RIP to Dolores “Dolly” Brumfield White, who was the Joe Nuxhall of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She started as a 15-year-old in the AAGPBL and spent seven seasons in the league. Her death was announced on May 29 — she had just celebrated her 88th birthday three days prior. White played for the South Bend Blue Sox (1947), Kenosha Comets (1948-51) and Fort Wayne Daisies (1953-54).
Delores Brumfield was born in Prichard, Ala., on May 26, 1932. She was a self-described tomboy and preferred to play baseball with the boys at the local playground than play with dolls.
“A tomboy was not a good thing to be back then,” she said in 2005. “In those days you married your high school sweetheart, settled down and had a nice home. People didn’t think girls could play sports.”
Her very first baseball idol growing up was Stan Musial. “I’m from the south and the only team at that time that was considered south was the Cardinals,” she explained. “We didn’t have many role models at that time for girls, but I think if we had one it would be Babe Didrikson Zaharias.”
White’s AAGPBL biography, written by Fred Worth of Henderson State University, notes that she showed her athletic abilities pretty early on. She played on sandlot games with men who worked in the ship construction business in Mobile. When the AAGPBL announced tryouts in 1946, they told her she should go, even though she was barely a teenager. Her mother took her to the camp, and she caught the attention of league president Max Carey.
“He had me hit, run, throw,” she said. “Afterwards, he asked me how old I was. I said, “Well, I’m 13, but I’m soon going to be 14.’ So he went to my mother and said, ‘Mrs. Brumfield, we don’t take girls this young.’ My mom said, ‘I don’t want you to take her. I only wanted to know what you thought.'”
A year later, Carey invited White to try out again, and with her mother’s permission, she left for spring training in Havana, Cuba. White ended up with the Blue Sox, which was managed by Chet Grant. He had no qualms about putting her right into competition, particularly since his expected third baseman, Pauline Pirot, was attending school in Chicago.
“On our exhibition tour, I used Jean Faut, Bonnie Baker and our new and very youthful utility player, Dolores [sic] (Dolly) Brumfield. Dolores will be 15 next Monday. She likely will be at third base for us in league competition until Pirot returns. She has natural fielding style and a fine arm.”
The one thing she didn’t like? Wearing skirts. They were a constant annoyance for her, particularly since she was a base-stealer, and sliding into second inevitably left her with strawberries on her legs. Even in her retirement in the 2000s, she hated to wear them.
White struggled, as you might expect a 15-year-old would do playing professional ball. White hit just .117 in 39 games, playing in a part-time role. She then moved to the Kenosha Comets, and her batting average crept up every year as she adjusted to the league. She batted .142 in 1948 while playing in 86 games, but she also drove in 17 runs and stole 18 bases. She was picked up from the league pool in June — the AAGPBL players moved between teams to maintain balance, and new players were added from the surplus pool. In one of her first games with her new team, she belted a two-run double. White joined the team to fill in the infield, but by the end of the season she was the starting center fielder.
By 1949, White had secured the role of first baseman on the Comets. Her batting average ticked upwards to .212, but her eye improved dramatically. The previous season, she struck out 60 times. in ’49 though, she had just 26 strikeouts. She single-handedly beat South Bend in a doubleheader on August 7. She drove in the only run of the first game with a single and then hit an 8th-inning single in the second game to score Margaret Villa and Helen Candaele (Casey’s mom) and give the Comets a 3-2 win.
By 1950, White had established herself as a solid hitter. She batted .260, hit her first career home run, and had career-high marks in doubles (14), RBIs (37) and stolen bases (29). Her homer came on August 1 against Peoria and was one of three hits she had on the day. The Comets finished 64-56 and were eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual AAGPBL champs the Rockford Peaches. White raised her batting average to .273 in 1951, though her education limited her to 66 games. Not only was her bat a weapon, but she was also a top-notch first baseman.
“If she isn’t a Frank Chance,” marveled her manager, former NHL star Johnny Gottselig. “Sometimes she does the splits to reach a ball and we have to go out on the field and pick her up.”
The Comets were dropped from the league for 1952, and White was assigned to the Fort Wayne Daisies. The Daisies were tops in the league with a 67-42 record, but she struggled with a .218 batting average. An ankle injury kept her out of the postseason, and the Daisies were eliminated in the opening round.
White ended her AAGPBL career in 1953 with a flourish. She batted .332 and hit 2 homers, doubling her career total. She also walked a career-high 51 times. The Daisies repeated as league champs with a 66-39 record. Her late-season heroics were reported in the newspaper in McComb, Miss., where her grandparents lived. “At the end of the season last summer she played in the game that decided the league championship. The score was tied and she knocked out the winning home run. The fans went wild, chipped in and gave her a gift of $150 and a gold watch. Mrs. Brumfield says that her granddaughter commented, “Don’t accuse me of playing softball… this is real baseball.”
In seven seasons, White had a lifetime .237 batting average, with 418 hits that included 61 doubles, 17 triples and 4 home runs. She also stole 107 bases. She was only 21 when she retired, but she wanted to pursue her education and a full-time career.
During the offseasons, White had enrolled at Alabama College for Women (now the University of Montevallo) and graduated in 1954 with a bachelor’s in health and physical education. She later got her master’s degree and a doctorate at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1959.
In 1956, she joined the staff of Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Wesson, Miss., overseeing the girls’ physical education and recreation program. She also coached the girls’ basketball team and won a league championship in 1963. Starting in 1963, White spent 30 years at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., and was instrumental in developing women’s sports at the school. She was a swimming coach from 1963 until 1982, a director of the Reddie Ripples synchronized swimming club and a coordinator of the recreation degree program.
White is a member of the University of Montevallo Athletic Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumna Award in 2004. She is also in the Henderson State University Athletic Hall of Fame, and the school’s softball field is named after her — a fitting honor, since she helped launch the program.
In the 1970s, when she was dating her future husband, Joe White, she didn’t tell him about her baseball past. She didn’t really tell anyone, for that matter, because they wouldn’t have believed her. The AAGPBL had been largely forgotten by then. “If you say, ‘Oh, I played professional baseball,’ there ain’t no such thing, not in the South anyway. They didn’t have any idea at all,” she said in a 2012 interview.
Once “A League of Their Own” renewed interest in the AAGPBL, White was a frequent participant at reunion events. Additionally, she served as the president of the AAGPBL Players Association from 1998 until 2006.
For more information: AAGPBL statistics/biography