Women's baseball pioneer dies at 88

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For many people, "A League of Their Own" was a movie giving a glimpse into the history of women's baseball.

But for Mary Nesbitt Wisham, of Hollister, it was real life.

"She thought it was pretty accurate," said her daughter, Mary Elizabeth Wisham. "They did have to go to the charm school, which she was not too thrilled about doing."

Mary Nesbitt died Sunday at the age of 88.

Mary Elizabeth said her mother liked the movie, which shares the lives of the founding members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Mary Nesbitt was one of them. She was the winning pitcher of the 1943 championship for the Racine Belles, like the character Kit in the movie.

"Mama was a pitcher, so she did relate closely to kit," Mary Elizabeth said.

Like the character, Mary Nesbitt was a standout. In addition to being the winning pitcher when the Belles won the championship, she played six successful years in the league before marrying, retiring and moving to Putnam County.

She and her husband raised their four children in Hollister, and she worked as a bus driver for 22 years.

Mary Elizabeth said her mother loved the community and it loved her back. County leaders even came together to name a field in her honor.

Mary Nesbitt kept playing baseball for local teams, even taking the field with her daughter.

"She led by example," her daughter said. "She went in there, and I know a lot of times the other teams would be, the coaches would be, 'Come on in, come on in.' She batted left-handed. I have seen her hit it over their heads so many times."

Teammates mother and daughter went on to win the fast-pitch softball state championship in 1975 and finished ninth in the national championship -- all while Mary Nesbitt was 65 years old.

"You got to remember my mother -- 65 was the new 30," Mary Elizabeth said.

Karen Hughes played with Mary Nesbitt, too, and called her a mentor. She said while Mary Nesbitt shared baseball techniques, her life techniques she passed along just by being herself -- patience, fairness, hard work and humility -- will be her true legacy.

"You couldn't be around this lady much without picking up some of her qualities and realizing I want to be like that," Hughes said. "She just carried herself well. She was humble, and you just couldn't help but love her."

Copyright 2013 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.