In the spring of 1945, the face of Tacoma area women’s fastpitch changed with the formation of the Women's City Softball League.

Some of the league’s players were school-age girls, but a good number of those were considered among the circuit’s top performers. In the coming years, a handful of those players would etch their names on the list of Tacoma women’s fastpitch greats.

Left to Right: Dorothy Miskar, Patsy Strachan, and Delores Sagmiller

Photo courtesy of Patsy Strachan Stavig.

Youth was certainly served in the form of the spunky and talented youngsters who comprised the Midland Tigers/Lumberettes. The team, consisting of seventh, eighth and ninth graders, played Parkland, Woodland and Kapowsin in junior high games. The girls loved to play ball so much, however, that they entered a team in the city league for fastpitch softball.

In the 1946 state tournament played at Sumner High School and won by Tacoma’s Lincoln Electric, the Midland Tigers finished fourth. Catcher Esther Deuel and pitcher Barbara Taylor earned all-tournament honors for their all-around play. Esther’s father, John Deuel, was the coach.

The Fuelerettes were sponsored by Pacific Mutual Fuels owner Rufus Briscoe “Boots” Christian and coached by 23-year-old Frank Cey. Many of the Fuelerettes had played together at Midland Junior High and as the summer team Midland Tigers, but still were inexperienced in some of the game’s fundamentals.

Most of the girls didn’t really know how to take infield practice so we spent a lot of time learning that,” said Cey. “Then I took them out to a baseball field in Puyallup and taught them how to slide. I will tell you one thing, there was absolutely no hesitation on the part of these women when it came to taking someone out with a slide. They were tough when they took the field.”


Front row l. to r.: Marjorie Johnson, Shirley Johnson, Dorothy Anderson, Delores (Dee) Sagmiller, and Joyce (Jones) Wolf.

Middle row l. to r.: Esther Deuel, Donna Brown, Pat Hankinson, Ruthe (Connie) Canonica, and Virginia (Glassy) Penhale.
Back row l. to r.: Pat (Strachan) Stavig, Dorothy Miskar, Jueline Smith, Peggy Parsons, Louise Baskett, and Fran Cey (coach).

Pacific Mutual Fuel opened the 1948 state tournament with a thrilling 6-3, 14-inning win over Richland in front of 1,000 fans. Pitcher Esther Deuel started the decisive 14th-inning rally with a triple and later scored what proved to be the winning run. Team members named as tournament all-stars were catcher Dot Miskar, shortstop Dee Sagmiller and utility player Pat Strachan.

“We had a good group of women and while some of them weren’t what you would call really outstanding, they all contributed and worked hard which allowed us to play well as a team,” said Cey.

“Pat Strachan was a big, strong, versatile player for us. She was intimidating when she toed the mound and I knew that I could bring her in in the middle of a tough spot and she’d find a way to get us out of the jam. Dee Sagmiller was as fluid and confident of a player as one could want. She was strong for her stature and she made everything look easy. The team leader, according to Cey, was Miskar. “She was a little older than the rest of the girls and I think they looked up to her because of her experience and work ethic.”


Front row l. to r.: Delores Sagmiller, Joyce Jones, Shirley Johnson, unknown, Donna Brown, and Esther Deuel.

Back row l. to r.: Frank Cey (coach), Patsy Hankinson, Dorothy Miskar, Patsy Strachan, unknown, unknown, and Tommy Hankinson.

The Fuelerettes continued their winning ways into 1949 with the following roster:  Marge Johnson, Shirley Johnson, Dorothy Anderson, Dee Sagmiller, Joyce Jones, Esther Deuel, Pat Hankinson, Connie Canonica, Virginia Glassy, Pat Strachan, Dot Miskar, Peggy Parsons and Louise Baskett. Representing Tacoma in a strong Puget Sound League, the Fuelerettes and Sumner again qualified for the Washington State Tournament in Sunnyside. While Sumner won the title, the Fuelerettes came in third place with victories over Spokane Pines, Yakima and Bremerton. Leftfielder Pat Hankinson and centerfielder Shirley Johnson were named to the all-star team.

The 1950 Washington State Championship was held in Olympia, with the Orphans and Fuelerettes representing Tacoma. Dot Miskar coached the Orphans, made up of the players who, like Miskar, had previously played for the Fuelerettes. The Fuelerettes came into 1950 with a revised roster and new coaches Dick Penhale and Phil Yant, replacing Cey, who stepped down because of a busy schedule that included raising his son Ron, a future Major League third baseman for the Dodgers.



Pictured above are the Tacoma Fuelerettes, Pierce County and City Girl's Softball Champions. The Fuelerettes finished with a 15-1 record in the City Leage and represent  the District in the Regional Tourney in Portland.

Front row l. to r.: Donna Brown, Dorothy Anderson, Shirley Soggie, and Joyce Jones.

Middle row l. to r.: Kathryn McHugh, Patsy Strachan, and Ellen Schmidt.
Back row l. to r.: Delores Benjamin, Gloria Malley, Mary Jane Brammann, Coach Bill Staving, Patsy Hankinson, Sue Kauth, and Margaret Heinrick.

Pacific Mutual Fuels, coached by Bill Stavig, won the 1951 Pierce County Women's Softball title with a 15-1 record, earning entry into the regional tournament in Richland. Shirley Soggie was named to the regional all-star team. The Fuelerettes also captured the 1952 league title with a 1-0 victory over the Tacoma Orphans. Ann Kauzlarich, who three years earlier had pitched Sumner AC to an unexpected state crown, was the game’s star, hurling a no-hitter for the winners. Kate McHugh scored the winning run with two out in the ninth inning.

The Fuelerettes gained entry into the regional tournament in Portland, won by national powerhouse Erv Lind Florists. The Fuelerettes placed five players on the regional all-star team: pitcher Ann Kauzlarich, first baseman Janis Chase, shortstop Virginia Glassy, leftfielder Shirley Soggie, and rightfielder Pat Hankinson. In addition, Kauzlarich was named the "most inspirational" player.