All-Black Softball Team Breaks Barriers: The Bullard Bumblebees

BULLARD, Texas – They were one of only a few all-black female softball teams at the height of segregation.

The Bullard Bumblebees was started by Mr. Leroy Foley in the early 1960s.

Throughout the Bumblebees' history, more than a dozen ladies took the field as part of the team's roster -- during a time when African Americans couldn't play on certain teams.

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“Even though we were segregated, our parents for the most part kept us away from the segregation part of it,” said Wanda Bowie Ealey, the team’s pitcher.

The team was made up of players who never doubted their skills and were ready to strike out their competition by any means necessary.

“I was like Speedy Gonzales,” said Regena McKellar Barlow, one of the team’s outfielders. “I had to run sometimes from left to center field to help others out and sometimes we had a collision on the field.”

“I was good,” said Edna Stewart, the team’s first baseman and shortstop. “I didn't miss nothing that came down there, unless it was over my head.”

The photo below is one of the only team pictures that survived the era.

The team was founded by Mr. Foley – who according to his family and friends even had a chance to play against Babe Ruth.

“He loved the Bullard Bumblebees,” said Lillian Foley Jackson, Mr. Leroy Foley’s daughter and one of the team’s pitchers. “We made him very proud of us."

Mr. Foley named EllaDoll Towels Spikes the team's ace.

“He always started me off pitching,” Spikes said. “Then he'd say I'm going to let Big Lillie come on and finish it up.”

Affectionately in love with the game of baseball, Mr. Foley used the all-female softball team to provide the young women with another source of entertainment.

“Mr. Foley would make sure that you got out there,” said Emmer McKellar Jones, one of the team’s outfielders and occasional shortstop. “He'd tell you, you better play hard.”

Throughout the years, the Bullard Bumblebees mainly played against other black teams, -- that’s until this time.

“The greatest experience we had was when Mr. Lee got us a team with all white softball players from Palestine,” Regena added.

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It’s a moment she says she'll never forget.

“If you would look at Lillian and EllaDoll pitching, you'd think they were the best pitchers in the world, but when we went to Palestine to play an all-white team, they had a pitcher that you could not even see the ball when she threw it."

The Bullard Bumblebees played almost every summer during the 1960s.

"People loved to come and see us play,” said Karemn McKellar Granberry, one of the team’s outfielders. “We had soda, hot dogs and barbecue – it was really entertainment for us back in the day."

Although, Mr. Leroy Foley played his last inning in 2014 at 104-years-old, there’s no doubt his legacy lives on.