Saturday, November 01, 2014

Diamond Dames

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PHM0714Flash-1-8They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But for some girls, this is only true if the diamond in question is the one you circle after smashing a hanging curveball into the cheap seats.

Formed in the early 1930s, Phoenix’s bygone semi-pro softball teams represented an era of surging wartime popularity for women’s sports in America as male athletes fought abroad. The Queens, along with their hometown rivals, the Ramblers, helped Phoenix become the unofficial softball capital of the world in the mid-20th century by winning multiple national championships in packed ballparks, according to a 2010 Arizona Republic article.

Pictured in the photo above are the 11 smiling stunners of the 1949 season. Despite being promoted as “America’s Most Beautiful Athletes,” they were more than just pretty faces. Carolyn “India” Morris (second from left) was a former model who was touted as the “Miss America of Softball” by the Prescott Evening Courier. The brunette Phoenix native helped the Queens reach five national championships. During the war, Morris won seven straight games and pitched a perfect game in the World Series for the Rockford Peaches baseball team.

Another player, Charlotte “Skipper” Armstrong (third from left, top) rejoined the Queens as an All-Star pitcher in 1947 after competing in the all-female baseball league that inspired the 1992 hit movie A League of Their Own. Armstrong was also featured in a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not cartoon after pitching two consecutive, extra-inning, shutout games. Depicted in the snapshot below, surviving members of the Queens (including former Governor Rose Mofford, who played on the 1939 squad) reunited in the late 1980s. (Armstrong is on the far left; Mofford is third from left.)

While women’s professional sports like golf and tennis have flourished in the modern era, along with the WNBA and the National Women’s Soccer League, the intense local popularity once enjoyed by softball teams has died down since its mid-century peak. The sport is now played by generally non-professional diamond devotees.

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