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Sport pioneer was ' like one of the boys ' family recalls You could say former professional women's baseball player June Rose Schofield was always in a league of her own. " She was always fierceley independent," said nephew Steve Coutts, 42, of his aunt, a pioneer in women's sports. " If she wanted your opinion, she'd give it to you," he added with a chuckle.

Ms Schofield,76, died June 24 of congestive heart failure in Santa Monica, California, where she lived for most of her life following her baseball career. She always " looked back fondly " on her two years playing ball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, said Coutts.

The 1992 movie, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, was loosely based on the girls' baseball league, which was active from 1943 to 1954 and came into being when World War II recruiting caused a shortage of male ball players. Coutt's Dad, Jack, 77, said Ms Schofield like the movie but recalled her saying " they jazzed it up." In real life, Ms Schofield's dedication to sports and athletic abilities were well known in the Parkdale area of Toronto where she grew up, said Jack Coutts. He lived in the same area and hung out with Ms Schofield, her sister Peggy, who he later married and who died about 14 years ago, and other boys and girls.

" We were the Parkdale gang," he said. " All the kids used to play sports in a local park. June had girlfriends, but she was really more comfortable in the company of men. She didn't like small talk. She had a really ' hearty ' laugh -- you always knew when June was around." Ms Schofield was like " one of the boys," said Coutts and much admired for her athletic abilities. " She was more athletic than most men and she was very confident." She also garnered a lot of respect from " the Parkdale boys," said Coutts. " She was the only girl allowed into the ( local Parkdale ) pool hall ." But one of her favourite sports as a teen was baseball. " She had an arm on her you wouldn't believe," recalled Coutts. " Her favourite position was third base -- the hot corner." When she was 18 or 19 she played third base with a Sunnyside girls' team called the Sunday Morning Class.

Ms Schofield headed south to Illinois and was hired to play for the Springfield Sallies of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League at age 22. She played one year there and another year for the Peoria Redwings and the Muskegon Lassies. In 1999, Ms Schofield was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario, along with 63 other wome who played in the women's league. Her lifetime batting average was .232 and she played a total of 234 games, according to the hall of fame's curator Carl McCoomb. The first season with the Springfield Sallies, Ms Schofield hit two home runs, he said.

His aunt's career as a professional ball player was something nephew Steve Coutts was always very proud of. He was thrilled when, during one visit to Toronto, his aunt came to watch him play baseball. " Later, she ribbed me because I struck out," he recalled with a chuckle. Ms Schofield was married twice but had no children. She is survived by a niece, Linda, 44, and nephews, John, 46, and Steve, and brother-in-law Jack Coutts.

Valerie Hauch - THE TORONTO STAR - Friday, 12 July 2002


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