Earlene was born March 20, 1927 in Hess, Oklahoma, to Homer Francis and Lizzie Mae (Steen) Risinger. She grew up during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, where the western plains of Oklahoma proved to be as harsh and unforgiving as the economic landscape. Earlene received the nickname "Beans" for her favorite food staple. As a youngster and the first born of five children, Beans often escaped the rigor of working in the cotton fields by playing baseball with her family and friends. By the time she graduated high school, Beans had honed her pitching skills. In the spring of 1947, she decided to attend the "tryouts" in Oklahoma City for the all-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). The leagues formed in 1943, when many minor league teams disbanded and the future of Major League Baseball was in doubt due to players either enlisting or were drafted into the armed services. During the "tryouts", Beans impressed league managers with her fastball and curve ball, both delivered in overhand motion. She learned her technique when she was very young from her dad, who was a sandlot first baseman.
The AAGPBL offered her a contract to play in the 1947 season for the Rockford Peaches in Rockford, Illinois. However, she got as far as Chicago when fear and homesickness overcame her, and she returned to Oklahoma. One year later, the AAGPBL recruited her again for the 1948 season, and this time Beans reported to her new club in Springfield, Illinois. She spent one year with the Springfield Sallies, a team that succumbed to low attendance and little community support. Beans went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, home of the Grand Rapids Chicks, where she played from 1949 to 1954. She helpe3d her team take the 1953 League Championship. The trophy is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
The AAGPBL disbanded in 1954, and Beans remained in Grand Rapids, where she enrolled in college and became an x-ray technician. She worked in orthopedics and retired from Drs. Bert Korhonen and Richard Bereza's office after 25 years of faithful service. She stayed in Grand Rapids until two years ago, when she returned home to Oklahoma to be with her family.
Beans was a consultant on the movie "A League of Their Own", based on the AAGPBL. She even had her photo taken with the movies' stars, Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna. Her rise to fame never went to her head; instead, she always wanted to mentor young women to "reach for the stars." She wrote a one-page autobiography to send to young women to help them realize that dreams can come true.
Beans is survived by her four brothers, Dale Risinger of Altus, Oklahoma, Bill Risinger and wife Sally of Hess, OKlahoma, Carl Risinger and wife Shirley of Altus and Gary Risinger and wife Debbie of Elk City, Oklahoma; one aunt, Allie Mae Risinger of Altus; three nieces, three nephews, two great-nieces, two great-nephews, numerous cousins and many close and wonderful friends.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hospice of Southwest Oklahoma, 1930 NW Ferris, Suite 5, Lawton, OK 73507 or to the Oklahoma Sports Museum, P.O. Box 1342, Guthrie, OK 73044, Attn: Richard Hendricks.
The family will receive friends on Thursday, July 31, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Lowell-Tims Funeral Home.
Funeral Services for Earlene Risinger will be held at 10:00 a.m., Friday, August 1, 2008, at Lowell-Tims Funeral Chapel with Dr. Jeff Moore and Dr. Roy McDaniel officiating. Interment will follow at Hess Cemetery south of Altus under the direction of Lowell-Tims Funeral Home.
On line tributes can be made to the family of Earlene "Beans" Risinger at www.lowell-tims.com
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