Where do you want to fly?
You could say Gloria Rogers has lived her life with amazing grace.
She looks back on her life at 83 and will quickly tell you she has been blessed.
Although it’s different than the Christian hymn, Rogers was lost and now she’s been found.
These days, she’s not difficult to find. She was recently spotted in Boonsboro over the Christmas holidays, here to visit her son Trent and his family.
She was in the bleachers — sitting the bench per se — watching her granddaughter Kaitlyn (KK) Rogers play a pair of Boonsboro girls basketball games.
And, like for a good part of her life, Rogers watched in anonymity. Very few knew they were watching the same game with a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Rogers earned her spot in baseball lore as a member of the Rockford Peaches, a team in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).
It might sound familiar. It was the team depicted in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own.”
“I was considered a lost player,” Rogers said. “Penny Marshall had this movie and I didn’t know who she was.”
Rogers, whose maiden name was McCloskey, fell through the cracks. She was one of 643 women who participated in the AAGPBL’s nine-year existence from 1943-54. With some research, someone found a McCloskey in Edina, Mo., Rogers’ hometown, in 2003 and placed a call.
They reached Rogers’ mother and told her that they wanted her daughter to attend a reunion of the league in Cooperstown, N.Y. Rogers’ mother was leery of giving out the number.
But once she did, Rogers was found.
“I went to Cooperstown and one of the players came up to me and said ‘Gloria Lee. Where have you been?’”
Once in Cooperstown, the short segment of Rogers’ life became a public treasure.
Gloria McCloskey Rogers’ name was on the Hall of Fame’s wall as part of “Women in Baseball,” a permanent display to honor the AAGPBL in 1988. It all came into light with the movie.
Rogers is one of a dwindling number of the league’s living players.
They are the living history of a league created to fill a void and keep baseball popular during World War II, using women players while the men were away.
Baseball executives – including Phillip Wrigley and Branch Rickey – started a league in the Midwest. It began with four teams – including the Peaches – playing a combination of baseball and softball. They scouted amateur softball teams to find players. The league grew to six teams.
Early baseball career
Rogers entered the picture in 1953. She was a 17-year-old high school student and softball player and saw a story in the newspaper about the AAGPBL holding a tryout.
She wrote a letter to Carl Gaines, a scout, asking about the tryouts and received a letter inviting her to come. Rogers’ mother and sister drove her to Rockford, Ill., a 150-mile trip, for the chance.
Rogers, a pitcher by trade, impressed the scouts with her ability to throw a ball 197 feet. At that point, she became an outfielder. She also had the best time for running from the batters’ box to first base.
Rogers was one of six players – from 20-40 participants – chosen to join the Peaches. She joined the team immediately.
It started Rogers’ short career as a professional player.
“I didn’t play much,” Rogers said. “I got a uniform (which she still has) and my name was in the program. I rode the bus.”
Rogers didn’t accumulate any statistics. Soon, her father decided Rockford was too far away and she needed to come home.
“That makes my dad sound like a bad guy, but he wasn’t,” Rogers said. “He played catch with me and bought me softballs to throw. We had a brick house and drew a plate on the wall. The balls got beat up and he gave me tape to keep them together so I could throw them more. I wish my dad let me play that summer. I still would have gone home and to college.”
In reality, there was a plan for Rogers.
She was enrolled to attend Christian College — now named Columbia College — after graduating from high school. She was to follow the footsteps of a great, great grandparent who was one of the original nine students to attend the school.
Rogers had a love of horses and joined the equestrianism program. She also played tennis and field hockey and synchronized swimming. She is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
And she also played for a fast-pitch softball team based in St. Joseph, Mo., that played in the national tournament. After obtaining a degree from Northeast Missouri State, Rogers eventually taught physical education and coached basketball and track across Missouri. She married Kelly Rogers, who was a school superintendent in Macon, Mo.
Life after Peaches
She lived everyday life to the fullest. Things changed when she was found.
“This was a big deal in my life,” Rogers said. “The kids I taught knew nothing about the league. When the movie came out, they were surprised.
“I thought it just died out until Penny Marshall made the movie. I didn’t do much, but I made the team and I’m in the Baseball Hall of Fame.”
Rogers said A League of Their Own is about “80 percent true.” Most of the story involving the lifestyle and travel is accurate.
Rogers speaks fondly of her personal memorabilia, which includes the uniform and press clippings. She still has her letter she sent to Gaines and another letter she received from Dottie Green, who was a catcher (but not Geena Davis’ character) and chaperone for the Peaches.
The AAPGBL is alive again. The organization has a number of associates – Troy is one of them – who do research and work to bring its existence into the public eye.
It held a 75th anniversary reunion last September in Kansas City, which was opened to the public to meet the players and get autographs. Rogers said only about 25 players were present.
Another function is planned this year in Cooperstown.
Now, Rogers goes out and speaks about the league and her experiences. She now lives in Plano, Texas, where a girls softball team of 7-year-olds call themselves the Rockford Peaches who dress in the retro uniforms.
“It’s overwhelming that it has gone so far,” Rogers said. “Not many people know about it. If girls want to play baseball, there should be girls teams. They shouldn’t have to play with the boys or have boys on girls teams. The opportunity is there. You just have to find them.
“This is just awesome … unbelievable that I played a part of this. I have stories and can answer questions, but others have better stories.”
Rogers was fascinated to see KK play during her visit to Boonsboro.
“It’s exciting,” Rogers said. “She doesn’t have any idea how good she is. She is so fast and plays so hard. I’m proud of her and hopes she keeps going on, but I’m prejudiced.”
The granddaughter was one of those who didn’t know much about her grandmother’s adventures, but is learning. KK gave a presentation at school on the AAPGBL.
In a sense, KK’s opportunities have come thanks to Rogers’ chance to play in a league of their own.
“She puts pressure on me, but she encourages me to work hard. It’s very cool,” KK said.
“I’m proud and I love that she’s famous,” KK said. “I know where I get my athletic ability from.”