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A game of their own: Residents celebrate the 100th anniversary of Horlick Field

A game of their own: Residents celebrate the 100th anniversary of Horlick Field

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RACINE — Sister Toni Palermo, nearing age 90, knows baseball and is herself, with her name in the Baseball Hall of Fame, history.

As she stood near first base, it was clear she knew she wasn’t in church. She coached both female teams in an exhibition softball game and she brought her knowledge of the game as a former player in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Palermo yelled to batters “put your tush into it” and encouraged base runners to “go like crazy.”

When Walden Middle School student Madi Kaprelian struck out swinging at high pitches, Palermo called her over to give her a few tips.

“When you’re up to bat, you’re kind of going after the high ones,” Palermo said. “You have an excellent swing. Have a little patience and let (the pitches) be a little lower and then go for it.”

In other words: Lay off the high ones.

In the 100-year existence of Horlick Field, most who played there were men or boys, but the 100th anniversary celebration on Saturday, the field belonged to the women and girls.

From 1943 to 1950, Horlick Field was the site of AAGPBL games and home of that league’s Racine Belles.

Although Palermo never played at Horlick Field during her time in the league — she played for the Chicago Colleens and the Springfield Sallies from 1949-50 —she travelled from Madison to celebrate the anniversary with women from around the area.

“I didn’t play for the Racine Belles or (Kenosha) Comets, but I came to honor the history of this field,” Palermo said.

‘So inspirational’

Sue Corona Lynch, who graduated from Horlick High School in 1970, brought her children and grandchildren up from Chicago to experience the “nostalgia of Mom and Grandma being here, remembering the good times growing up.”

“We’ve come here many times for football games over the years,” Lynch said of Horlick Field. “It’s a great historical remembrance of what we have here in this city as part of our history.”

Lynch was present in the stands with a sign honoring her late father, Mike, who was a batboy for the Belles in 1943.

“When the war was going on the men were fighting for our freedom, and yet the tradition of baseball continued on through the leagues of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League,” Lynch said. “I’m just thrilled to be here today to help celebrate in honor of my mom and dad who for years have been part of this association.”

Rebecca Tulloch, member of the group A League of Our Own, helped organize the game.

Tulloch, who wore the uniform of the Rockford Peaches, a team immortalized in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own” starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Lori Petty and Madonna, said her group had been trying to organize a game at Horlick Field for years.

“We’ve been trying to play at original sites since we started the league 10 years ago,” Tulloch said. “It’s incredibly exciting. I know the gatehouse is original and part of the wall is original and we’re batting right near where home plate originally was, and we’re really thrilled to be here.”

Kristen Kaprelian, who played in the exhibition game with her daughter Madie, was in awe of being coached by Palermo.

“It was so inspirational,” Kristen said of Palermo’s coaching. “As a youth coach for softball, it was amazing. I hate to use the word ‘amazing’ too many times but, inspirational would probably be better. To have her coach our girls at first (base), the advice she gave at the end was perfect.”

Kristen said having Palermo at the game and giving instructions was better than what she thought it was going to be when she agreed to play.

“As a mom and as a young lady, you see a lot of inspirational women now and you think it’s a new trend, but really this was the generation that started it for all of us,” Kristen said. “Our city has so much to offer. Bringing the past and future together is really awesome to be a part of.”

“I came to honor the history of this field.” Sister Toni Palermo, former member of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League

“I came to honor the history of this field.”

Sister Toni Palermo, former member of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League

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