Wilma Briggs, born on November 6, 1930, and passed away on September 4, 2023, was a formidable figure in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). As an American left fielder, she graced the baseball diamond between 1948 and 1954.
Standing at 5′ 4″ and weighing 138 lbs, Briggs showcased her prowess by batting left-handed, while her throws came powerfully from the right. In a testament to her skill, she clinched the top spot for home runs in 1953. Her name still resonates on the league’s all-time home run list, taking the second position with 43 home runs. She is outranked only by Eleanor Callow with 55 and surpasses Dorothy Schroeder (42) and Jean Geissinger (41). An impressive feat, Briggs is one of the elite 14 players who accumulated 300 or more career runs batted in. However, a baffling fact remains that she was never chosen for the All-Star team. 2013 was a year of recognition for her when she was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
Briggs began her professional journey in 1948 with the Fort Wayne Daisies. Her dedication to the team spanned six years before she made a switch to the South Bend Blue Sox in 1954. She was initially positioned as a right fielder for the Daisies. This changed when their left fielder suffered an ankle injury, prompting Briggs to fill the spot. This position became her mainstay, with a brief stint at first base in 1952.
The start of her career saw Briggs hitting two home runs in her first two seasons. This number dramatically surged to a league-leading nine in 1953. The subsequent year saw her securing the second position with 25 homers. Briggs also boasts the singular feat of hitting the only home run at Indiana’s Playland Park in the 1949 season. This was a significant one – a walk-off in the ninth inning – sealing a victory over the Blue Sox. 1951 was a year of acknowledgment for Briggs as she was crowned the best defensive outfielder, thanks to her staggering .987 fielding average. Her contributions were pivotal in helping Fort Wayne clinch pennants in 1952 and 1953. Her tenure in the league concluded with the South Bend in 1954.
Out of the Field
The curtain came down on AAGPBL in 1954, but its memories are immortalized in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Since November 5, 1988, there exists a permanent display dedicated to the luminaries of this league, and Briggs, along with her peers, is honored in the Hall. 1990 saw her becoming the first woman to be inducted into East Greenwich’s Athletic Hall of Fame. She also made her mark in the first AAGPBL Players Association Board of Directors. For her invaluable contribution spanning 38 years to women’s softball in Rhode Island, Briggs was conferred with the Game of Legends Award in 1991. A feather in her cap was added on November 20, 2021, when she was welcomed into the Rhode Island Slow Pitch Hall of Fame.
The 1992 film, A League of Their Own, offers a cinematic glimpse into the inaugural season of AAGPBL. Though the movie opted for fictional names, it was greatly inspired by the 1987 documentary bearing the same title. The documentary was the brainchild of Kelly Candaele, one of Helen Callaghan‘s five sons. Notably, Helen clinched the AAGPBL batting championship in 1945 with an impressive .299 average.
Tragically, the world bid adieu to Wilma Briggs on September 4, 2023. She departed at the age of 92, leaving behind a rich legacy in women’s professional baseball.