A former magazine editor tells the story of how, at the height of the Great Depression, her great-uncle trained a group of young women from rural Oklahoma to become college basketball stars.
The son of a stern preacher father, Missourian Sam Babb survived a leg amputation in his teenage years to become a successful Oklahoma school superintendent. His career took an unexpected turn in the early 1920s when he decided to become a part-time high school girls basketball coach. By 1929, he had taken a full-time coaching position at Oklahoma Presbyterian College. On a recruiting trip to bring new talent to OPC, Babb discovered a poor farm girl named Doll Harris who, during the 1930-1931 season, would become his “star shot maker” and an All-American player. The team he built that year was good enough to win a sportsmanship trophy at the Amateur Athletic Union national tournament, but Babb believed they could do better. The following year, he recruited other talented girls with promises of scholarships and worked to create a national championship–winning team. With barely enough funding to keep the team going, Babb took his players on a barnstorming tour of the South to raise money. His OPC Cardinals won every game, including one against the reigning champions, the Dallas Golden Cyclones. In the meantime, Harris found herself in direct competition with sports phenomenon Babe Didrikson, the golden girl who knew how to charm fans and “leverage publicity” for her own benefit. As she tells the amazing story of Babb and his underdog women’s basketball team, Reeder also reveals the challenges facing serious female athletes during the 1920s and ’30s, including the perceived risk of “destroying their feminine image by invading a man’s world.” Sports fans and general readers alike are sure to find the story both worthwhile and entertaining.
A heartwarmingly inspirational tale.