Penny Marshall Market kicks off in downtown Rockford

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- After many months of planning, the time has finally come for "A League of Their Own" director Penny Marshall to get a proper celebration of life. Her daugher, Tracy Reiner, who played Betty "Spaghetti" in the film was the guest of honor at the kick-off market, speaking highly of Rockford and her mother.

Reiner says, "Rockford has been amazing. She told the story, of the truth that already was, of these women playing and being miraculous. The world reacted to that and she reminded them of something that was already true."

Marshall passed away in December at the age of 75. Her family, actresses from the film and former Peaches themselves all came out to this special one-of-a-kind event.

Shirley Burkovich, who played for the Rockford Peaches between 1949 and 1951 says Penny Marshall is the reason why the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is known not just in the Midwest, but throughout the country and the world.

She says, "If it weren't for Penny Marshall and the movie, you wouldn't be standing here talking to me and I wouldn't be standing here talking to you. So we have so much debt and gratitude to pay to Penny Marshall."

The weekend-long celebration not only celebrates Marshall's life, but also comes with a goal to raise money for the future museum centered around women's baseball. The $7.4 million project would be built across from Beyer Stadium, where the Peaches played from 1943 to 1954.

Burkovich says, "The whole city of Rockford has been supportive but we've had so many donors that have stepped forward. You know we're getting to an age where we'd certainly like to see this happen in our lifetime." The first design for the outdoor museum at Beyer Stadium is scheduled to be unveiled Saturday, September 14.

Ball players and actresses alike all agree that Marshall would be ecstatic to see this museum project move forward. Megan Cavanaugh, who portrayed Marla Hooch in the film, continues to be an advocate for the museum and says Marshall paved the way for women's baseball.

Cavanaugh says, "The honoring of Penny and Tracy is really important to me because Penny did open the door for everybody to step through and play ball."

Tracy Reiner still is in disbelief at how Rockford is grateful for her family and the film. She says, "It's amazing. I'm really touched. This is more than anybody is doing and it's very special. 27 years later and you guys embrace us and bring us here like superstars. It's really beautiful."

There are more events honoring Penny Marshall's life, the Rockford Peaches, and the museum project this weekend. They are as follows:

1. Penny Marshall Celebration and Unveiling: Saturday, September 14 from noon to 2 p.m. at the IWBC property across from Beyer Stadium

Penny Marhsall’s daughter and granddaughters will unveil IWBC’s first outdoor museum design which will also be a tribute to Penny Marshall. The event is free and open to the public.

2. Play Ball MLB Comes to Rockford: Sunday, September 15 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at Beyer Stadium

Major League Baseball, USA Baseball, USA Softball and IWBC will host a free event with kids’ baseball games. Boys and girls ages 4 to 13 can play baseball and take home a free shirt, wristband, bat and ball.

3. Starfires Home Run Derby: Sunday, September 15 at noon at Beyer Stadium

Proceeds for this event benefit the Rockford Starfires, Rockford’s women’s baseball team.