Actor and director Penny Marshall died yesterday at 75.
Among Marshall’s most notable accomplishments is her 1992 film A League of Their Own, which tells the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball league created by chewing gum tycoon Philip K. Wrigley to maintain baseball as a public diversion.
“If it had not been for Penny Marshall, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League would still be unknown,” a surviving member of the league told USA Today.
Lebanon’s Jaynne Bittner played a role in that story, and even appeared in the film as an extra (the movie’s main flashback depicts a period a couple years before Bittner joined the league).
Bittner was the daughter of M. Frank Bittner and Helen Berrier Bittner.
The Lebanon Daily News reported on a few of Bittner’s minor athletic accomplishments before she graduated from Lebanon High School in 1944, but the paper only really took notice in 1949 by which point she had made a name for herself in the league.
Bittner reported to Havana, Cuba for spring training in 1947 with the South Bend Blue Soxs. She was later transferred to the Muskegon Lassies (1948), the Grand Rapids Chicks (1949-1952), the Fort Wayne Daisies (1952-1953), and then back to Grand Rapids (1954).
Her sister would recall to the News Journal in 1992 that Bittner had been selected as one of two from 100 in tryouts for the league, and that she got paid $125 per game (with some players getting paid more). She also confirmed that Jaynne had “seen the movie at least six times and admits it’s pretty close to the real thing as it happened.” The article also notes that Bittner apparently “taught Madonna how to catch and throw.”
In 1980 Bittner was the first woman inducted to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
In her later life, Bittner would design a commemorative ring for alumni of the league.
Bittner passed away in Ann Arbor, Michigan on April 23, 2017.