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Moore, Mary Frances - Pitched Professionally

By Helen Ofield

Girl With 'Golden Arm' Pitched Professionally 

Mary Frances Moore was a small, plump child, but she could throw a baseball like few other kids.

When she graduated from eighth grade at Lemon Grove [CA] Grammar School in 1936, her peers, writing in the school annual, offered this summation:

“MARY MOORE. Baseball captain par excellence and all other athletics. Hobby: sports. Ambition: managing a horse ranch. Mary Moore wills to a lucky girl her pitching ability.”

Moore's “golden arm,” as the yearbook called it, eventually took her to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, where she played for the Rockford Peaches, the team made famous by the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own.”

No longer plump, but tall and rangy, she pitched as a reliever in 1948. The Peaches that year were the playoff champions.

The Rockford (Ill.) Peaches played from 1943 to 1954 against such teams as the Racine Belles, Milwaukee Chicks, Springfield Sallies, Minneapolis Millerettes and Fort Wayne Daisies.

Moore's athletic talent became apparent early. The yearbook writers at Lemon Grove Grammar School forecast that in 20 years she would journey to Finland with her future U.S. ambassador husband to “astound the natives by riding reindeer bareback.”

The reindeer joke was a tribute to Moore's equestrian ability, born of a childhood spent riding mules and horses on her parents' farm, a big spread on a hill in Lemon Grove's El Prado neighborhood.

Moore, a Grossmont High graduate, competed in horse shows throughout California and the Southwest, frequently taking first place. During the 1940s and '50s, she competed in the famous horse shows sponsored by St. John of the Cross Catholic Church in Lemon Grove.

Her dad, Tom Moore, hailed from County Kerry, Ireland, and his wife, Annie Kavanaugh, from an Irish family in Providence, R.I.

Tom Moore worked his way through the silver mines of Colorado and the Southwest, ultimately landing in Lemon Grove in 1912 to become a poultryman and farmer. He and his wife raised six children, among them Thomas Jr. and Arthur, decorated World War II heroes. Mary was the youngest.

She later married George Gagnon, and they ran a pinto pony ranch at Romoland in Riverside County. During that period, she tried out for the Rockford Peaches in Pasadena.

After playing for the Peaches, she returned to the ranch, but kidney disease cut her life short. She died July 12, 1962, at age 40.

Contributed by: Jennifer Boyd
Submitted on: 03/31/2017
Copyright: San Diego Union Tribune, June 19, 2008.

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