The third in a series on the 2022 class of inductees for the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held April 8 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
Woody Jolley remembers the game more than 30 years on.
He was playing on a co-ed church-league softball team in Arkadelphia in 1990, coached by former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League standout Dee White. Their team had reached the championship game and was tied in the final inning with Jolley on base representing the potential winning run.
The only problem was that the girl who was supposed to bat next had tripped and turned her ankle earlier in the game.
So White, then 58, stepped to the plate. She couldn’t run — her legs worn down by age — but boy could White still hit.
“She was incredible how she could place the ball,” Jolley recalled. “They were playing a little bit to the left side of the field and she hit that ball down the right-field line. It went all the way to the fence and I was able to score.” Delores Brumfield White — known first as Dolly during her playing days and later as Dee during her time as a professor at Henderson State University — will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame on April 8, a tribute to her influence on sports, particularly women’s sports, in the Arkadelphia community.
But White’s roots in sports trace back to her childhood in Prichard, Ala.
She started playing baseball in sandlot games with construction and shipyard workers in Mobile, and in 1946, White tried out for the AAGPBL.
The next spring, she was invited to the league’s spring training in Havana, Cuba, and joined the South Bend Blue Sox as a utility player in 1947. She was traded to the Kenosha Comets during the following season, playing there for four seasons before going to the Fort Wayne Daisies and playing for Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx.
White returned to Alabama after the 1953 season, graduating from Alabama College for Women with a degree in health, physical education and recreation. She went on to teach in Mississippi for nine years before getting her master’s degree and winding up at what was then Henderson State Teachers College in 1963.
“She was just a super individual in terms of character and integrity,” said Jolley, a former HSU student-athlete and coach who helped campaign for White’s induction. “She just brought a lot of respect to that whole recreation program … and had a tremendous influence on not just athletes but students as well.” White taught recreation classes such as sports management, therapeutic recreation and park management, with several of her former students now running parks and recreation departments across the state.
She retired in 1994 after more than three decades at Henderson State. But White stuck around Arkadelphia and she continued to push then-HSU President Charles Dunn and the board of trustees to launch a softball program.
The Reddies began playing softball in 1999, and on Oct. 13, 2007, Diamond Reddie Field became Delores Brumfield White Field, honoring the very woman who was instrumental in raising the money necessary to start a program and build the team’s facility.
White has been recognized beyond the state for her sporting accomplishments. She served as a first base coach for a tee-ball game hosted on the White House’s South Lawn in 2003 during the George W. Bush administration. She’s been documented in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Although White told Henderson State professor Fred Worth in a 2011 article for the AAGPBL’s website that not much of life in the league was accurately portrayed, her story was somewhat retold through the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own.” But White’s history at Henderson State and in Arkadelphia will stand in perpetuity.
Just shy of two years removed from White’s death on May 29, 2020, she’ll join yet another hall of fame in North Little Rock during a ceremony at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
“Everybody on that team loved her to death,” Jolley said. “She was there to help in any way she could. We really, really loved her.”
Delores Brumfield White at a glance
BORN May 26, 1932
DIED May 29, 2020 (Age 88)
HOMETOWN Prichard, Ala.
COLLEGE Alabama College for Women (now University of Montevallo)
FAMILY Husband Joe White
NOTEWORTHY Played seven seasons with three different teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League as six different positions. … Worked at Henderson State for more than three decades as a professor and was director of Henderson’s recreation program. … Helped organize and raise funds to launch Henderson State’s softball program. The Reddies now play at Delores Brumfield White Field. … White was inducted into the Reddie Hall of Honor in 1998 and worked with the Arkadelphia Parks and Recreation department as a consultant. … Hails from just outside Mobile, Ala., which is also the birthplace of baseball greats Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey and Satchel Paige.