Janine Rayford
October 08, 2012 12:00 PM

MARIA PEPE, 52

Hoboken, N.J.

Playing street ball in the neighborhood, Maria Pepe had one dream: “I wanted,” she says, “to be a Yankee.” Instead, at age 11, she got tossed from her spot as starting pitcher on the Hoboken Young Democrats Little League team for being a girl. Turning in her uniform, “I cried,” Pepe says. “I knew it was the end.” In fact, it was just the beginning: She agreed to let the National Organization for Women take her case to the state high court, culminating with a ’73 ruling opening the league to girls. It was too late for Pepe, who instead played softball in high school and college, but since then more than 5 million girls have played Little League softball. Says Pepe, an assistant city comptroller honored as a trailblazer by the PBS-AOL MAKERS initiative (www.makers.com): “I’m blessed to see girls playing and having fun. It’s all I really wanted.”

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