Geena Davis joins in honoring historic Utah softball team
Amid the satisfying thwacks of bat-against-ball, there will be cheers for honored guests Friday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis will throw the first pitch for the Salt Lake Bees to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her film "A League of Their Own."
She also will join in honoring members of the Utah Shamrocks, the historic fast-pitch softball team that played during the same era as teams featured in the girl-power film, which will screen for free following the game courtesy of Zions Bank. Spectators may enter the game without paying after the eighth inning.
Davis, who will appear in part to promote her nonprofit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, delivers a message of inclusion for women in media and in sports. Her goal is shared by the Shamrocks, the oldest organized amateur team in Utah sports and the second oldest organized softball team in the world, according to the Shamrock's 32nd anniversary yearbook.
These women were tough players, and they didn't need to prove it.
"I just gave it all I had," said infielder Donna Poll, of South Weber.
The team began in 1935, when a group of women working at Auerbach's Department Store in Salt Lake City formed a basketball team that would later become the Shamrocks softball team.
During the "golden era of softball" in the 1950s, the Utah Shamrocks never had a problem filling their ranks or filling seats in the Old White Softball Park in Salt Lake City.
"They were a great bunch of ladies. They weren't a bunch of raggy old ball players," said catcher Lou Jean Nelson, who now lives in Ogden.
The team's goal was twofold: To leave their fans with the impression that the Shamrocks were young ladies on and off the field; and to be strong and determined players, according to the team's yearbook.
The Shamrocks were consistent state champions and above average ball players, Nelson said. You "had to be on your toes to play with them."
The team's name and color came from Irish founder and coach Dennis Murphy, also called "Mr. Softball." The team would slide into home wearing shamrock green shorts and shirts.
"I had bruises all over my hips," said team captain "Big Jean" Dallinga. "If I had to slide to get to the base, I did."
The team competed all over the country and beyond, from California to Hawaii to Canada for minimal compensation. On trips, they received just $3 a day to live on.
But that didn't stop them from playing.
"I love sports. I love 'em all," Dallinga said, who is originally from Bird City, Kan. "In our little town there wasn't anything for women, girls to do except sports."
Dedication to the game was common among the Shamrocks.
"There was nothing about it that I didn't love," Poll said.
Dallinga agreed, "Just like anything else in life, once you enjoy whatever it is you're doing, you do it."
They appreciate the recognition they'll receive at Friday's game, but acclaim was never what they were after.
"We were just out to play and enjoy the world," Nelson said.
Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis, pictured at right, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film "A League of Their Own" and join in honoring the Utah Shamrocks at the start of the Salt Lake Bees game. A free screening of the film will follow the game.
When • Friday. Game is at 7:05 p.m.
Where • Spring Mobile Ballpark, 77 W. 1300 South, Salt Lake City
Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
In addition to being an Oscar-winning actress, Geena Davis heads the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which seeks to change the fact that men outnumber women three to one in family films.
"Imbalance looks normal if that's all you see," Davis said in an interview.
From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films working in the field of medical science, as a business leader or in law or politics, the institute found.
Additionally, across 1,565 content creators, only 7 percent of directors, 13 percent of writers, and 20 percent of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind the scenes to every one female.
When Davis talks to networks and studios about the gender imbalance they are "shocked and stunned" and eager to improve, she said.
"Make whatever movie you were going to make, but just add more female characters. Populate it with female characters," Davis said.