Championships are rare in Arizona. Arizona State and the University of Arizona have won a few. And the Arizona Diamondbacks won a World Series in 2001, but that wasn’t the first big win for a ball team. That honor belongs to a women’s softball team. The Phoenix Ramblers, whose official name was the Peterson Brook Steiner and Wist (PBSW) Ramblers, captured the Amateur Softball Association championship in 1940. At the time, fast-pitch softball was a popular pastime in Arizona. Although the Ramblers were an amateur team, there was no shortage of spectators to watch the women play. The August 1949 issue of Arizona Highways featured the state’s three best-known softball teams on the front cover, along with in-depth stories about their winning strategies.
The Ramblers traveled all over the country to play in games and tournaments. The Arizona Highways story mentioned that the team traveled by car and often was on the road all night to make it to games. When they were at home, the Ramblers played at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
While they were one of three popular softball teams in the state — the others being the Phoenix A-1 Queens and the Phoenix Holsum Bakery Maids — the Ramblers were the most successful. After their first championship, in 1940, the team clinched two more, in 1948 and 1949. The 1949 story referred to the team’s tenacity: “No softies, the PBSW Ramblers play like tigers, and they have won so many trophies, they could almost set up their sponsor in the trophy business.”
Dot Wilkinson, a catcher, was one of the team’s star players, joining the Ramblers at age 11 in 1933 and playing until 1965. Wilkinson managed the team for a while and was referred to in the Arizona Highways story as “one of the classiest backstoppers in the business.” In 1975, she became the first woman inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame.
She was a superstar, but her time as a coach coincided with a declining interest in women’s softball in Arizona. The A-1 Queens had disbanded in 1955, and the Ramblers were seeing fewer crowds at games. So, when Wilkinson retired in 1965, she wrapped up the Ramblers’ final season as well, telling The Arizona Republic, “It was time to quit.” She died in March, at the age of 101.