Text written by Albert Kilchesty
Miss Fire Brand
Alta Weiss (1890‒1964), seen at left sporting an ankle-length bloomer/skirt, pitched in semi-professional men’s baseball leagues in the early years of the twentieth century. The curious thronged to see her play in minor league and major league parks, with many male spectators wondering just what her outfit concealed. Not much was left to the imagination when Dottie Schroeder took the field. Schroeder (1928‒1996), primarily a shortstop, holds the distinction of being the only player to appear in all twelve seasons of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), 1943 through 1954. League owners wanted the girls to play like men, but look like women, and Dottie fit the bill: she became the most popular and most photographed player in the league. Both Weiss and Schroeder were tremendous players, gams or not, inspiring multiple generations of girls who played the so-called boys’ game.
Miss Cast Brand (private collection)
Rita Hayworth’s rise to fame as Hollywood sex goddess of the 1940s has a brutal backstory. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino in Mexico, her early life was dominated by a stentorian father, who trained her as his dance (and sex) partner from a very young age. After arriving in California, she married the first of several husbands, a Svengali determined to make her a star. She underwent a grueling cosmetic makeover, changed her name and began an acting career in cinema. As Rita Hayworth she became a star and a sex symbol—during World War II she became the pin-up favorite of American GI’s. Her signature role as the title character in the 1946 film Gilda cemented her status as the ultimate film femme fatale. As the decade’s factory-produced ideal of feminine beauty, she spawned a legion of epigones, including many of the young ladies then playing in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Often photographed in baseball garb during studio charity events, Hayworth was featured in a 2014 Panini baseball card set celebrating female stars from Tinseltown’s past.
Miss Play Brand (private collection)
Pop diva and material girl Madonna, aka Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, was born in 1958. As the “Queen of Pop” she became the most instantly recognized woman on the planet during the 1980s and ’90s. Her forays into cinema included a memorable turn as “All the Way” Mae Morabito, a decidedly un-virginal New Yorker, in Penny Marshall’s 1992 film A League of Their Own. In that role she enjoyed a wink at her public persona, a sexpot obsessed with men. She also looked pretty comfortable at the plate and in the outfield. But clearly she was no Geena Davis.