ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The place of their own loses one of their own when Shirley Burkovich passed away Thursday in California.
Burkovich played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League for several teams, including the Rockford Peaches. She played an important role in the establishment of the International Women’s Baseball Center in Rockford.
“My favorite part of playing baseball was playing baseball,” said Burkovich during a Peaches 75 Anniversary Celebration.
Shirley Burkovich and Maybelle Blair were enemies on the field. Off the field, their friendship and love for the game of baseball grew as leaders of the women’s professional baseball museum and activities center.
“Till the day she died we were still arguing about the Rockford Peaches because she loved them dearly. It was such a loss. Nobody will ever know how much I miss her,” said Blair.
The duo was supposed to appear at a signing in Rockford earlier this week, but Burkovich wasn’t feeling well.
“She says ‘Maybelle don’t wait for me. Do what you have to do because we have to get our museum built and when you get home you can tell me all about it,’” said Blair.
Williams says the loss is heartbreaking because of Shirley’s passion for the museum. She may not be here physically, but Williams said they will turn this loss into motivation to get the project back home.
“We want this to be a place where people play baseball, not just girls and women. Once the field is back up to stuff, we’re ready to rock and roll,” said Williams
Even decades after the league folded, the legacy of the Peaches lives on throughout the city in places like Rockford Art Deli and the Midway Village Museum.
“It’s our job as the history museums to hold on to their stories and be able to tell them to the next generations of young women coming through,” said Museum Curator Laura Furman.
Williams said they recently closed the deal on the one acre piece of land north of Beyer Stadium for the museum. They first plan on building the activities center. Plans will be available to the public sometime in the future.
There are plans in place for the 30th anniversary of a league of their own to be celebrated in Rockford on July 1-2.
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