Doris Sams, Women’s Baseball Pioneer, Dies at 85

Doris Sams, a pioneering women’s baseball star who inspired the film “A League of Their Own,” died Thursday in Knoxville from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 85.

Sams, known as Sammy to her teammates and friends, was one of the leading players in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, founded in 1943 to keep interest in baseball alive when the majors were losing most of their players to military service in World War II.

A right-handed hitter and pitcher, Sams was selected five times to appear in the league’s All-Star game and was twice recognized as the league’s outstanding player.

Over the course of her 8-year pro career in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Sams played for two different teams — Michigan’s Muskegon Lassies and their successor franchise, the Kalamazoo Lassies — and held down a career batting average of .290, while smacking 22 homers and 286 RBIs.

As a pitcher, Doris Sams posted a 64–47 record with a 2.16 ERA and threw both a no-hitter and perfect game.

In a 1997 interview, she said her perfect game “wasn’t so perfect.”

“They hit me like a drum,” she said. “But it was one of those days when everybody was on their toes. They were catching line drives. You know, the pitcher doesn’t do it alone, let’s face it. They caught line drives and everything else — just unreasonable catches that day.”

After retiring from baseball, Sams held an office job with the Knoxville Utilities Board. Her induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame happened in 1970. Twelve years later, she was voted into the Knoxville Hall of Fame.

While Doris Sams never married and had no immediate survivors, ESPN reports her 88-year-old cousin said her legacy will continue to shine.

“She made women more a part of public sports,” Gordon Sams told the newspaper. “She was an interesting lady and I hope she will never be forgotten.”

WBIR has more on the life of Doris Sams in the video below: