Since the inception of the softball national championships in 1933, the sport has seen some true greats. While the women who have dominated this sport don’t get nearly as much recognition as the Tom Bradys and Michael Jordans of the world, the skill they’ve displayed and the paths they’ve paved for future generations deserves a spotlight.
Here are the best five softball players of all time.
5. Jessica Mendoza
Jessica Mendoza was a stellar outfielder all four years at Stanford University, but where she truly thrived was the plate. Mendoza batted .416 with 50 home runs, 188 RBI and 230 runs scored.
Her success continued after she graduated and went on to play pro ball where she batted .355 with 34 home runs, 130 RBI and 114 runs scored. Mix in a gold medal with Team USA at the 2004 Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics, and you’ve got yourself quite the career.
Mendoza continued to pave the way for future generations of young women by tapping into her analyst side and having a full-blown broadcast career with ESPN.
4. Cat Osterman
When it comes to collegiate pitchers, Cat Osterman owns the record books. The University of Texas product claims the NCAA Division 1 records for strikeout ratio, WHIP, and perfect games. Let me take you through her win-loss records in each stage of her career:
- College: 136-25
- Team USA: 74-5
- National Pro Fastpitch: 95-24
- Athletes Unlimited: 17-5
During her nine years with Team USA, Osterman won one gold and two bronze medals.
3. Lisa Fernandez
Lisa Fernandez led UCLA to two Women’s College World Series titles. During her time with the Bruins, the pitcher received the Honda Award which is presented to the nation’s best softball player.
Fernandez won three gold medals with Team USA and set an Olympic record striking out 21 players in a game.
2. Jennie Finch
Named “The most famous softball player in history” by TIME Magazine, Jennie Finch had an incredible career to back up that title. Finch attended the University of Arizona where she led her team to a national championship all while recording a perfect 51 wins in a row and pitched 35 consecutive shutout innings.
If you made contact with a Finch pitch, you were very lucky.
1. Dot Richardson
The two-time Olympic Gold medal winner, Dot Richardson is the greatest softball player of all time. Her illustrious career started way back in 1975 when she was 13, becoming the youngest ever softball player in the ASA Women’s Major Fastpitch National Championships.
She was awarded the NCAA Player of the Decade for the 1980s, a period in which she played for two teams: Western Illinois and, more notably, UCLA. In 1982 the UCLA Bruins won their first ever NCAA Championship, and you best be sure that Dot Richardson was a huge part of that championship run and is a reason that to this day, UCLA is considered college softball royalty.
When softball was introduced in the Olympics for the first time in Atlanta in 1996, Richardson was a fundamental member of the USA team that won gold, hitting the game-winning home run against China in the Gold Medal game. She helped the United States national team win a gold medal once again, four years later in Sydney.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson