November 6, 1930 |
East Greenwich, Rhode Island
|Runs batted in||301|
|Career highlights and awards|
Wilma Briggs [Briggsie] (born November 6, 1930) is a former left fielder who played from 1948 through 1954 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Listed at 5' 4", 138 lb., she batted left-handed and threw right-handed.
Baseball historians rank Briggs among the most stellar hitters in AAGPBL history. She led the league in home runs during the 1953 season, ranks second in the all-time home runs list (43) behind Eleanor Callow (55) and over Dorothy Schroeder (42) and Jean Geissinger (41), and was one of only 14 players to collect 300 or more career runs batted in, yet she was never selected to the All-Star team.
A native of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, Briggs is one of eleven children into the family of Fred Briggs, a dairy farmer, and Edythe (née Hathaway) Briggs, a housewife. She grew up in a family farm in East Greenwich where baseball was considered of vital importance, as her father was a semi-professional pitcher, catcher and coach, while one of her six brothers played in the Chicago Cubs minor league system.
At early age, Briggs was interested in participing in baseball, thanks to her older two brothers, and she was never too young to follow in their footsteps. After milking the cows, her father used to hit ground balls in their back yard to Wilma and her brothers, and they would field the ball and pitch it back to him. No matter how poorly the pitch was, he would hit it back. Mr. Briggs managed his own team that came to be known as the Frenchtown Farmers, and by the time Wilma was 13, her father would put she in the Farmers' games, along with her six brothers, though she never had a starting position. But he would always put her in the game and made sure she took at least a turn at bat. After turning 16, she played on her high school boys squad in a summer league.
Briggs was invited to tryouts for the AAGPBL, but she missed an opportunity in nearby New Jersey because she was graduating from high school on the same day, so her parents drove her from Rhode Island to Fort Wayne, Indiana for a final tryout.
Briggs entered the league in 1948 with the Fort Wayne Daisies, playing for them six years before joining the South Bend Blue Sox in 1954. She started at right field for the Daisies during her rookie season and stayed there until the left fielder broke an ankle while sliding into second base. Then was moved to left field for the rest of her career, with the exception of two weeks at first base in the 1952 season.
During her first two professional baseball seasons, Briggs hit only two home runs, but she increased her output to a league-leading nine in 1953. She ranked second with 25 homers in 1954, in the AAGPBL's last ever season.
In 1954 she hit a grand slam when her parents were there to see the game, and in 1951 she was voted the best defensive outfielder with a .987 fielding average. One of her best defensive plays came in a playoff game, when she crashed through the left-field fence to rob Connie Wisniewski of a potential home run.
Briggs helped Fort Wayne win pennants in both 1952 and 1953, and spent her final season in 1954 as a lonely star for South Bend.
Out of the field
Subsequently, Briggs graduated from Barrington College with a Bachelor's degree in elementary education and taught for 23 years at Wickford Elementary School in North Kingstown until 1992. She played softball until age 62, and also enjoys playing bowling and golf. In her spare time she likes reading poetry anthologies, especially Robert Burns, and creative nonfiction genre.
Briggs has won all kinds of honors. The AAGPBL folded in 1954, but there is now a permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, New York since November 5, 1988 that honors those who were part of this unique experience. Briggs, along with the rest of the league's girls, is now enshrined in the Hall.
In 1990 Briggs became the first woman inducted into East Greenwich's Athletic Hall of Fame and was elected to the first AAGPBL Players Association Board of Directors. In 1991, she received the first annual Game of Legends Award for her 38 years of contributing to women's softball in Rhode Island.
Briggs never married and did not have children. But, she imparted wisdom and ethics upon the many children she taught. During the spring time, she could be found on the school ball field at recess. There she would organize and play ball with the school children. She is currently living in Wakefield, Rhode Island.
- Briggs, who liked the kindness of Daisies manager Bill Allington in the 1953-'54 seasons, remarked when the players had nothing but cotton jerseys to wear under their ill-suited uniforms, Mr. Allington immediately procured wool jerseys for all of them.
- Her baseball heroes included the legendary Jimmie Foxx and her father. My father was a great pitcher and catcher, but his greatest quality was that, as a coach, he gave all of his players every opportunity to be successful, she commented. To Briggs' pleasure, Foxx managed the Daisies in 1952.
- The AAGPBL Players Association helped to bring the league story to the public eye. The association was largely responsible for the opening of the aforementioned exhibition at Cooperstown. As it is said, all began with a newsletter published by former AAGPBL player June Peppas in 1980. Of the approximately 560 women who had played in the league, most had lost touch with the others; at least not until the first reunion held in Chicago two years later.
- A League of Their Own is a 1992 film about the first season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. While the film does not use real names, filmmaker Penny Marshall seemed to be aiming for realism, as her film includes fake newsreel footage and pseudo-documentary present day scenes at the beginning and end of the fictitious story. A League of Their Own itself was inspired by the 1987 documentary of the same title, written and produced by Kelly Candaele, one of the five sons of Helen Callaghan, who in 1945 won the AAGPBL batting championship with a .299 average. Notably, the AAGPBL players were relatively unknown until the Marshall's film was exhibited for the first time.
- Biographical Dictionary of American Sports – David L. Porter. Publisher: Greenwood Press, 2000. Format: Hardcover, 2064pp. Language: English. ISBN 978-0-313-29884-4 W. C. Madden
- Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball – Leslie A. Heaphy, Laura Wulf, Mel Anthony May. Publisher: McFarland & Company, 2006. Format: Hardcover, 438pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-7864-2100-2
- Girls of Summer: The Real Story of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League – Lois Browne. Publisher: HarperCollins, 1992. Format: Hardcover, 212 pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-00-215838-8
- Women in Baseball: The Forgotten History – Gai Ingham Berlage, Charley Gerard. Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994. Format: Hardcover, 224pp. Language: English. ISBN 978-0-275-94735-4
- Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League: A Biographical Dictionary - W. C. Madden. Publisher: McFarland and Company, 2005. Format: Paperback, 295 pp. Language: English. ISBN 0-7864-3747-2