ARKADELPHIA Sitting in the stands of the Henderson State University softball field that carries her name, Dolores White — retired professor of health, physical education and recreation — reflected the good fortune that has always seemed to shine on her life.
“I have been very blessed,” she said. “Whenever I have come to what I call another Y in the road, I have been able to make a decision that has carried me on.”
The active and enthusiastic woman, who will turn 79 on May 26, has been given lots of opportunity lately to review her life decisions, following being named to yet another hall of fame.
White and five others who grew up around Mobile Bay in Alabama were inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame as the class of 2011. She joins a list of athletes from the city, including Henry Aaron and Satchel Paige.
White is also a member of the halls of fame at Henderson State in Arkadelphia and at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. She has been honored in ceremonies at the national Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for her career as a player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
“I was lucky to have been supported by my mother and grandmother, to have grown up in a good neighborhood that had a playground and a ballpark close by,” White said. “There was always someone there to encourage me and help me along.”
But playing professional baseball was only the first of White’s many accomplishments. She was also a pioneer in the establishment of women’s sports in Mississippi and Arkansas, and developed a degree program in recreation at Henderson State. White was president of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association for eight years. She also serves as a spokeswoman for baseball at special events like the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
With so many careers, White said, she separates them by what she was called when she was most involved in them.
“My name is Miriam Dolores Brumfield White,” she said. “At home in the family, I was Puddin. At school, I was Dolores because Miriam was also my mother’s name. In baseball, they called me Dolly, and so with the players, I will also be Dolly Brumfield. As a teacher and a coach, my colleagues shortened it further to Dee.”
Growing up in Prichard, Ala., she was always playing baseball with the boys. By the time she was 10-to-12 years old, she was playing on a baseball team with men who worked in the shipyards of Mobile. Those workers talked her into attending the tryouts for the girls baseball league in 1946 in nearby Pascagoula, Miss.
“My mother borrowed my grandmother’s car, and we went down there,” White said. “It was all going well until Max Carry, the president of the league, asked me how old I was. I said I was 13, and he said the league ‘didn’t take girls that young.’”
Yet the next winter, the league sent a player from the area to visit the family and talk to her parents about their daughter playing the next season.
White went to Havana, Cuba, for the league’s spring training in 1947. She was selected, quit school and became a professional baseball player.
Although quite at home on the ball field, the experience opened a whole new world for the 14-year-old rookie.
“It was an education for me, just being with the others on the team,” White said. “They were from Canada, Denver, Detroit, Tampa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. They were all so different and talked about places I had never seen.”
The players had chaperones and lived in the homes of fans, who treated the young women athletes like family, White said.
That first year, she played with the South Bend (Ind.) Blue Sox. In the offseason, she continued her education.
In 1952, White became a member of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Daises, and her manager was Jimmy Foxx, a slugger and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“He first asked me to play second base, but then the first-base player was injured and I was moved there, where I had always wanted to play,” White said. “I went 6 for 8 and stayed there all season.”
Even though White hit .332 in 1953, her best average ever, she ended her playing career at age 22.
“I was finished with school, and it was time to get a job,” White said.
She graduated from what was then called the Alabama College for Women in Montevallo, and she took a job in Shaw, Miss., because the city offered women’s sports.
“I was director of recreation for the city of Shaw,” White said. “I taught swimming in the morning, supervised the playground during the day and conducted youth activities in the evenings.”
Later she moved to a junior college in Wesson, Miss., and taught there for seven years.
One of those Y’s in the road White talks about came up when she was headed to Monroe, La., in search of a new job. She and a friend stopped in Arkadelphia for gas, and she noticed there were two colleges in town.
“I told my friend I liked the looks of the place,” White said, and she decided to call the state school.
“I went to the telephone booth at the gas station and called the president’s office and asked if they had a job,” she said. “The secretary said they did and invited me to come by and see the president. I was in shorts, and I threw a wrap-around skirt on and went to Henderson.
The university gave her paperwork for an application, and within a week, the president offered White a job teaching.
Again, there was no women’s sports program, but she and another teacher, Betty Wallace, started a tennis team and a swimming team. Soon they added volleyball, which Wallace coached, and White acted as a referee.
In the 1970s, White was involved in a square-dancing program for the faculty that became so popular, residents were invited to take part. One of the Clark County residents who joined the group was Joe Herman White, who had something in common with the teacher-coach. He had joined the Navy at the age of 15 in World War II and was retired from the Army.
“So, I became Dee White and a farmer’s wife,” she said.
Joe operated Gooseankles Acres near Gurdon, a farm that produced peaches, blackberries and blueberries, although she said that one year a late frost reduced their peach crop to one peach.
In the 1980s, the former players of the girls baseball league began to meet for reunions and formed an association. White, still called Dolly by the players, served as president of the organization for eight years.
The group’s fame grew when Penny Marshall made a popular movie about the league in 1992: A League of Their Own.
“Before the movie, when we talked about playing professional baseball, they always asked if we meant softball,” she said. “So most of us didn’t talk about it much.”
She retired from Henderson in 1994 but remained active with the school, promoting women’s sports and encouraging players.
Beth Jackson, softball coach at HSU, said White has always been a part of her teams.
“As soon as I was hired, she came by and welcomed me,” Jackson said. “Her background intimidated me at first, but now it is a good thing, keeping up the pride in the ball field and the program.”
Jackson said White had invited the HSU softball team to her home in Arkadelphia for dinner and talked to the players about the progress that has been made for women in sports.
“We talk a lot,” Jackson said. “I want to know about what it was like back then, and she wants to know about how the team is doing now.”
Meanwhile, near 80, White said she is still watching for the next Y in the road.
Print Headline: Former pro female ball player inducted into hall of fame