Dolly’s Game: Dolly Ozburn reflects on time in All-American Girls Pro Baseball League

GALESVILLE, Wis. (WKBT)-  “There’s no crying in baseball!”

An iconic line from 1992’s A League of their Own, but even more iconic are the women who inspired the film.

Women like 85-year-old Dolly Ozburn.

She grew up in rural North Carolina and quickly fell in love with baseball, but there weren’t any girls leagues. So she joined a boys league.

“I was the only girl on the team and in the league.”

In the early 50s, Dolly went to a minor league baseball game in Charlotte, where she realized her baseball career could reach a new level.

“I saw a sign that said women’s baseball. I thought holy cow, women’s baseball?!”

The All American Girls Pro Baseball League had been around since 1943, when male pro baseball athletes were serving overseas in World War 2.
Cubs owner Philip Wrigley started the girls league to keep baseball in the hearts and minds of Americans.

“Jimmie Foxx was the manager and of course I had heard of him. I tried out, and he said, yep, okay, we’ll sign you.”

She was just 14.

“My parents had to sign this. I’d never seen a contract before.”

Before she knew it she flying to Indiana to start her pro career as a pitcher.

“I’m right here. Had to be near the dog.”

“As a teenager I got to grow up very fast because the ladies were all older than me. The next youngest was 17.”

Playing baseball was the easy part. The rules surrounding the game were another story.

“We had to wear dresses in public and makeup. I had never worn makeup before in my life.”

“The only drawback in high school was I was a basketball player, too, and I couldn’t play. I was deemed a professional. And I said but I’m not a professional in basketball. But that didn’t matter.”

Dolly played three seasons in the league.

“I stayed two years with Fort Wayne, and I was traded to South Bend in 1954.”

She wanted to play for decades, but didn’t get the chance.

“We were devastated when it ended, because we still had a lot of playing to do.”

The league folded as televised MLB games and large union strikes in the midwest derailed attendance at the ladies’ games.

But Dolly wasn’t giving up her playing days that easily.

“We took a team on the road and played men’s teams.”

Traveling all over with little to no money,

“I think one year I was down to a quarter in my pocket.”

Chasing opportunities to play and even dabbling with some word-of-mouth advertising.

“We would ride the fire trucks. They would take them all over town.”

One travel game in particular will always stand out.

“That’s how I met my husband. We went out after the game the whole group of us and we sort of kept in touch for nine years and decided to get married.”

“And they always ask him who won, and I said he did. He got me. (laughter)”

The sports world now has evolved quite a bit since Dolly joined the Fort Wayne Daisies. 50 years of Title IX, options for girls from the youth level all the way to pros. All thanks in part to the women like Dolly who proved it could be done.

“We didn’t really realize that’s what we were doing. We just wanted to play.”

And because they wanted to, current and future generations can.