Here are two photos of pitcher Billie Harris with two of the Phoenix teams she played for: the Ramblers, whom she played with in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Sun City Saints, who took over where the Ramblers left off after that team folded in 1966. Harris was a phenomenal athlete and one of the first African Americans to achieve fame in fastpitch. Harris is in the far left of the back row in the Ramblers photo (top), with star catcher Dot Wilkinson standing in front of her. The Sun City Saints photo (Harris is third from the right, bottom row) is from the early ’70s, as is perhaps evidenced by the mustard yellow uniforms.
Here’s a publicity photo Bertha Ragan Tickey did with actor Vincent Price in the 1950s. She was one of softball’s most famous faces by that decade, and she often served as an ambassador for the sport.
This is from a 1944 profile of pitcher Betty Evans (later Betty Grayson) shortly after she led the then-new Portland Florists to a surprise victory at the national tournament. Sponsored by local florist Erv Lind, the Florists went on to become one of the best women’s fastpitch teams in the US. As the photos show, Evans and her teammates originally wore heavy, baggy pants, but they soon switched to shorts to match the other West Coast teams.
The NCAA Women’s College World Series is taking place in Oklahoma City this weekend. This image is from the program for the first NCAA women’s softball tournament, held in 1982. The tournament has gotten a lot bigger and more high-profile since then. Still, I suspect the early 1980s players would hold their own against the players of today. They were talented and seriously committed to their sport.
Meet the Ohse Meats from Topeka, Kansas. The team was sponsored by a local meat supplier, as its name suggests, and was a regular fixture at the national women’s softball tournament during the 1960s. The Meats never won a national title–they were more of a regional powerhouse–but they featured several strong players, including Billie Moore (pictured back row, far right, next to her dad, and the team’s coach, Bill Moore), who went on to become a celebrated women’s basketball coach at the college and Olympic level. And I think it’s fair to say they had one of the best team names.
Here’s a photo of pitcher Nina “Tiger” Korgan with some of her Jax Maids teammates from a 1942 article in the Times-Picayune Sunday magazine. Korgan was new to the New Orleans team that year, having spent the 1941 season with the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Higgins Midgets. Her pitching, combined with the hitting talents of the Savona sisters, made the Jax nearly unstoppable during the 1940s and netted them five national titles.
This is one of my favorites. It’s a 1954 Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic featuring Orange Lionettes pitcher Bertha Ragan after she passed the 100 no-hitter mark. Later that fall, she was featured on the “You Bet Your Life” game show, hosted by Groucho Marx.