'A League of Their Own' Inspiration Maybelle Blair on Coming Out at 95 & New Amazon Series (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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As a former player for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Maybelle Blair not only broke down barriers for women but also served as inspiration for Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own as well as Prime Video’s upcoming TV adaptation of the 1992 classic. The former athlete also recently made headlines by coming out as a lesbian at 95 years old, after nearly eight decades of hiding.
“I felt this relief come over me,” Blair tells ET’s Kevin Frazier about the moment she revealed her truth during a live Q&A for the Prime Video series at the Tribeca Festival, which just happened to coincide with Pride Month. “I thought, ‘Well, Maybelle, you did it.’ And then afterwards, I got shaky because I forgot about my nephews [in the audience] for the moment. I went home and I could hardly sleep because I was so scared. But anyway, the phone started ringing and it was my nephews and they said, ‘Maybelle, we’re so proud of you for coming out.’”
For Blair, this moment came after spending most of her life in the closet over fear that her sexual identity would not only hurt her family, but hold her back in life. “Oh, it was very hard,” she says, explaining that early in her life she had top secret clearance for a job at Northrop. “And I was always afraid that somebody would call me into their office and say, ‘Maybelle, you’re dismissed because we found out that you’re a queer.’ And, oh my god, I would’ve died on the spot.”
She adds, “And now, all these people can feel free to [live] their life the way they would like to live.”
While she came out in the moment, Blair credits the Prime Video series created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, who also stars as Rockford Peaches catcher Carson Shaw, for helping her come out. “If it hadn’t been for Will and Abbi and all of them making the new series of A League of Their Own, I would have never come out in my life,” she says.
The series promises to present a more authentic version of real-life events as it follows the many women who made history as the first players in the AAGPBL. According to Amazon, “the show takes a deeper look at race and sexuality, following the journey of a whole new ensemble of characters as they carve their own paths towards the field, both in the league and outside of it.”
In order to do that, Blair was asked to consult on the new series that also stars Chanté Adams, D'Arcy Carden and Roberta Colindrez as hopeful professional baseball players. Brought into the writers’ room, “they asked me all sorts of questions… I tried to answer the best way I could,” she says, revealing that the TV adaptation “is going to be fantastic.”
She adds, “I think they did one heck of a job.”
Not only that, but Blair is really excited for audiences to “really see the true story of A League of Their Own,” she says, explaining that “Penny would have loved to have shown it [in the film] but in her day, it wasn’t accepted [then]. Even in the early 1990s.”
When it comes to the 1992 film, which starred Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, Blair remembers being so “thrilled” about the project at the time. “We could not believe that they were doing that part of our life and showing that women did play baseball,” she says, revealing that she was among “13 or 14 ballplayers” invited to the set.
While many people think that Blair, who was a pitcher for the Peoria Redwings, directly inspired Davis’ character, Dottie Hinson, she and the others really inspired a bit of everything seen onscreen. “It was a synopsis of the whole league. They took a little of this, a little of that and they put it all together and what they came up with I can’t believe what Penny Marshall did,” she says now.
When asked about her favorite scene from the movie, Blair points to the pivotal moment at the end during the championship game. “The scene that I think about all the time is naturally at the end when [Dottie] dropped the ball,” she says. “Did you do it on purpose or did she not do it on purpose? If she was a real ballplayer, there’s no way she wouldn’t drop that ball.”
A League of Their Own premieres Aug. 12 on Prime Video.