From the first game to the very last, Dot Wilkson was a Phoenix Rambler. In over thirty years, from 1933 to 1965, she helped take her all women’s softball team to three national titles. From a fifteen-year-old girl to a mature woman in her 40s, Dot played before audiences of thousands strong, competed in championship games, made friends, and fell in love. She was a star player, a coach, and a manager. In 1970, Dot was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame. Twenty years later, she would be inducted into the International Bowling Hall of Fame, the first person of any gender to be inducted into Halls of Fame for two different sports.
“Dot wasn’t a poor sport, but she wasn’t good at losing. I spent the first half of my life trying to beat her in softball and the last half trying to beat her in bowling.” — Flossie Ballard, Dot’s best friend
Dot, who passed in March 2023, was an amazing woman who lived an amazing life, and this is her biography, written by her friend, Lynn Ames. And that friendship comes through in the book, as personal stories and hints of Dot’s personality peek through, sly comments in between records of scores and plays. While the book does cover Dot’s life — from her early years in a small house with no indoor plumbing, to her later years where she and Ricki, her love and her partner in all the ways that counted, bought, fixed, and managed numerous properties in Phoenix — the story is framed through the lens of her love of sport. It’s also, in many ways, the biography of the Phoenix Ramblers.
Dot was one of the first players on the Ramblers, brought in by Ford, the Rambler’s first manager. He was a man who took care of the team like family, who, when informed their black player couldn’t eat with them, had the team walk out on a steak dinner at a restaurant; who put several girls through college; who taught Dot not only softball, but real estate. Dot took over when Ford retired from management, and she and the team built themselves a ball field of their own, hammering in nails, hanging doors, installing seats, and sourcing and buying pipes for plumbing and grass for the field. She was also there, along with the team, when they tore it down. As a coach, as a manager, Dot did everything for her team (much as Ford had done), paying players, helping them through college if they went, buying equipment, and paying for transportation. They were so much a part of her life, it would be impossible to disentangle them.
As someone who isn’t a fan of softball, the moments that focused on the games — listing off scores and plays — were the slowest for me, as I couldn’t visualize them or connect with them. What I could connect with, though, was Dot’s frustration at unfair calls, or the delight in finally winning a championship.
”Once she barreled into home with her head down and broke my hand. But do you know who was the first one to the hospital to see how I was? Dot Wilkinson!” — Nonie Thomas
This isn’t a fictionalized retelling or a colorful account of Dot’s life. It’s a respectful accounting of her life with facts, anecdotes straight from Dot herself, and numerous pictures of Dot and the team. It’s an entertaining look at an amazing woman and definitely worth the read.