In a League of Her Own:
Former Catcher Terry Donahue Gets “Back in
It’s not in Terry Donahue’s nature to let anything hold her back from what she loves. Her love of baseball led her to a world-renowned career as a catcher for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), the first professional women’s baseball league in the 1940s, which made pop-culture history with the Hollywood blockbuster A League of Their Own. So when back pain from an old injury began to keep her from the athletic lifestyle she loved, she turned to Marianjoy.
In 2009, Terry’s car was struck and totaled by another car. Initially, she felt fine and even walked away from the accident. However, a few years later, she began to feel an increasing amount of back pain. An MRI revealed damage in three different sections of her back, with nerves that were squeezed together. She had three cortisone injections and two months of therapy, but they didn’t solve the problem. Eventually, the pain became so debilitating that she couldn’t walk. “I’ve been so healthy all my life, so living with pain it didn’t go well with me,” Terry recalls. Her doctor said that surgery was the only option. In October 2012, Terry had the three-hour operation. The surgery went well, but she needed physical therapy to strengthen her muscles afterwards. Terry’s doctor suggested she come to Marianjoy for her post-operation rehabilitation. “It was definitely the right decision—Marianjoy was wonderful,” Terry reflects. Her therapists say that she always pushed herself to improve as much as possible.
Terry’s hard-worker mentality began early in life. Born in Saskatchewan, Canada, to “sports-minded parents” (as she calls them), baseball was a natural choice for her. She joined a softball league, the Moose Jaw Royals, who won the Western Canadian Championship in 1945. She was approached by a scout of the All-American Baseball League soon after, and she made the league in 1946, joining the Peoria Redwings. “When we were playing in the 1940s, we had no idea we were making women’s history,” Terry says. Their league was nicknamed “Players in Pigtails,” and they had to undergo lots of physical training, as well as etiquette training to adhere to codes portraying the girls’ femininity, including playing in skirts and wearing lipstick at all times.
Terry has learned throughout her life that the best things require perseverance. Now, post-recovery, Terry hasn’t let her injury keep her down, and she’s living back at home. Her goal is to resume her frequent activities of ice-skating, golf, and hockey. “I always like to stay in condition,” she says with a smile. “Every day, I’m getting better and better.” With Terry’s continued recovery, she exemplifies that philosophy more than ever. She’s continuing outpatient therapy three times a week, and she’s determined to return to the active lifestyle she loves. Terry’s advice for anyone in a similar situation: “Head to Marianjoy! I think it’s a great place, I really do. I got superb treatment there.”