By DERRICK HENRY
From The New York TimesDorothy Kamenshek, a star player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League who helped inspire the lead character in the movie “A League of Their Own,” has died. She was 84.
She died of natural causes Monday at her home in Palm Desert, Calif., said the Riverside County coroner’s office. She had had several strokes in the past five years, said her friend and fellow baseball player Lavone Paire Davis, who was known as Pepper.
Kamenshek played first base for the Rockford (Ill.) Peaches from 1943 to 1951 and again in 1953, and finished among the league’s top 10 career batting leaders, with an average of .292. She was named one of the top 100 female athletes of the century by Sports Illustrated, winning batting titles by hitting .316 in 1946 and .306 in 1947.
“She had the whole package,” said Davis, 85, a catcher who played 10 years in the league. “She could hit with power, she could lay the bunt down and steal the base. She was a great first baseman — she could go off the ground three feet and grab it, or dig it out of the dirt. She was a tough lady, and she was as smart as they come.”
She was selected to seven All-Star teams and retired in 1953.
Kamenshek’s abilities impressed a minor league men’s team in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which offered to buy her contract in 1947, but she declined.
“I thought it was a publicity stunt,” she told the baseball historian John Holway for an article published in 2003, adding that she thought her 5-foot-6, 135-pound frame would have been no match for “those big guys.”
Skirts were the standard uniform, but Kamenshek was undaunted. She stole 109 bases in 1946.
“We got used to it,” she said. “In the spring, we’re always hoping we’d develop calluses. If you got your skin toughened up, you were pretty lucky most of year.”
Kamenshek was born Dec. 21, 1925, in Norwood, Ohio, outside Cincinnati. She earned a degree in physical therapy from Marquette University and moved to California, where she practiced. Davis said she had no surviving family members.
Kamenshek went by her nicknames, Kammie and Dottie, and was one of the players who formed the basis for the composite character Dottie Hinson in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own,” about women’s professional baseball in the 1940s and 1950s. In the movie, Dottie, played by Geena Davis, is a crackerjack catcher and a dependable hitter who is so beautiful that she winds up on the cover of Life magazine.
The league’s players association has said that the movie’s characters, who played for a team called the Peaches, did not necessarily depict any one player. There were “six Dotties” playing for Rockford, said Pepper Davis, an adviser for the movie. But, she said, there was one clear superstar.
“They asked me who the best player in our league was,” Davis said, “and I said, ‘Dottie Kamenshek.’ ”