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Risinger, Earlene "Beans" (3/20/1927 - 7/29/2008)

By Lowell-Tims Funeral Home & Crematory, Altus, OK

Helen Earlene “Beans” Risinger, 81, of Hess, Oklahoma, passed away Tuesday, July, 29, 2008, at the Plantation Village Nursing Home in Altus, Oklahoma.

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 helped her team take the 1953 League Championship when she faced Kalamazoo cleanup batter Doris "Sammye” Sams with two out, the bases loaded and the Chicks ahead by one run. She clinched the title by striking out Sams, who was a two-time league player of the year and six-time all-star—and had homered in her previous at-bat.  The trophy is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  Risinger had a 2.51 career earned run average in the AAGPBL, and her best season was 1953, when her won-lost record was 15-10.

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 2006, 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 movie’s 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.  

Contributed by: Merrie Fidler
Submitted on: 02/17/2011
Copyright: Lowel-Tims Funeral Home & Crematory, Altus, OK

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