Events

Woman softball player
Women's softball
In the 1940s, women's softball was as popular in Phoenix as the Suns are today. Two championship teams, the Ramblers and the Queens were fierce rivals. They always played an incredibly competitive game, and the stands at Phoenix Softball Park were filled every time these two teams met. Arizona Stories introduces the fans and players, including former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford.

Read the complete transcript:

Narrator:
In the 1940s, amateur women's softball was nearly as popular as the Phoenix Suns are today.

Learn more

Suggested Reading:

The Queens and the Ramblers: Women's Championship Softball in Phoenix, 1932-1965 (Arizona): (Dissertation) by Laura A. Purcell
(e-doc, available only on Amazon.com)

Sam Madsen:
It was good, clean fun, and it was the big sporting event in Phoenix at that time. So, gosh, what else do you do but go to see a good softball game? If we had a choice between seeing a good girls' softball game and a men's game, we'd always go to the girls' game. Sure, it was more action. It was a fast game, real fast.

Narrator:
Phoenix had several good women's teams, but the Queens and amblers were the best. Their games often took place at the Phoenix softball park, which was located at 17 th Avenue and Roosevelt. It was a terrific place to see an exciting style of play at a very reasonable price.

Flossie Ballard:
I think it only cost them a quarter. So a whole family could go for a dollar.

Dot Wilkinson:
It was a place that people brought their families. Mother and dad and the kids and everybody came.

Narrator:
A game between the Ramblers and Queens was always quite a battle, and the fans loved it.

Flossie Ballard:
You either were a Rambler fan or you were a Queen fan, and there was no in between. I mean, they sat on their side, and ours sat on our side. It was as intense with the fans as it was with the players.

Same Madsen:
We chose sides, and we rooted for our teams. It's just like the BrooklynDodgers. If you're a Brooklyn Dodger fan, you're a Brooklyn Dodger fan. And we were just as loyal to the Queens as the Brooklyn Dodgers are to their team.

Narrator:
The fans all had their favorite players. One of them was a young woman named Rose who would later become Arizona's governor.

Rose Mofford:
I came down here in '39 and played for the Arizona Cantaloupe Queens, and the reason we were called that, we were sponsored by the cantaloupe growers, and at that time, Phoenix was big into cantaloupe.

Narrator:
Mofford was with the team for a year and had her own ideas about what made the women so popular.

Rose Mofford:
To see these girls perform, not maybe to an equal, but almost an equal to a man that can hurl a ball as fast, and also, they're colorful on the field. There are some awfully pretty ballplayers.

Narrator:
Dressed in bright satin uniforms and short, silky skirts, it's no secret that the women brought a certain amount of sex appeal to the game. And at tournament time, promoters took full advantage of it, touting the Queens as “America's Most Beautiful Athletes."

Paul Carbajal:
I think that the Queens – I don't want to say it to be prejudiced, but they had younger, better-looking women. I think maybe that was one of the reasons. I don't know, man. They had good-looking women playing.

Sam Madsen:
Yeah, they had cute outfits, sure. But we didn't go out there just to see the outfits. We went out there to see a good ball game.

Narrator:
And that's exactly what they got. The Queens and Ramblers had some of the best athletes in the world. They ran fast, they threw hard, and they always played to win.

Dot Wilkinson:
The Queens and Ramblers probably had the biggest rivalry of any two teams in the world that I know of.

Flossie:
You came to play. I mean, they gave you everything you wanted. I mean, it was dog eat dog. Especially Dottie.

Dot Wilkinson:
Their coach used to tell everybody, "don't slide into Wilkinson. Just come in and knock her down, because she's not going to let you have the plate," which I didn't.

Flossie Ballard:
He said, "don't go around."

Dot Wilkinson:
And "go over," that's what he told you. “Go over me." So anyway, there are six people that come in and knocked me down that night and Flossie was the seventh. She came in and knocked me down, and I got up and knocked her down. Do you remember that?

Flossie Ballard:
Yes, I remember that.

Narrator:
in 1940, that kind of aggressiveness paid off big. The Ramblers won their first National Championship.

Dot Wilkinson:
That was the first national title of any kind that Phoenix ever had in 1940. So, naturally, we got a lot of publicity from the governor and everything. We had parades downtown and -- you know, like they do for Barkley and the basketball now. Well, they did that for us.

Narrator:
the Ramblers became local celebrities, but the Queens weren't far behind. Together, they put Phoenix on the sporting map, winning a combined total of eight national titles, and this town's passion for sports can arguably be traced to these women's softball players who loved the game and their fans who loved it right along with them.