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Leach, Wilma Williams

By Rhiannon Potkey

Wilma Williams-Leach was raised in a small town in Missouri and was well known across the state for her athletic prowess. She was featured in many newspaper articles for volleyball and softball. 

At a time when girls sports struggled for recognition, she was featured in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for her high school exploits. As a catcher in softball, Williams-Leach helped her school win district four straight times. As an outside hitter in volleyball, her teams never lost a match in four years.

Williams-Leach played for the Rockford Peaches in the summer of 1953 – 10 years after the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League’s inception.

Her older brother drove her to Chicago for the tryout when she was a 17-year-old high school senior. After finishing school, she left for Rockford the day after graduation.

Williams-Leach played second base and some outfield for the Peaches, batting .260. She lived with a host family that she remained in contact with throughout her life.

Williams-Leach returned home to Missouri and enrolled at Arkansas State. Nearly 18 years before Title IX was implemented, Arkansas State did not offer women’s sports, so Williams-Leach joined the cheerleading squad and earned a degree in education.

“It actually worked out for me that she didn’t play sports in college because one of her sorority sisters was from Topeka, Kansas, and said she was going to do an internship at the Topeka Police Department and they had another opening,” Todd Leach said. “My mom went up there that summer and met a guy detective named Lyn Leach. That is how my parents met.”

Williams-Leach eventually became a nurse and arranged her work schedule around her children’s athletic events. As they got older, her children began learning more and more about her past.

Williams-Leach also became the matriarch of an athletic family, yet extremely humble about her own athleticism. She didn’t tell her children much about her baseball career.

Todd Leach was an All-American football player and golfer at Southwest Baptist University. Todd’s older sister played volleyball at Arkansas State, and his older brother played football at Western Kentucky before being tragically killed in a car accident after a spring practice.

Todd Leach has tried to collect as much information as possible to share with the rest of the family. He has a few newspaper clippings and a headshot from her time with the Peaches.)

Williams-Leach was able to see “A League of Their Own” before she died.

“I was older at that point, so we had some great conversations and I was able to understand the experience a lot more,” Todd Leach said. “She said the uniforms were exact and they had coaches like Coach (Jimmy) Dugan there. But she kind of joked they never stopped at those juke joints to drink beer and smoke like they did in the movie.”

In the years that followed her death in 1993 from an inoperable brain tumor, Todd’s four daughters became outstanding softball players, inspired by stories of their grandmother and the movie A League of Their Own.  Aubrey played for the University of Tennesee, Kelcy committed to play for Texas Tech, and twins Alannah and Gabrielle, 11-years old in 2017, were rising stars.

Contributed by: Merrie Fidler
Submitted on: 04/21/2017
Copyright: Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel, April 14, 2017, with some modifcations

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