.
‘I think it’s a great opportunity for these young girl ball players to come [to] realize that they’re not alone, and you don’t have to hide,’ she said of the new show. ‘I hid for 75, 85 years and this is actually basically the first time I’ve ever come out.’
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Maybelle Blair, a former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player, came out as gay at age 95
Blair, who also professional softball for the Chicago Cardinals in the 1950s (left), inspired Madonna’s character in the beloved 1992 film A League of Their Own (right)
Blair, who was born in California, was known as ‘All The Way Mae’ when she pitched for the Peoria Redwings in 1948. She inspired Madonna’s character in the original film, who had the same nickname.
The historic athlete went on to play professional softball for the Chicago Cardinals during the 1950s.
A League of Their Own is a fictionalized account of the trials and tribulations of the first female professional baseball league that was founded during World War II.
Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Rosie O’Donnell starred alongside Madonna in the beloved film, which was directed by Penny Marshall.
Blair opened up about her sexuality for the first time while promoting Amazon Prime’s reboot of A League of Their Own at the Tribeca Film Festival in June
‘I hid for 75, 85 years and this is actually basically the first time I’ve ever come out,’ she said during the panel discussion
There wasn’t a gay storyline in the movie, though Blair estimates that two-thirds of the AAGPBL players were gay in real life.
However, the new adaptation puts a spotlight on the realities of sexuality and race during that time with the inclusion of queer and transgender characters, as well as women of color.
Blair served as a consultant on the TV remake that was co-created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, who also stars in the series.
The former baseball player spoke candidly about struggling with her sexuality when she was growing up, recalling the shame she felt after developing feelings for another girl as a teen.
Blair was known as ‘All The Way Mae’ when she pitched for the Peoria Redwings in 1948
The Peoria Redwings was in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1946 through 1951
Blair estimates that two-thirds of the AAGPBL players were gay in real life
‘I thought, “Oh my gosh, Maybelle, what’s wrong with you?” Because I had a crush on this girl in high school and finally, we sort of had a little thing, you know how you do,’ she said, according to LGBTQ Nation.
‘It was really bad because in our day you wouldn’t dare tell your family or hint to anybody that you were gay,’ she added. ‘It was the most terrible thing in the world.’
Blair explained how joining the AAGPBL and later becoming a professional softball player was the best thing that could have happened to her.
‘I went back to Chicago, and I got on the team, and I’ll tell ya, it was the most amazing time of my life because they asked me to go out to a bar,’ she recalled. ‘Well, it turned out to be a gay bar, and I was never so happy in my life.’
There wasn’t a gay story line in A League of Their Own, which starred Tom Hanks (left) and Rosie O’Donnell (right)
The TV reboot co-created by Abbi Jacobson (far right), who also stars in the series, spotlights the realities of sexuality and race at this time and includes queer and trans characters
Blair was able to speak about her sexuality in private with those she trusted, but she feared the discrimination she would face if others found out the truth.
‘I was so afraid in my era that if you came out, we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t be schoolteachers … we couldn’t even join the service,’ she told Good Morning America. ‘We were [considered] the bad guys, which isn’t true.’
Blair shared that she struggled with similar fears after she came out during the panel discussion at the Tribeca Film Festival in June.
‘All of a sudden I blurted that out and I thought, “Oh my God, Maybelle, what in the world is your family going to think of you? You’re queer?” And I thought, “Oh my God, they’re going to disown me,”‘ she said.
Blair (pictured with the cast of the original film in 2017) recalled how she went to a gay bar with her Chicago Cardinals teammates but was afraid to publicly come out for years
Blair told Good Morning American that she was worried her family would ‘disown’ her after she came out, but they insisted they love her for who she is
‘I was happy I said it — but then the next day I was really worried about my family, until they started talking to me and calling me up and saying, “Don’t worry, Aunt Maybelle, everything’s fine, don’t you worry about a thing. We love you for what you are.”‘
‘And to this day, I’m so thrilled about that,’ she added. ‘You have no idea.’
A League of Their Own celebrated Blair’s coming out by sharing a video of the moment on the TV show’s official Instagram page.
‘For the majority of her life, sports legend 95-year-old AAGPBL player, Maybelle Blair felt like she had to hide her authentic self. Today she came out publicly for the first time. We couldn’t be happier for her, and continue to push for love, acceptance, and education on and off the field,’ the video was captioned.