Longtime Player-coach Heads Into Softball Hall

April 14, 1991|By Jill L. Zarend | Jill L. Zarend,Staff writer

Doris Jenkins knew this could be trouble.

Standing at the plate was Cathleen Claggett, an outstanding long-ball hitter for Johnny's Used Cars amateur fast-pitch softball team. Jenkins feared that with one swing of the bat, the .350-lifetime slugger would knock her Caton-Chapman Jets out of the 1964 Maryland State Class AA Women's Softball Championship.

Jenkins made a position change that outfoxed Claggett. She put the first baseman in the outfield, giving her four fielders to cover the territory Claggett had claimed all year.

"Doris literally stole the state tournament from us by her managerial expertise," Claggett recalled 27 years later. "I was the best hitter and had been killing her team with long shots, and I came to bat and she put out four outfielders. She would rather give up a single than the double or triple or home run."

Caton-Chapman defeated Johnny's and went on to win the regional tournament. The Jets advanced to the nationals and were ranked 10th in the nation that year.

The success Jenkins achieved asa coach and pitcher has landed her a place in softball history.

The 63-year-old Glen Burnie resident and three others will be inductedFriday into the Maryland Softball Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Maryland Oldtimers Softball Association, at ceremonies at Overlea Hall in Baltimore.

Only the second woman to be inducted into the Maryland Hall, Jenkins had a lifetime batting average of over .300 in 23 seasons as a fast-pitch hurler. She also coached for 22 years, capturing11 state and three regional championships and making one trip to thenationals.

As a player-coach, she took part in 29 state championships, 15 regionals, two national tournaments and 51 invitational tournaments.

Jenkins also will be inducted into the nation's Softball Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, along with 95 other Maryland Hall of Famers.

"We have a strong history of fast-pitch," explained Leo Mills, chairman of the Maryland Softball Hall of Fame Committee. Softball Hall of Famers make up the committee who vote in new inductees.

"We really hadn't put a woman in until three years ago. Women's softball is really strong in this state, and I guess people decided to honor the women also. They weren't blackballed or anything like that. Wejust decided to vote on it, and then we started inducting women."

Today, Jenkins, a retired nurse and educator, can be found in the apartment she shares with "Little Toots," a terrier she's owned for 13 years, and a stray cat she took in more recently.

"It's a great honor. You're getting rewarded for something that you did most of your life and something that you enjoyed," she said.

But she paid a heavy price for playing the game.

In her dining room sits a treadmillshe uses daily to alleviate the stiffness in her knees that comes from 35 years of abuse.

Jenkins' doctor told her six years ago she had "worn her knees out."

"It's called total-knee replacement," sheexplained of her two operations. "I had completely destroyed everything -- all the tissue and the knee joint, the cartilage, you name it.And then, of course, degenerative joint disease, and arthritis has set in."

But if given a second chance, she wouldn't change a thing,"because that was a big part of my life. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was worth it."

And she has the scrapbook to prove it.

A yellow-edged clipping from a 1944 issue of the Institute of Notre DameHigh School newspaper reads: "Claire Bond, advocating bigger softball yards when Doris Jenkins gets up to bat."

The former teammate's comment is one of many that fills the book, recounting three decades in a sport that began as recreation and later became her life.

Hercareer in sports was born on the basketball court and softball diamond of her high school. She attended IND on an academic scholarship and played softball and basketball for two years.

A standout forwardin basketball, she netted double digits each time she took the floor.

Softball, it seems, was her second love.

"Personally, I like playing basketball better than softball," Jenkins said. "But coaching. . . I liked coaching softball more than basketball."

When she entered college at the St. Agnes School of Nursing in Baltimore, she met two other sports enthusiasts, Rennie and Pat Kelly, who convinced her to join the Pulaski Athletic Club softball team.

Ironically, Rennie was the first woman to be inducted into the Maryland Softball Hall of Fame in 1989. Her husband, Pat, was inducted in 1988.

Jenkins competed for Pulaski in 1948 and 1949. In her second year, the team went to the national tournament in Portland, Ore. -- only the second time a Maryland entry had gone to the nationals.

In 1964, Jenkins coached the Caton-Chapman Jets to the nationals, and no Maryland team has made it since.

While working as a nurse at St. Agnes Hospital, one of Jenkins' superiors told her she had teaching potential andhired her as an assistant instructor.

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