LAURINBURG — It was not so long ago that a softball game could draw an audience of thousands, even in Laurinburg, though the game’s outcome was all but certain.
The poster advertising that game, held on July 29, 1989 at Legion Park, hangs in the Scotland County Museum, signed by the members of the winning team — all four of them.
Rosie Black held the title of queen in The Queen and Her Court, a four-person softball team styled with a feminine twist after the successful barnstorming baseball team The King and His Court, which appeared in Laurinburg twice.
“She was a fast pitch pitcher before fast pitch was popular in girl’s softball,” said Al Blades, who was present at the game and who supplied the poster on the museum wall.
Black and her team travelled throughout the U.S. and Canada, and even as far away as Japan, maintaining a near-perfect win record against full teams comprised almost exclusively of men.
The team’s match in Laurinburg against the Scotland County All-Stars wasn’t even a close game, Blades remembered.
“But don’t ask me for the score,” he said. “It was more of an exhibition — they didn’t really keep score. It was a lot of fun and a lot of comedy.”
While typical All-Stars games typically attracted a few hundred spectators, thousands flocked to watch Black pitch, witnessing not only her fastball — billed at 90 miles per hour — but her ability to strike batters out pitching blindfolded, between her legs, and from second base. One one occasion, she even struck out Willie Mays.
The Queen and Her Court dissolved in 1990, making their Laurinburg match one of the last of thousands throughout a 25-year career. Though The King and His Court has survived into the 21st century, the traveling baseball team has for the most part faded into the realm of Americana.
“There was a lot of excitement,” Blades said of that decades-ago game. “It’s not every day you get to see teams who travel all over the place and come here one time to a small town like this. It was once in a lifetime.”