Monday, June 10, 2019

On This Day - "We Regret to Inform You"

If you've seen A League of Their Own, you probably remember the scene.

It begins with a telegram from the War Department, a locker room full of nervous players, and the terrible dawning realization that somebody's husband would never be coming home.

The camera starts on Dottie before panning across the women, each hoping against hope against hope that the telegram isn't for them. Manager Jimmy Dugan takes it from the callow Western Union man and walks down the line. We are led to think it's for Dottie, our hero, but Jimmy instead gives it to Betty, who is led away in tears by the team chaperone. It's one of the most dramatic, and memorable, scenes in the entire film.

What you might not realize is that the scene has its origins in history. The history of our very own Milwaukee Chicks.

The player in question was Chicks catcher Dorothy Maguire. Born Dorothy McAlpin, she was one of the few Chicks with actual AAGPBL experience in 1944, and championship experience at that; she was the catcher for the 1943 Racine Belles, who had claimed the inaugural league title.

She was also married, to Corporal Thomas J. Maguire, Jr., stationed in Europe. The couple had been married in May of 1941, when they lived in a very different world.

On June 10, 1944, seventy-five years ago today, the Chicks were in Kenosha to play the Comets. Before the game, Maguire took a phone call from her mother, who told her the news: Tom had been reported killed in action. Unlike the film scene, Maguire received the news privately, and decided not to tell anyone until after the game.

The Chicks lost that day 11-7, although Maguire herself recorded a hit. She told her teammates in the locker room after the game, and the press shortly thereafter. The Milwaukee Sentinel noted her story in its coverage of the game the following morning:

The Journal went a step further in the afternoon, giving Dorothy the headline (albeit with a typo in Tom's name):

In a plot twist too bizarre for Hollywood, two months later Dorothy received a letter from Tom. He hadn't been killed after all, only badly injured and having lost his dog tags. When he returned home, he "vehemently pressed Dorothy to quit baseball to settle down at home." She kept playing, and they were divorced in 1945. Three years later, she married George Chapman, with whom she had six kids, including current AAGPBL Players Association president Rick Chapman.

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