"Arizona's Larruping Lassies"

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Two pages from Jerry McLain's 1949 Arizona Highways Magazine story, "Arizona's Larruping Lassies."

McLain, Jerry. “Arizona’s Larruping Lassies.” Arizona Highways Magazine. August 1949.


In its August 1949 edition, Arizona Highways magazine published Jerry McLain’s story, “Arizona Larruping Lassies.”


In McLain’s article, he follows the Phoenix Maids, PBSW Ramblers, and A-1 Queens, women’s softball teams. While, at first glance from the twenty-first century, the article might seem to be a benign human interest piece, at the time of its publication, Arizona was solidifying itself as a powerhouse for women’s softball. Throughout several regions of the United States, in the 1930s, fastpitch softball quickly established itself as a popular spectator sport.[1] In Arizona specifically, as exemplified by McLain’s essay, the sport did not take off until the 1930s and 1940s. In part, when softball did establish its popularity in the state, it was due to “the women’s softball team that brought the state its first title in any professional sport.”[2] Thus, published in the late 1940’s, “Arizona’s Larruping Ladies” reflects both the importance of the sport in Arizona’s history as well as distinct differences between the playing of softball in the mid-twentieth century versus the twenty first century.

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Two pages from Jerry McLain's August 1949 article, "Arizona's Larruping Lassies" in Arizona Highways Magazine.

In 1932, the first women’s softball teams in Arizona began playing in Phoenix in a city recreational league. From then until 1965, women’s fastpitch softball experienced a quick rise before a slow decline in popularity within the state.[3] Two of the teams followed in McLain’s article were immensely successful during their tenures; by 1940, the Ramblers won a national championship and “routinely drew thousands of fans to their games.” During the 1940s through the 1950s, before the sport’s popularity began to wane, both the Ramblers and the Queens won multiple national championships and maintained “an intense local rivalry for two decades.”[4] The Ramblers won additional championships in 1948 and 1949, the date of publication for McLain’s article and, likely, another motivator for its being written.[5] However, unlike the Ramblers, who never advanced past their “amateur” status, the Queens became “semipro” in 1947 and joined the National Softball Congress (NSC).[6] The Queens’ manager, Larry Walker, was the founder of the NSC, which was created in 1947.[7] Before the Queens disbanded in 1955 and the Ramblers in 1965, over two hundred women in Phoenix played “major level fastpitch softball.”[8]

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Two pages from Jerry McLain's August 1949 article, "Arizona's Larruping Lassies" in Arizona Highways Magazine.

Throughout McLain’s article, he emphasizes the popularity of fastpitch softball in Arizona, the charms of the three teams’ players, and how such players defy any public assumptions about what softball players “should be.” Attributing the rising popularity—at the time—of women’s softball in Arizona to its “fast, colorful and smart” nature, McLain argues that the players “gave the game the beauty treatment, without robbing it of any of its skills or thrills.”[9] While McLain’s article gives a relatively informative treatment of its subject, it should be noted that its language can be patronizing and/or sexist, as McLain focuses heavily in sections on the “girls’” looks. The numerous images throughout the article are accompanied by text that emphasizes how the women have other roles in life—as mothers, students, real estate agents, etc.—in addition to their softball positions. In part, these captions support McLain’s underlying assertion that the women are not dedicating their whole lives to the sport, but instead, have occupations that will keep them from getting “too manly.” At the same time, he recognizes and details the players’ hard work and how the three teams promoted the sport within the state with statements such as “…snappy play and short skirts were soon bouncing girls’ softball up and up in the realm of sport.”[10] McLain argues that, in addition to the teams’ “display of pretty legs and trim figures,” the “unmistakable fierceness” with which they battled other teams “brought out the fans in droves.”[11]

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Two pages from Jerry McLain's August 1949 article, "Arizona's Larruping Lassies" in Arizona Highways Magazine. 

At the time of the article’s publication in 1949, McLain asserts that the Ramblers, the Queens, and the Maids “have enabled Phoenix to lay claim to the title ‘Softball Capital of the World’ in this sport whose ruling officials agree this summer is attracting more than 1,300,000 participants in the Americas…whose games will be watched by 150,000,000 or more spectators.”[12] He goes on to describe the individual attributes of each of the three teams, beginning with the Ramblers, who “play like tigers, and they have won so many trophies they could almost set up their sponsor in the trophy business."[13] He further claims that the Ramblers were the “first of the feminine aggregations to thrill Arizonans,” and “currently they are the world champions recognized by the Amateur Softball Association of America.”[14] In contrast to the Ramblers, McLain describes the Queens as the “Ziegfield Girls of Softball” who combine ball playing ability with grace and beauty. Lastly, he calls the Phoenix Maids the “youngsters” of softball in Arizona who, in only their third season in 1949, “have at times tripped up both Queens and Ramblers.”[15] Taken as a whole, however, McLain emphasizes that “these Arizona girls have played major roles in putting the S-W-A-T in women’s softball” and brought out fans in drove. He asserts that “they’re better known around the country—at least wherever softball is played—than anyone from the nation’s ‘baby state’” and have “brought nothing but good publicity to Phoenix.” Although he offered value judgements on each team throughout the article, McLain concludes “Larruping Ladies” by stating he could not pick which group was the best.[16]

[1] Laura A. Purcell, “The Queens and the Ramblers: Women’s Championship Softball in Phoenix, 1932-1965” (master’s thesis, Arizona State University, 2004), iii.

[2] Noah Austin, “Arizona women’s softball wins big,” AZCentral, published November 12, 2014, https://www.azcentral.com/story/travel/local/history/2014/11/12/arizona-women-softball-wins-big/18946801/.

[3] Purcell, “The Queens and the Ramblers," iii.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Austin, “Arizona women’s softball wins big.” 

[6] Purcell, “The Queens and the Ramblers,” iii.

[7] Ibid, 2.

[8] Ibid., iii.

[9] Jerry McLain, “Arizona’s Larruping Lassies,” Arizona Highways Magazine, August 1949, 23.

[10] Ibid., 25.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Austin, “Arizona women’s softball wins big."

[14] McLain, “Arizona’s Larruping Lassies,” 25.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.