Delores Brumfield White (1932–2020)
Delores Brumfield (Dee) White began playing in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) as a young teenager in the post–World War II years, helping take the Fort Wayne Daisies to two league championships. She later taught physical education and was a coach at Henderson State University (HSU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County).
Dee Brumfield was born on May 26, 1932, in Prichard, Alabama, to Earl Henry Brumfield and Miriam McKay Turner Brumfield. She had a younger brother and sister. Her father was an auto mechanic. Her mother was a homemaker until World War II, when she started as an office worker, eventually becoming an office manager for an insurance firm.
Brumfield was an athletic girl who played in sandlot games with local shipyard workers. When World War II began, many minor league teams went under, as many male players were engaged in the war effort. To fill the void, Phillip Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, decided to form the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which began play in 1943. In 1946, the shipyard workers heard about tryouts for the AAGPBL and encouraged Brumfield to try out. She impressed league officials at the tryouts. Afterward, she spoke to Max Carey, the league president and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, who was surprised to learn that she was “almost fourteen” but encouraged her to continue working on her skills and to join a local team. Brumfield joined a softball team made up of women from the area military base. Shortly after the end of the 1946 season, Carey invited her to join the AAGPBL. A few weeks later, a letter from Carey arrived, asking her to report to Havana, Cuba, for spring training in 1947. Her mother was not happy about the plan, but one of the league’s players visited with the family and explained the role of the chaperones that traveled with each team.
For the 1947 season, Brumfield played for the South Bend Blue Sox, managed by Chet Grant, former Notre Dame assistant football coach. Although South Bend finished fourth out of eight teams with a 57–54 record, the rookie Brumfield found the level of play a challenge. Playing in thirty-nine games, she had a .117 batting average. In 1948, as the league expanded to ten teams and split into two divisions, Brumfield went to spring training with South Bend and its new manager, former big leaguer Marty McManus. Brumfield, nicknamed “Dolly” by her team, returned to Alabama for school for a little while before the start of the season. By the time she was ready to go back, she was involved in a trade that reunited her with manager Grant and teammate Ruby Stephens on the Kenosha Comets. Brumfield appeared in eighty-six games, improving her average to .142 and stealing eighteen bases.
In 1949, Brumfield saw considerable improvement, and the Comets finished 56–55, putting them at fourth place in the eight-team league. The following year, the Comets recorded a fine 64–46 record, finishing third, only two and a half games behind the league champion Rockford Peaches. Brumfield’s fifth season, 1951, again saw her batting average go up, but the Comets finished 15–35, one game out of last place.
The next year, Kenosha folded, and she joined the Fort Wayne Daisies, managed by Baseball Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx. The Daisies won the league championship with a 67–42 record, beating the South Bend Blue Sox by three games; the Blue Sox won the playoffs over Fort Wayne, however. Although Brumfield played in eighty-eight games, her batting average dropped to .218. She also missed out on the playoffs after suffering a broken ankle.
Throughout much of her career, Brumfield had been a utility player, playing many games at almost all positions. The only positions she never played were catcher and pitcher, even though pitcher was the position for which she had tried out years earlier.
Brumfield’s last season in the AAGPBL was in 1953, the next-to-last year of the league’s existence. Fort Wayne again won the league championship under new manager Bill Allington, sporting a 66–39 record to finish four and a half games ahead of the Grand Rapids Chicks. The previous year’s playoff loss was repeated. Brumfield only played in sixty-six games that season but regained her earlier form, raising her batting average 114 points (.332 to finish second in the league), her slugging percentage 170 points (.450), her on-base percentage (OPB) 134 points (.462), and, therefore, her on-base plus slugging (OPS) by 304 points (.912). She hit two home runs to raise her career total to four. This was one of the few years Brumfield had a fixed position, spending most of her time at first base.
Brumfield had been attending college during the off-season and graduated from Alabama College for Women (now the University of Montevallo) in 1954 with a degree in health, physical education, and recreation. Deciding it was time to put her playing career behind her, she found a job as a physical education instructor in Shaw, Mississippi, teaching at both the junior high school and high school. Additionally, she served as the parks and recreation director in town, running the swimming and playground programs. In 1955, she was offered the chance to play on a women’s team that would tour the nation barnstorming against men’s teams, but she turned down the offer, saying she wanted to move on with her teaching career. After working in Shaw for two years, Brumfield spent seven years teaching at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. She then attended the University of Southern Mississippi, receiving her master’s degree (1959) and doctorate (1969) in physical education.
After leaving Copiah-Lincoln, Brumfield took a position in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at what is now Henderson State University. She taught standard physical education and recreation classes, in addition to coaching swimming (1963–1982), helping to develop what became one of the premier swimming programs in the state. She also started the Arkie Stars Square Dancing Club, served as director of the Reddie Ripples synchronized swimming club, and coordinated the recreation degree program.
In 1977, she married Joe White of Gurdon (Clark County).
After a distinguished career at Henderson, during which she reached the rank of full professor, she retired in 1994 and became professor emeritus. In the 1990s, there was a decision to add a women’s softball team to the Reddie athletic program. White helped organize the “Diamond Reddies,” the softball team’s booster club, which raised funds for the new softball field that was used beginning in 1999. She also served as a consultant to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, encouraging the community to expand and improve its recreation facilities and programs. She was also the president of the association of former AAGPBL players.
White was inducted into Henderson’s Reddie Hall of Honor in 1998. In 2003, she was invited to the White House by President George W. Bush to serve as a first base coach for one of the South Lawn tee ball games hosted by the president. In 2004, she was recognized by the University of Montevallo with a Distinguished Alumni Award. On October 13, 2007, the HSU softball field was renamed as the Delores Brumfield White Softball Field. On April 21, 2011, White was inducted into the Mobile (Alabama) Sports Hall of Fame.
After a long illness, White died on May 29, 2020, in Prescott (Nevada County).
In 2022, she was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
For additional information:
“Delores White.” All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. https://www.aagpbl.org/profiles/delores-brumfield-white-dolly/480 (accessed May 26, 2022).
Gladstone, Mitchell. “A Pioneer and a Hitter: After Pro Career, White Brought Softball to HSU.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 31, 2022, pp. 1C, 5C. https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/mar/31/a-pioneer-and-a-hitter/ (accessed May 26, 2022).
Nelson, Rex, “League of Her Own.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 10, 2020.
“White, Delores Brumfield (Interview Transcript and Video), 2009.” Grand Valley State University Libraries, Special Collections & University Archive, Allendale, Michigan. https://digitalcollections.library.gvsu.edu/document/29704 (accessed May 26, 2022).
Worth, Fred. “Delores Brumfield.” Society for American Baseball Research. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/delores-brumfield/ (accessed May 26, 2022).
Henderson State University
A version of this entry originally appeared on the website of the Society for American Baseball Research.
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