Girls Softball in Dallas, Hugely Popular

by Paula Bosse

girls-softball_WPA-GD_dallas-park-rec-deptSoftball in the park… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Around 1938, softball suddenly became very, very popular in Dallas. Absolutely everyone seemed to be playing it: boys, girls, moms, dads, kids, businessmen, college students, and senior citizens. By 1939, The Dallas Morning News was calling the sport “the newest Dallas crazy custom.” There were more than 18,000 players playing on more than 300 organized teams, which meant that most of the roughly 100 softball diamonds in the city were constantly in use. It was estimated that more than 700,000 spectators had filled softball bleachers in 1938. These were all, of course, non-professional teams and players,  but there was some concern that this new-found softball enthusiasm might be cutting into attendance for the professional baseball games.

“…[B]ut the fact remains that softball is cutting into the gate receipts of professional baseball. When more than 100 softball teams play almost every night in Dallas and hundreds of fans watch the games there certainly must be vacant seats at the stadium where professionals are doing their stuff for the Texas League.” (Dallas Morning News, June 16, 1939)

Most interesting about this “fad” is that girls’ softball league games became extremely popular. These teams were often affiliated with local companies (Metzger’s Milk, Dunlap-Swain, etc.), and their sponsored games drew very large crowds, usually more than the men’s games did. The Dallas Morning News reported that attendance at the regular Friday night games in 1939 was something like five or six thousand. Some of the girls even became minor local celebrities.

Coverage of the women’s games by the local press was solid, but coverage of the women themselves seemed more like a good excuse to run photos of “girls” in skimpy uniforms rather than focus on their athletic ability. But I’m sure the girls shrugged it off and were just happy to be playing a sport they loved.

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(Click articles for larger images.)

girls-softball_dmn_072339DMN, July 23, 1939

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DMN, Aug. 11, 1939

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DMN, Aug. 11, 1940

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DMN, Aug. 31, 1941

Below, the 1943 champions, the Metzer Dairy Maids. I love their names so much I want to type them out: Tinker Tarker, Mutt McFanning, Aubrey Ray, Thelma Lowe, Pat Bell, Faustine Riley, Beatrice Draper, Flo Dyer, Opal Ritter, Annie Jo Floyd, Alma Floyd, Genevieve Dobbins, and Pud Adams.

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DMN, July 18, 1943

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DMN, April 17, 1940

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DMN, April 19, 1940

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Paul Crume tries to wrap his head around the popularity of this “mental affliction.”

softball_dmn_050739DMN, May 7, 1939

That article was followed the next month by one titled “Laugh at Softball? Better Not! Nearly Everybody’s Playing It.”

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DMN, June 16, 1939

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Top photo from the WPA Dallas Guide and History.

Even though these company-sponsored teams were often in city- and state-wide leagues, they were all comprised of amateur players. That’s not to say money wasn’t being made. A lot of tickets were being sold, and companies got a lot of publicity for their winning teams. In fact, companies often scouted for players and hired them solely based on their athletic prowess — this is exactly how Babe Didrikson, generally considered one of the greatest all-round athletes in history, ended up working for an insurance company in the Interurban Building. (Read all about that in my previous post, “Babe Didrikson, Oak Cliff Typist,” here.)

All images larger when clicked!

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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