Wilma Briggs: A Trailblazing American Baseball Player
Wilma Briggs (November 6, 1930 – September 4, 2023) made her mark in American baseball, notably as a left fielder in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1948 through 1954. Standing at 5 feet 4 inches and weighing 138 pounds, Briggs showcased her prowess as a left-handed batter and a right-handed thrower.
During her time in the league, Briggs demonstrated her power at the plate, leading the league in home runs during the 1953 season. She ranked second in the all-time home runs list with an impressive 43 home runs, just behind Eleanor Callow with 55. Additionally, she was one of the select few players to amass 300 or more career runs batted in. Despite her remarkable achievements, she was never chosen for the All-Star team. In 2013, Briggs received a well-deserved induction into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
Briggs initiated her professional career with the Fort Wayne Daisies in 1948, where she played for six years before joining the South Bend Blue Sox in 1954. Her versatility on the field was evident as she started at right field during her rookie season and later transitioned to left field, where she spent the majority of her career.
Her hitting prowess grew exponentially over the years. In her initial two professional baseball seasons, Briggs hit two home runs. However, she upped her game significantly, hitting nine home runs in 1953, leading the league. She continued her impressive form, ranking second with 25 homers in 1954, the AAGPBL’s final season. Briggs etched her name in history by hitting the only home run at Indiana’s Playland Park during the 1949 season, securing a walk-off victory for her team.
Beyond her professional exploits, Briggs became part of history as the AAGPBL folded in 1954. The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, commemorates this unique league and honors its members, including Briggs, through a permanent display. Her contributions were further recognized when she became the first woman inducted into East Greenwich’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990 and was elected to the AAGPBL Players Association Board of Directors. Briggs received the inaugural Game of Legends Award in 1991 for her 38 years of dedication to women’s softball in Rhode Island. In a fitting tribute, Briggs was posthumously inducted into the Rhode Island Slow Pitch Hall of Fame on November 20, 2021.
Wilma Briggs passed away on September 4, 2023, at the age of 92, leaving a lasting legacy in the world of baseball.