As a kid growing up outside of Philadelphia, Molly Ephraim was a “Phillies girl.” Her father watched the baseball team on TV and her grandfather took her to their games, where she cheered for mullet-playing first baseman John Kruk.
“I was very much in love with John Kruk in my youth,” Ephraim told The Post. “Not my type now, but I loved him.”
Still, despite her enthusiasm for her home side, Ephraim didn’t care much for the sport itself.
“I couldn’t tell you what was really going on,” admitted the 36-year-old actress. “I loved the hot dogs more.”
So Ephraim really had to get on the plate for her role in the upcoming Amazon series, “A League of Their Own,” a spin-off of the popular 1992 film about a World War II women’s professional baseball league. Ephraim plays Maybelle TNZT, a fiery, happy blonde who plays centerfield for the fictional Rockford Peaches and is named after real-life legend Maybelle Blair.
Ephraim, a natural brunette, had the pleasure of getting to know the feisty Blair, who appears in the pilot. She asked the 95-year-old if she had any tips for getting her into the zone or any superstitions she had around the game?
Blair’s answer: “Hot dogs, hot dogs, hot dogs.”
“I thought, ‘This girl knows how to live,’ said Ephraim. ‘We should all be 95 years old and those cheeky and just shooting hot dogs. What an absolute dream.”
Maybelle isn’t the star player, but Ephraim still had to learn to hit bases, catch, throw and run like a pro. Ephraim focused on perfecting Maybelle’s hitting style.
“I was really practicing my swing, trying to make it really cheeky, wiggle it a little bit,” she said.
But by the time she had to go on camera—due to production delays—Ephraim was nearly eight months pregnant.
“I was gigantic,” said Ephraim. “I think I’ve done it three times, and I was like, ‘Whew, okay, and we’re done.'” Still, one of those takes was winning enough to make the second episode. “I felt very proud that I got that in.”
The actress is used to taking big swings. She moved to New York City from Bucks County, Penn., at age 15 to make her Broadway debut. She put her acting career on hold to study religion at Princeton. And she filmed not one but two TV series – “League” and Peacock’s “Angelyne” – while pregnant with her first child,
“The only difference with ‘Angelyne’ was that I get to play a pregnant woman in one of the scenes,” she said. “I come from the theater and I like to act with my whole body… It was definitely a challenge to say, ‘Oh no, I can only get shot from here, or I have to find a corner [where the bump doesn’t show].”
Ephraim was born in 1986 in Philly, and moved to nearby Doylestown, Penn. Her parents owned a pet store, and she and her brother kept an assortment of animals — birds, dogs, a snapping turtle, amphibious water dogs — and went to 4-H shows. “Little town things,” she said.
She started acting through dance and eventually took musical theater classes. For her 10th birthday, Ephraim asked her parents for an agent.
“They said, ‘Oh no, this is bad, this is very bad,'” she recalls. “They were very supportive, but that too is terrifying.”
Ephraim began doing community theater at the Bucks County Playhouse and played Bielke, aka Daughter No. 5, in “Fiddler on the Roof.” The actor who played Tevye, Eddie Mecca, actually had a small role in the original “A League of Their Own”, as Madonna’s swing dance partner. “We were very impressed,” Ephraim said. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, this guy who plays our father was dancing with Madonna!'”
When she was 15, the actress and her mother temporarily moved into a relative’s free studio in Manhattan so that Ephraim could make her Broadway debut as Little Red Riding Hood in a 2002 production of “Into the Woods.”
“It was very soon after September 11 and there was a sense of unease,” Ephraim said. “I remember getting into a subway car, and my mom was still on the platform, and we parted ways. I’ve never been away [from home]”I was in this town, and we didn’t have cell phones.” She was petrified. “But then she found me at the next station and all was well.”
It was: Two years later, she returned to the Great White Way in “Fiddler on the Roof”, even spending a few nights alone in Manhattan. After earning a religion degree from Princeton, she landed straight on the Tim Allen sitcom “Last Man Standing.”
In early 2021, Ephraim and her now husband, Evan, who works at a software company, decided to try to have a baby. “I think for a lot of people the pandemic changed the kind of timing of things and the trajectory of life events they thought they were doing,” she said. “And for us it was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to have a kid.'”
She had already shot the pilot for “A League of Their Own” and had a few months off before the series was due to start filming in Los Angeles in early May: “I didn’t want to be too big [when filming]but I also usually wanted to be past my first trimester in case I got sick.
Ephraim timed it perfectly, but then production was moved to late July in Pittsburgh, far from her LA home. “That’s how I ended up with four bags in front of my stomach for most of the shoot!
“They gave me more and more bags, and more and more jackets and sweaters and knitting supplies,” recalls Ephraim. It’s also why her character is so often seen in the dugout cleaning her glove. “Luckily they didn’t have to adjust my placement in the team too much. And I had some great stunts and body doubles.”
Despite all the time on the couch, she really felt like a player. “We kind of became teammates on and off the show,” she said of her co-stars, adding that they took a river cruise and attended a Pirates-Phillies game with Jacobson and fellow Philly Native cast-mate Melanie. Field. “We’ve skimmed them off,” Ephraim boasted. “We were a lewd bunch of Philly girls up there just screaming and all those pirates [fans] looking back at us angrily.”
In September, Ephraim – then about seven months pregnant – and Evan decided to marry. Her co-stars gave her a surprise bridal shower before heading to her parents’ beach house for the ceremony. “We called the drive back to western Pennsylvania—dinner at a resting Subway—our ‘honeymoon,'” she recalled. She continued filming in Pittsburgh until her doctor ordered her back to LA before the baby was born.
“I didn’t finish all the shots I planned to, but I was also like, ‘We have to go! I don’t want a baby in the air!’” she said. Her daughter, Zia, was born on December 1.
“I was so lucky to work during pregnancy and so much work during pregnancy, so it was also nice to just have some time with my child,” she said. Ephraim has also completed Season 2 of HBO’s gritty Perry Mason reboot and is hoping for another season of “League” in the meantime.
“I don’t know when, where, how that would happen, but I think we’re all rooting for that,” she said. “I think people will really like it. You know, you get all the fans that are sort of a grandfather to the original movie, but it definitely appeals to a newer audience.
Photos: Joe Schmelzer; Stylist: Gaelle Paul/A-frame; Hair: Ericka Verrett/A-frame; Makeup: Loren Canby/A-frame; Location: Dream Hollywood, 6417 Selma Avenue