In 1992, a new movie featuring a well-known cast was released and instantly became a fan favorite. Most of us would recall “A League of Their Own,” a fictional account of the real life Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during the 1940s, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell and others.
World War II threatened to shut down Major League Baseball, so a women’s league was started. The women who played baseball back then were good athletes and, more importantly, were pioneers. The AAGPL lasted only 11 seasons but, as the movie’s title indicates, the female players were truly in a league of their own.
The term, “a league of their own,” isn’t limited to sports. It is often an analogy for individuals who have distinguished themselves in some way. Recently, the Wyoming Valley lost two business leaders and true philanthropists who were among a group of individuals who were also in “a league of their own.”
William B. Sordoni and Frank Henry were entrepreneurs, visionaries, and extraordinarily generous individuals. They were part of a generation of leaders who, especially after the demise of the coal industry and devastation of the Agnes Flood of 1972, improved our community by building strong businesses, employing workers, supporting important causes and genuinely caring about others.
At the risk of missing some key players, this “league” also had an all-star cast that included familiar names such as Conyngham, Pearsall, Bergman, Poggi, Jack McCarthy, Baltimore, Flack, Parente, Rifkin, Davidowitz, Joe Frank, Maslow, AJ Sordoni, Rosenn, Kluger, Passan, Faber, Bevevino, Orloski, Insalaco, Cohen, Tambur. No doubt there were others. (Please do not be upset if I unintentionally omitted someone.) In their own way, each did some heavy lifting, took risks, and made the Wyoming Valley a better place to live and raise a family because of their unique combination of business skills, generosity and dedication to the community.
It has been said that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. Bill Sordoni, Frank Henry and all the others in this league had, or still have, a life of purpose. Publicly and privately, they have all made a significant difference in our community and their impact will continue to be felt for generations to come.
I have been fortunate to have met most of those listed above. Many were or still are very supportive of the United Way and a number of other charities including hospitals, colleges and faith institutions because they all were deeply committed to the Wyoming Valley.
In the movie, “A League of their Own,” there is a well-known line said by Tom Hanks’ character, “There is no crying in baseball!” Fictional stories are one thing; real life is something else. For good reason, our community shed a few tears over the recent losses of Bill Sordoni and Frank Henry. While we remember and celebrate their accomplishments, we are saddened by their passing.
Yet, despite the loss we feel, I believe both Bill and Frank not only understood that their life’s work and charitable efforts would outlive them, that is what they hoped for. Both invested in and built for the future, our community’s future. Although times are different, it is now our turn do what we can to continue to make the Wyoming Valley a better place to live and raise a family. I have no doubt that Bill, Frank and all of these leaders would want this “league” to grow and last forever.
Rest in peace Bill and Frank. We will do our best.
Bill Jones is President and CEO at United Way of Wyoming Valley. He can be reached at 829-6711 ext. 1230.