Rural Missouri - March 2013 - (Page 22)
Queens of the Co
The All American Red Heads were the ﬁrst paid women’s traveling
or members of the Cairo girl’s
basketball team, 1967 was their
year. Led by top scorer Brenda
Koester, the team went undefeated — yet unrewarded.
Unlike today’s leagues where playoffs are prevalent and successful teams
are awarded championships, there was
no state tournament, March Madness
or prize trophies for the Cairo girls.
“After that season, basketball was
over for me,” says Brenda, formerly
Brenda O’Bryan. “There really wasn’t
any college ball. My career was over.”
Two years later, while Brenda was
playing softball in Louisiana, she met
Pauline Barbo. “She told me about
This team photo of the 1967-1968 All American Red Heads featured, from left, Jolene Ammons, Becky “Miss Basketball” Harp, Brenda Mo
this team called the All American
Red Heads were formed in Cassville by C.M. Olson in 1936. For 50 years, the women’s team played exclusively against men’s teams acros
Red Heads,” says Brenda.
legend Nolan Ryan and the New Eng“They were a women’s
country. They challenged men’s teams
club from 1970 to 1973. Her
land Patriots football team,” says Pat
team that toured the
comprised of local talent, celebrities
younger sister, Kay Burk, folOverman. Born Pat Rimer, she grew
country and played against
or college standouts.
lowed her and donned
up in Edina and joined the team in
men. I knew right away this
They played using the men’s rules
the red hair for three
1962 straight out of high school. In
was right up my alley.”
and routinely won, using a fast-paced
seasons between 1972
12 years as a Red Head, she played in
Pauline helped Brenda constyle of play and superb shooting.
and 1976. The O’Bryan
every state and averaged more than
tact the coach and owner of
They were also entertainers, as the Red
sisters became part of
20 points a game for a career total of
the team, Orwell Moore. Soon,
Heads coming to town was a big deal
a sorority of women
more than 25,000 points.
Brenda was called for a tryout
for a lot of rural communities.
who played during the
“We’d have games scheduled just
at Camp Courage, the Red Head’s
“During halftime, while the men
team’s 50-year tenure
about every day,” recalls Pat, who now
training facilities in Mississippi.
were resting, we would go out and put
and who helped break the stereotype
lives in Jonesboro, Ark. “Most Sun“After only two days of playing,
on a show,” says Kay, who now resides
that women couldn’t play sports.
days, we’d play two games. Finish one
Mr. Moore offered me a contract,”
in Fort Madison, Iowa. “We had one
The Red Heads were one of the
game, jump in the car and drive 150
says Brenda, who now resides in
girl that was a comedienne, and we’d
nation’s ﬁrst professional women’s
miles or so and play another.”
Moberly. “I was so excited to continue
do juggling and dribbling tricks, fancy
teams. They were paid to play 200
Winning was consistent for the Red
playing the game I loved.”
shots and other things to keep the
games or more in a seven-month seaHeads. During the 1970 season, they
Brenda went on to play with the
son as they barnstormed across the
had a 96-game winning streak in 96
The roots of the Red Heads began
days — which included three days off
in 1936 in Cassville by C.M. Olson —
and three doubleheaders.
60 years before the WNBA was formed
Travel between games was not a
and only 16 after women won the
luxurious affair. The Red Heads traright the vote. Olson operated several
versed the country crammed into a
men’s teams during the 1920s, but
stretch limousine. To save space, each
with a women’s team he saw a new
of the seven players was allowed just
opportunity. The ﬁrst two players he
one suitcase for the season.
signed were natural red heads. As a
“You only had a few outﬁts, but
way to promote his wife’s salon, the
when we rolled into town, we
other women followed suit and went
wanted to look like profesfor the crimson hair color.
sional young ladies,”
The ﬁrst season began in the tiny
says Pat. “Before each
town of Alpena, Ark., on Nov. 24.
game, we were busy
After that, the Red Heads exploded
with interviews, superonto basketball’s center stage, playing
market visits and
133 games in six months in front of
sell-out crowds in nearly 30 states.
the game. But
With each season, the Red Heads
after each game, we
grew in popularity. They added more
would head to an allstops, and a second and third team
night laundry mat
were added to the touring schedule.
to wash our
To improve their play, Olson hired an
up-and-coming coach, Orwell Moore,
from Caraway, Ark., in 1948 to lead
the team. Moore eventually went on
season, the women
to be the owner and coached the Red
spent just about
Heads till the team folded in 1986.
On trips to Hollywood, they made
guest appearances on talk shows and
movie sets, played in a variety of arestrong friendnas — even on a U.S. Navy battleship
During a game in her ﬁrst year as a Red Head in the 1966-1967 season, Charlotte
ships and an
— and beat many celebrity teams.
“Sweetie” Adams makes a move to the basket past two male defenders. The MississipThis logo appeared on
“We played against the baseball
pi native went on to score 26,746 points during her seven-year career with the team.
All American Red Heads
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2013
Rural Missouri - March 2013
Table of Contents
Musings in mud
The lure of tying flies
Out of the Way Eats
Queens of the court
Hearth and Home
All about mulch
Rural Missouri - March 2013
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