Maxine Simmons greets the crowd at Hadlock Field after throwing out the first pitch before a Portland Sea Dogs game in July 2017. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

When Maxine Drinkwater Simmons was invited to play in a women’s softball league in Rockland years ago, she hesitated.

“I wasn’t sure they would let me play, because I had been a professional,” the Camden native said during a 2017 interview with the Portland Press Herald.

Maxine Drinkwater Simmons played second base for the South Bend Blue Sox in 1954. Courtesy of Maxine Simmons in 2017

Simmons, who died at a Rockland nursing facility on Feb. 11 at age 87, indeed played professionally, but it was baseball and not softball.

As a high school senior, she flew with her mother to Michigan (forgoing a class trip to Washington, D.C.) to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Of the 60 young women trying out, she was among 30 who made it.

The South Bend (Indiana) Blue Sox made Simmons their first draft pick in spring 1954 and she played second base (mostly), appearing in 45 games, batting .147 and leading the league in fielding percentage for those who played second base, at .972. She made only one error that season. The team paid Simmons a monthly salary of $60 along with a stipend of $115 to cover living expenses.

The Portland Sea Dogs invited Simmons to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before a 2017 game that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the film “A League of Their Own,” inspired by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The movie starred Geena Davis, Madonna and Tom Hanks. Female ushers at the game wore the skirt uniforms similar to those from the movie.


Simmons said they got it right.

“We did have to wear dresses and skirts,” she said back in 2017. “All we had was shorts under our little dress, and stockings up to your knees. You paid for it when you slid.”

Simmons grew up playing baseball at the high school field in Camden with her older brothers and a bunch of neighborhood kids. That paid off when Camden High started a softball team in her junior year and she batted over .700 in 1953.

Maxine Simmons holds a contract from the South Bend Blue Sox. Photo by Glenn Jordan/Staff Writer

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which started in 1943, folded at the end of the 1954 season. Simmons returned to Maine and coached basketball at Camden High. She played softball in Rockland, got married and had a son. The family lived in Newport, where she worked at a community center. But after her husband died in 1989, Simmons returned to Camden to care for her mother, who lived until she was 98.

In 2005, Simmons was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. Her nephew, Todd Drinkwater of Standish, gave the induction speech.

“I’ve never seen her so happy, in my lifetime, as that,” said Drinkwater, who teaches physical education at Bonny Eagle Middle School. “That was quite a proud moment in the family.”


The hall has since added another woman, Sally McNamara, who held an ownership stake in the Portland Sea Dogs with her brother, Bill Burke. They were inducted in 2023. Two other women are members of the hall: New York Mets co-founder Joan Payson, who had a home in Falmouth (enshrined in 1970), and Sister Mary Athanasia of Portland (1979).

Glenna Drinkwater is a sister-in-law of Simmons and the mother of Todd Drinkwater. They attended the game at Hadlock Field where Simmons was honored in 2017.

“She loved it,” Drinkwater said. “She was very proud that she made the (AAPBL) team when she was young.”

Todd Drinkwater remembered his aunt as someone who never wore makeup and often split wood. She and his father coached different Little League teams in Camden, and both wanted to beat the sibling’s ballclub.

“It was quite a battle,” he said.

The family will host calling hours Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the Long Funeral Home in Camden.

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