Delores Brumfield’s height is
5ft 6in (1.68 m)
The men thought of a scrappy 13-year old girl who seemed to live at the school field in her neighborhood in Prichard. She played with the boys there during the day, and when the workers from the shipyards and paper mill came to play in the later afternoon, joined them as well.
The workers went to see Delores “Dolly” Brumfield’s mother and offered to drive Dolly to the tryouts. Dolly’s mother wasn’t having that, but ceded to her daughter’s pleas to be given a shot.
“She borrowed my grandmother’s car, and took me out of school one day and drove down to Pascagoula and I tried out,” said Dolly. “Max Carey, who was president of the league, said I was too young, but told me to come back the next year.”
That was little Dolly Brumfield’s introduction to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was immortalized in the 1991 movie, “A League of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie McDonnell.
Brumfield’s story really begins in 1942. America—the world—was in the midst of unparalleled upheaval. Major League baseball was far and away the country’s most popular sport, but some 500 major leaguers exchanged their baseball uniforms for service uniforms.
Chicago Cubs owner Philip Wrigley, fearing for the cancellation of the 1943 season, hit upon an idea to maintain interest in the sport: Have women play! And darn if he didn’t do it.
Every team in the league was located in a four state area around Chicago. Gas was rationed during the war and post-war years so the teams had to be near enough to one another to limit long trips, Brumfield said.
Fast forward to 1947: Though the war was over and major league ball resumed, the women’s league remained popular. The year Brumfield was deemed too young, another Mobile girl, Margaret “Margie” Holgerson, had tried out and made the league, as a member of the Rockford Peaches.
Holgerson was a pitcher and infielder. As a pitcher, she had a career record of 76-69 and an outstanding career ERA of 1.07. She was married in 1948 and played under her new name, Margie Silvestri, until her retirement from the league, in 1952. Silvestri died in Mobile, at 63.
In the spring of 1947, Holgerson met with Brumfield’s parents, and they agreed to let Dolly play in the league.“She became my chaperone, and we boarded a train to Miami, and then to Havana,” Dolly recalled. “That was Jackie Robinson’s first year, and because of segregation, the Brooklyn Dodgers held spring training in Cuba. When they finished, we followed them in.”
The living arrangements of the women’s league were likely unique in the annals of pro sports. The younger players—and there were many—had chaperones, and the players lived with fans.
“When I was with the Sound End Blue Sox, my landlord worked at Sears & Roebuck and his wife stayed home. He was an usher at the ballpark. My roommate was from Tampa and the two of us rented a bedroom in their home,” she recalled.
“We had a chaperone who was responsible for where we lived and who we lived with. It was a very controlled situation.”
In the girls league, the distances—between mound and plate, and the bases—were shorter. “The outfield was cut down some too, but there were not that many fences,” Brumfield said. ”It wasn’t like ball fields today and it was different in every city. In Grand Rapids, right field stopped at a factory wall.”
Brumfield played with three teams: the South Bend Blue Sox, the Kenosha Comets and, lastly, the Fort Wayne Daisies. She played every position but pitcher and catcher.
In 1952, she joined the Daisies and their coach, legendary major league slugger Jimmy Foxx. He was said to be the inspiration for Jimmy Dugan, the role played by Tom Hanks in, “A League of Their Own.”
The Hanks’ character talked a mile a minute. Brumfield recalls Fox somewhat differently, as a “great guy” who was “quite reserved, very down to business.”
She tells a story about Foxx directing her to second base. “I never played second base,” Brumfield told him.
To which Foxx replied, “That’s OK,” and off she went to second.
Brumfield’s best season was in 1950. In 108 games, she amassed 108 hits, scored 58 runs, drove in 37 runs, and stole 37 bases.
She retired in 1953 and the league, suffering from low attendance, folded the next year.
Though she barnstormed in the summers, Brumfield was able to go to high school at Murphy High in Mobile, then college. In 1954, she graduated from the Alabama College for Women—now the University of Montevallo. Later, she earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in physical education at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Brumfield coached softball at Henderson State University in Arkansas for 31 years. While there, she met and married her husband, Joe White.
In 1988, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown installed a permanent display called, “Women in Baseball,” to honor those who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball Association.
She has been inducted into the University of Montevallo and Henderson State halls of fame. In 2003, Dr. White was invited to the White House by President George W. Bush, a big baseball fan. She served as first base coach in one of the South Lawn tee ball games hosted by the president.
Dolly Brumfield White