Maybelle Blair, a 96-year-old out lesbian former baseball player, received the inaugural Amazin’ Mets Foundation legacy award ahead of the team’s Sept. 16 matchup against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field.
In a video posted by the Mets, Blair — who was a pitcher with the Peoria Redwings in 1948 — gushed with pride about her love for baseball and vividly recalled her playing days with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a women’s league that gained prominence through the film “A League of Their Own” and a subsequent television reboot of the same name that debuted last year.
Blair served as a consultant for the reboot, according to Major League Baseball, and that experience was particularly memorable: Then 95, Blair came out as gay for the first time during the Tribeca premiere of the series.
The Mets’ award came with a $5,000 donation to Athlete Ally, an organization fighting for LGBTQ inclusion in sports, made in Blair’s name.
At Citi Field, Blair reflected on her experience working on “A League of Their Own,” saying she “told them the true story of what happens in our league” — that there were gay players and there continues to be players.
“People are hiding [who are] so afraid that they will be disowned,” Blair said. “So I said, ‘Maybelle, if you can help just a few people, why don’t you come out while you have the opportunity…'”
She added, “So I came out and… you can’t imagine how I felt. I went home and my family all came up to me and told me, ‘Aunt Maybelle, it’s not how your sexual life is, it’s who you are. We love you deeply, so don’t ever worry about that.’ And that was the biggest, happiest moment of my life.”
Blair also said young people have reached out to her to convey that her coming out story allowed their families to understand them better.
“[My coming out] has opened the door, I think, even wider for more people to come out because they do know I’m gay,” Blair said. “People will just realize that everybody has a heart and they have a feeling and baseball brings that out in you.”