She was a fan favourite in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), was the inspiration for a character in A League of Their Own, and got her start playing ball on the diamonds at Regina’s Central Park.
Mary ‘Bonnie’ Baker played baseball in the Regina Minor Girl’s League in her youth. At 24, she was working as a clerk at the Army and Navy (A&N) store, and catching for the A&N Bombers.
Eventually she was spotted by a scout, and was playing in the AAGPBL, becoming one of the best-known players in the league.
On Saturday a commemorative garden and art mural were unveiled at Bonnie’s old stomping ground – Central Park.
“It’s a legacy for all women … it’s a victory, it’s a home run,” said Jim McFaul, Baker’s nephew.
The funding for this project comes from the federal government, and marks a milestone for the Pan American Games – the debut of women’s baseball.
“Oh that’s that’s her dream, that’s her legacy,” said McFaul. He noted that softball has been a part of the Pan Am games for years, but it’s not quite the same.
“This is baseball, this is hardball. This is the sport that tough people play, and the women are as tough as anybody else … can’t hold a candle to them,” said McFaul.
Baker never boasted or bragged about her time playing professional baseball, but her kids, nieces and nephews all found out about her legacy one way or another.
McFaul remembers going to a Twins and Yankees game in Minneapolis when he was a just a boy. The announcer at the stadium welcomed ‘Pretty Bonnie Baker’ to the stadium, as they were greeted with applause. Later that night in their hotel room, McFaul’s aunt Bonnie asked if he’d like to talk to Yogi Berra, as Berra had called to speak to her. It was right around then that an awestruck Jim realized how enigmatic and renowned his aunt was.
“For women’s sports sometimes it doesn’t always get the prominence or attention it deserves,” said MP Andrew Scheer.
“So by building these types of monuments, by reconnecting the current generation with people who blazed a trail earlier it will inspire athletes,” said Scheer.
Baker was also Canada’s first female sportscaster with CKRM, from 1964-1965.
With a new generation of women poised for greater representation in the world, including the world of sports, Baker’s great granddaughter Zoe Mihalicz is following her footsteps.
“It’s almost surreal knowing that, that’s a family member. That, that’s in my genes,” said Mihalicz, who’s been playing ball since she was four years old, and now plans to play college ball in the United States.