All American Girls Professional Baseball League catcher and shortstop Lavonne “Pepper” Paire-Davis passed away this weekend in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles. She was 88.
Paire-Davis, a model for the character played by Geena Davis in the 1992 hit A League of Their Own, died of natural causes, her son said.
Born in 1924, Paire-Davis was given the nickname Pepper as a youth for her vibrant red hair. Pepper, who reportedly began playing baseball at the age of nine, joined the All American League at age 19 when Cubs owner Philip K.Wrigley started it in an attempt to save the sport in case Major League Baseball collapsed due to World War II.
A catcher and shortstop, Paire-Davis played 10 seasons in the league, helping her teams win five championships. She finished her career with a .225 batting average with 713 hits, 251 runs, and 400 RBIs.
“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.”
While Paire-Davis won championships with the Racine Belles, the Grand Rapids Chicks, and the Fort Wayne Daisies, ESPN notes 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 All American League was ”temporarily suspended” in 1954. Play was never resumed. Paire-Davis later chronicled her baseball adventures as a professional athlete in the 2009 book “Dirt in the Skirt.”
Pepper Davis talks about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in the video below:
Paire-Davis is survived by two sons and a daughter.
Image: Pepper Paire-Davis Website