Mildred Martin Allen and the Hill District’s Satellites Softball Team

1970 Satellites softball uniform
Daughter Beatrice (Allen) Harper donated her mother’s collection of softball and volleyball artifacts, including a striking 1970 “Satelities” uniform displayed in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. Photo by Liz Simpson.

In 1960, Mildred Allen played a key role in developing the Tri-Boro Softball League and served as its commissioner for many years until the league disbanded in 1976. Intense play among the Hill District’s Satellites, the Garfieldettes, the Homewood Orbits, and other teams provided young women a rare opportunity for athletic competition in a time when demands for equal rights for both women and African Americans were immediate. Allen coached while playing shortstop and second base for the Satellites (the name’s spelling varies over the years, including the original spelling of “Satilites”) alongside three of her daughters. They were league champions in 1966 when Allen served as associate manager with her sister Beatrice Mahaffey managing and husband Thomas Allen coaching. Family time and playing softball coincided in frequent, demanding practices and traveling to area fields.

The Satellites actively chose an empowering civil rights stance while seeking an equal playing field and opportunities in athletics. In 1970, the team was sponsored by the United Black Front, a cultural nationalist organization involved with progressive community activities that included economic development and civil rights. Just two years earlier, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination further spurred equal rights demands in many Pittsburghers’ minds. And just two years after wearing this uniform, the Satellites again won the league championship in 1972, the same year as Title IX’s enactment. Title IX required gender equity for boys and girls in educational and athletic programs which received federal funding.

The Satellites fostered community pride as they played their home games at Ammon Field on Bedford Avenue against teams with names like the Speed Queens, the Vikings, and the Jets, from areas surrounding the city such as McKeesport, Duquesne, and East Liberty. Mildred Allen passed away in 2003 but her legacy lives on. Decades after Crawfords legend Josh Gibson played there, the former Ammon Field is still used by softball and youth baseball teams. In 2008, it was renamed the Josh Gibson Field. The Josh Gibson Foundation now uses it as their home field, providing academic and athletic programs for area boys and girls.

Hill District Satellites
Hill District Satellites. Mildred is in the second row, far right, and Beatrice is six players to the left.
1960 Ammon Recreation Center volleyball team
The 1960 Ammon Recreation Center volleyball team. Mildred Allen is third from left.

Craig Britcher is a project coordinator with the History Center & the assistant curator of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.