Olive Bend Little
(1917 – 1987)
Olive Little is a member of the Softball Canada Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. She started her career playing in Poplar Point, progressed to Winnipeg and then onto the Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. She pitched for the Peaches for several years, playing in the All-Star games at Soldier Field. Following the end of her career, she returned to Poplar Point where she coached the girls of her area and developed a group of young ladies who formed one of the best teams in the province with a number of those girls eventually following her into the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame and winning national championships.
Little was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 1985. She died at the age of sixty-nine.
Olive Bend Little started making herself known in 1937 when she commuted to Winnipeg to play with the Norwood Senior Women's Softball team. It was in the days when 2,000 spectators would attend games and no-hitters were not uncommon for Little. She pitched a no-hit game to start a best-of-three series for first place in the league and finished the same way – tossing another no-hitter with a Winnipeg newspaper claiming: “Bend is Brilliant.” Moving to the Winnipeg C.U.A.C., Little continued setting records in the league averaging 12 to 14 strikeouts a game during 1940’s.
It was that year she travelled to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with permission from league commissioner Jimmy Dunn to play ball if she had the opportunity. She joined the Royals in the Saskatchewan Senior League, leading them to the Saskatchewan championship. Returning to C.U.A.C. she played a large part in helping that club win their provincial title the same year. During the Second World War when major league baseball in the United States was hampered with players taking part in the fighting, a women’s professional baseball league (A.A.G.P.B.L.) was formed and Little was recruited by the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches. She was to pitch four no-hitters while with Rockford and was selected to the all-star team that played at Wrigley Field, Chicago. Married to George Little in 1943, Olive ended her career professionally in 1945 when George was discharged from the Canadian Army.
The daughter of Jack Bend, Olive Bend Little lived most of her life in Poplar Point. She credited much of her success to her father. “Anybody who had the kind of coaching and encouragement I had could have done what I did,” she claims. “Maybe more.” What Little did on the playing field in a relatively brief time would take a team many years to accomplish. Her kind come once in a lifetime.
She was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.