At the height of the Great Depression, Sam Babb, the charismatic basketball coach of tiny Oklahoma Presbyterian College, began dreaming. Like so many others, he wanted a reason to have hope. Traveling from farm to farm, he recruited talented, hardworking young women and offered them a chance at a better life: a free college education if they would come play for his basketball team, the Cardinals.
Despite their fears of leaving home and the sacrifices faced by their families, the women followed Babb and his dream. He shaped the Cardinals into a formidable team, and something extraordinary began to happen: with passion for the game and heartfelt loyalty to one another and their coach, they won every game.
Combining exhilarating sports writing and exceptional storytelling, Dust Bowl Girls conveys the intensity of an improbable journey to an epic showdown with the prevailing national champions, helmed by the legendary Babe Didrikson. And it captures a moment in American sports history when a visionary coach helped his young athletes achieve more than a winning season.
Booklist (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
One of the more unlikely national champions in U.S. sports history was the 1932 women’s basketball team from tiny, financially strapped Oklahoma Presbyterian College. Coach Sam Babb, who, probably not coincidentally, taught Psychology 101 at the school, masterfully recruited talent, solicited funding for the program, created a culture of unselfish team play, devised unorthodox but effective basketball drills, and instilled in his players the self-assurance they would need in facing public opinion that largely considered basketball “unladylike.” And, more urgently, in facing (three times that season) the reigning national champion Dallas Golden Cyclones, led by legendary sportswoman Babe Didrikson. Author Reeder, Babb’s grandniece, had access to such primary materials as player diaries, which reveal the players’ relationships to one another and their coach, and to a dust-bowl era and region marked by serious hardship.
Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
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.
About the Author
Lydia Ellen Reeder is the grandniece of Sam Babb, the extraordinary basketball coach featured in Dust Bowl Girls. She spent over two years conducting research for the book and also wrote and narrated a short film about the Cardinal basketball team, currently on view at the Oklahoma Historical Society website: youtu.be/fokmbnWmp50. As a former associate editor at Whole Life Times in Los Angeles and Delicious Magazine in Boulder, Colorado, Reeder has worked for many years as a copywriter and editor on behalf of corporate and organizational clients and most recently developed e-learning for a national nursing association. She lives in Denver with her husband and enjoys hiking in the mountains of Colorado.
Dust Bowl Girls is her first book.
Dust Bowl Lesson Plans
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