Women in baseball honored by Grand Valley and Whitecaps

Former team members from the Grand Rapids Chicks, Dolly Konwinski, Rosemary Stevenson and Marilyn Jenkins
Former team members from the Grand Rapids Chicks, Dolly Konwinski, Rosemary Stevenson and Marilyn Jenkins
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Women are not often remembered as professional baseball players or as part of the American wartime experience, yet an upcoming event aims to change that.

Grand Valley State University and the West Michigan Whitecaps have teamed up to present "Women In Baseball," Saturday, August 28, with events before, during and after the 7 p.m. Whitecaps vs. Loons game at Fifth Third Ballpark, 4500 West River Drive.

Former team members from the Grand Rapids Chicks, Dolly Konwinski, Rosemary Stevenson and Marilyn Jenkins, will be in attendance and honored at the event. The Chicks played throughout the Midwest between 1945 and 1954 as part of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The league was started by Chicago Cubs' owner Philip K. Wrigley in 1943, when World War II depleted male teams.

Among the evening's events will be big board screenings of film clips from the 1992 Hollywood film, "A League of Their Own," produced by Penny Marshall, and starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis among others. Each clip will be followed by a filmed response from real-life players who were interviewed for "A Team of Our Own," a Grand Valley documentary-in-production based on the league's history. Grand Valley is also creating an oral history for the league archives.

Dozens of the former league players have been recorded recalling memories of their baseball experiences. Many were interviewed at the league's national reunion in Milwaukee, in 2009. Additional interviews were held at the 2010 national reunion in Detroit during the first week of August.

Some of the documentary footage comes from the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, N.Y., including rare color home movies. Much of the work for the documentary was accomplished by students in the Film & Video Production program at Grand Valley, including recent graduates Dan Wallace and Elizabeth Stack, who were hired to shoot additional footage at the upcoming Whitecaps event and to work as editors on the project.

"The documentary not only includes oral histories conducted with former players, but also with their fans," said producer Frank Boring, affiliate professor in Grand Valley's School of Communications. "By holding an event with the Whitecaps, we hope to recruit people from the community to come forward and share their stories about the Chicks, both for archiving purposes and for use in the documentary itself."

The documentary film and oral histories are part of the GVSU Veterans History Project, http://www.gvsu.edu/vethistory, established in 2006 to serve as an archiving and collecting partner with the Library of Congress. Under the direction of James Smither, professor of history, with assistance from Grand Rapids City Historian Emeritus Gordon Olson and area schools, libraries, museums and historical societies, the university has undertaken several projects to collect and preserve the stories of American veterans and other participants in, or witnesses to, the American experience in wartime.

A booth will be set up at Fifth Third Ballpark during the event, providing an opportunity for the public to learn how they can share their relevant stories with the GVSU Veterans History Project, or "A Team of Our Own," documentary.

Grand Valley's project records are preserved in the Digital Collections of the University Library Archives, http://www.gvsu.edu/library/specialcollections, located in Seidman House, on the Allendale Campus. Biographical information on each interviewee also goes to the Library of Congress for its Veterans History Project database.

For more information about the GVSU Veterans History Project, contact James Smither at (616) 331-3422, or smitherj@gvsu.edu.

For more information about the August 28th event or the documentary film, "A Team of Our Own," contact Frank Boring at (616) 331-8097, or boringf@gvsu.edu.