It’s a boiling hot summer day in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and young girls are out in the dirt playing softball. Ballparks are an iconic way to spend a summer afternoon. As I look over, I notice a sign stating that I was at the Delores Brumfield White softball field at Henderson State University. What I didn’t realize at that moment was how influential this ballpark’s namesake was to women and this sport.
Born in 1932, Delores Brumfield would grow up in south Alabama where she would spend her time playing baseball in the shipyards of the Mobile suburbs. Learning lessons from the guys in the local league, this started a lifelong fascination with the game.
In the 1940s, with World War II requiring more and more men to join in service, women were being called into duty in the workforce at home. Eventually, baseball would feel the impact with some minor league teams disbanding. Mr. Philip Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, spearheaded the way for what would become the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. An attempt to bring good, old-fashioned entertainment back into the ballparks.
The League opened play in 1943. By the spring of 1946, Delores, who was only 13 years old, heard of local tryouts for the League and decided to attend. When talking with League president Max Carey, he deemed her too young and suggested she go home and continue working on her skills. The following spring, Mr. Carey contacted Brumfield and invited her to spring training.
While in the League, Delores gained the nickname “Dolly.” She spent her career as a utility player from 1947- 1953, mainly at first, second, and third bases. Brumfield once said that “A League of their Own,” the Penny Marshall movie purporting to chronicle life in the AAGPBL, accurately portrayed the scenes of spring training. And that not much else in the movie actually fit life in the league.
Brumfield’s career in the AAGPBL
Photo credit Larry Fritsch Cards, used with permission.
Beginning in 1947, she would spend her summers playing ball in the Midwestern towns that hosted League teams. Brumfield joined the South Bend Blue Sox during her rookie season. Her year wasn’t spectacular, but she showed much improvement with her batting. By the time she returned to play in 1948, the Blue Sox had traded her to the Kenosha Comets where her improvements continued.
In 1950, Brumfield and the Comets were hitting a stride. Brumfield had one of her best years hitting a career high in batting including her first career home-run. The Comets went on to finish 3rd in the ten-team League, falling short to the Rockford Peaches. She continued with the Comets through the next season, though it wasn’t as successful for Brumfield or the team.
Brumfield finished out her career with the Fort Wayne Daisies. They won the League championship in 1952 beating out the South Bend Blue Sox. She suffered an injury to her ankle during the playoffs which kept her from finishing out the season. Her last year of play was the 1953 season in which the Blue Sox repeated the League championship.
As Brumfield spent her summers on the ballfield, she continued to spend fall and winter at college. She went on to earn her degree in Alabama and then a master’s and a doctorate in Mississippi. By 1963, she found her way to Arkadelphia to work at Henderson State University. She was fundamental in developing women’s sports at the school. Today her name rests on a sign outside of the women’s softball field, a program in which she helped found.
Delores Brumfield White’s influence in baseball and softball never ended with the AAGPBL, it only began. She went on to do many great things in the sports world and for sports in Arkansas. She can be found, along with the other amazing women, immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. An era almost forgotten has now been forever remembered.