Penny Marshall was in league of her own as sports fan and memorabilia collector

Television legend Penny Marshall directed one of the most popular baseball movies of all time, but many of her fans might not realize exactly how much Marshall loved sports.

Marshall, the actress and filmmaker who died Monday night in California at age 75, was a lifelong sports fan and avid collector of sports memorabilia, according to reports.

Born in the Bronx, N.Y., Marshall was the trailblazing director of the hit 1992 comedy “A League of Their Own,” about the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

“If it had not been for Penny Marshall, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League would still be unknown,” Shirley Burkovich, one of 79 surviving members of the league, told USA Today Sports. “It would have been known only to those who lived in that area at that time.”

“If it had not been for Penny Marshall, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League would still be unknown. It would have been known only to those who lived in that area at that time.”

— Shirley Burkovich, one of 79 surviving members of the AAGPBL

But long before that, she fell in love with the Yankees as a child, following the footsteps of her grandfather and brother, the New York Daily News reported.

In elementary and middle school, Marshall and her friends skipped school and took the train to the stadium, she previously said, according to the paper.

“Yankee Stadium was the only thing we had in the Bronx. It was an institution. They were so winning and they had all these legendary players — Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mantle and Maris — and to have them in the Bronx, which is not the fashion capital of the world, I think is pretty cool,” Marshall wrote in the New York Times in 2006.

“Yankee Stadium was the only thing we had in the Bronx. It was an institution. They were so winning and they had all these legendary players — Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mantle and Maris — and to have them in the Bronx, which is not the fashion capital of the world, I think is pretty cool.”

— Penny Marshall, writing in 2006

Marshall also had a sports connection in one of her television roles, playing Myra Turner, secretary to sportswriter Oscar Madison, on the TV series “The Odd Couple.”

Over the years, Marshall amassed a collection of historic and valuable baseball items, according to Sports Collectors Daily. Other items included modern-era NBA jerseys, with a Michael Jordan jersey she owned selling for more than $52,000, the report said.

She owned a 1930s mutoscope machine with visuals of New York Giant’s Bobby Thomson’s 1951 pennant-winning home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers, according to the publication.

Marshall also accumulated eclectic items including rare vintage baseball photos she purchased on a trip to Cuba in 2001, the report said.

Major League Baseball paid tribute to her saying in a tweet, “We join the baseball community in mourning the passing of Penny Marshall, director of ‘A League of Their Own.”

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, who is now a part owner of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, was among numerous sports figures who paid respects to Marshall.

“My heart goes out to the friends and family of Penny Marshall, a true champion for good. She brought the world joy and laughter, and was a true force behind the camera as a producer and director. And Penny loved sports! May she RIP,” King tweeted.

Basketball stars Isaiah Thomas and Vince Carter also expressed their affection for Marshall.

“Rest In Peace #PennyMarshall your #love #kindness and #generosity will be missed by my family and I,” Thomas said.

“RiP to my friend the great Penny Marshall. You will be missed!!!” Carter wrote.

Also sharing messages on Twitter were Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, who starred in “A League of Their Own.”

“I’m terribly sad to hear the news about Penny passing. My heart goes out to Tracy Reiner and her family. Penny brought so much joy to so many and will be sorely missed. I will be forever grateful to her for letting me be a part of A League of Their Own,” Davis said.

“Goodbye, Penny. Man, did we laugh a lot! Wish we still could. Love you. Hanx,” Hanks said.

And the players of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League remembered Marshall as well:

“The #AAGPBL Players Association are deeply saddened by the passing of #ALeagueofTheirOwn director, Penny Marshall. The players are truly grateful for her & this film. Without it, the AAGPBL would still be “the best kept secret in baseball.” Thank you & we love you. God bless,” they wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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