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The Arkansas Lassies and Shooting Stars
     The career of Linda Yearby

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Owner/Coach of the Shooting Stars, Linda Yearby is third from the right.

Having begun as far back as the 1930’s, there were a number of traveling women’s basketball teams. They were known as the “barnstorming teams” who played men’s teams, according to men’s rules

 

The following pages are dedicated to the span of twenty plus years of one of basketball’s pioneers whose love for the sport found her as owner and part-owner of some of the more successful teams. Meet Linda Yearby, pictured below, far right as a member of the indomitable Texas Cowgirls, prior to her becoming one of the original organizers of the “Shooting Stars.”

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Always fascinated with the game of basketball, Linda began playing in earnest at the age of eight, with her four brothers finding that her ability to get the ball in the basket made her a formidable opponent. When her nephew moved next door the challenge was even greater. By this time, she had made up her mind that basketball would always be a part of her life. As a matter of fact, due to the fact that she has been a life-long sufferer of asthma, her father attempted to discourage her from being so passionate about the game; however, Linda openly felt that if she was to meet her end, it might as well be on a basketball court, playing the game that she loved.

As a child, she became so good at the game of basketball, she was recruited by the eighth grade boys’ basketball coach, Walter Parker, to be the only female member of the team, which, with Linda on the team, they enjoyed a 15-7 season.

To say she endured her share of razzing and name calling is putting it mildly; however, her determination won out, and, as a Midway Panther, she made headlines in November of 1950 for her performance in and invitational tournament; invitational due to the fact that other than Coach Parker, no coach felt there should be a woman on a basketball team.

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Shown above is the uniform and jacket Linda would wear as a Midway Panther. Even her uniform was a different color than the boys.

In high school, basketball was played only as part of Physical Education classes, with an annual class tournament always won by the class of which Linda was a member. The style was six-on-six, with the court broken into two zones. Each team consisted of three guards and three forwards. As a forward, Linda was able to score, and score she did, racking up a whopping 103 points in two of the tournament games!

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Graduating high school, Linda was as passionate about basketball as ever, so when the famous Texas Cowgirls traveled to a nearby town in her native Indiana, she was made an offer she couldn’t refuse: With the Cowgirls’ average of 180 games a season, traveling 40,000 miles, she would replace a member who had been injured. The popular Cowgirls, putting on shows ala the still famous Harlem Globetrotters, and at times on the same bill with the Globetrotters, usually playing men’s teams, winning about 80% of their games.

During her time witht the Cow Girls, Linda was also asked by the owner to coach another team owned by the same people, The Harlem Chicks. This was an all black womens basketball team. Along with coaching, Linda would even have to ask if the team could go into restaurants and hotels. This was aprx in 1959-1960.

Linda would play for two seasons before taking the next two seasons off to attend to family business, becoming active again as player and Coach beginning with the 1959-1960 season. During the next seven years, Linda and team traveled to every state in the country, with the exception of Hawaii, Spain and Morocco were on the agenda during those years, trips that resulted in some exciting times and interesting stories.

In 1975, a start-up league named the WPBA (Women’s Professional Basketball Association) was formed. The league included several barnstorming teams; among them, The All American Redheads, and the Indianapolis Pink Panthers which counted among its members former Redheads Jolene Ammons and Karen Logan who would later play in the WBL.

To gage fan response before determining a site for their new home, in January, 1975, the Michigan Arkansas Lassies entertained the Indianapolis Pink Panthers while on their site search. While on this quest, a name change was in the offing, with the Michigan Robins was suggested, but the league never got off the ground due to lack of backing. Little did the prospective backers realize what opportunities they missed!

 

We played on the military bases, representing the government as a USO show. We were given $7.00 for food. We flew in Army planes, and we were hungry a great deal of the time, as everything was cooked in olive oil, which some of us weren’t too happy about. Oh, yes! We experienced plane trouble over Alaska!


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Linda (top center), along with Elvera Neuman (top, far left), Bernice Holliday (bottom center), and Katherine Mestemaker, leave the famous Texas Cowgirls, (after eight years), to create their own team, The Shooting Stars. Along with being part owner of the team, Linda was also Coach and Player.

 

The Shooting Stars would play two seasons, playing 300 games, while traveling throughout the United States.

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The above 1970s Lassies signed team picture donated by Chris Zirkle

The struggle has certainly paid off as those of us who began our careers so long ago, as we are setting new goals for ourselves, and encouraging the younger set to learn the game, follow the rules, and never give up!


The gratification of having been a trailblazer is beyond measure.

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THE GENESIS PREPARATORY SCHOOL
Linda, far left, with championship Varsity Panthers, 2002

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