Softball is returning to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. With it, a new generation of softball stars can make their way back to mainstream sports. Without the Olympics to showcase the sport, pro softball has taken a hiatus from the worldwide lexicon. However, there was a time when well-known players became household names. These are the most famous softball players ever.
1. Dot Richardson
Dot Richardson began receiving attention for her softball skills when she was just 13 years old. The youngest player at the Women’s Major Fastpitch National Championship, her ensuing career spanned over 25 years. First, she competed at Western Illinois and UCLA. Then, she played on many pro teams, most with the Raybestos Brakettes in Stratford, Connecticut.
Richardson won two gold medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, respectively. Her success at shortstop was legendary, but she was also known for her lightning-fast pitching. Since playing, Richardson has focused not only on coaching but a career in medicine.
2. Jennie Finch
You’d be hard-pressed to find a softball player as famous as Jennie Finch. She first made waves in college as a pitcher and first baseman at the University of Arizona. Then, Finch played professionally with the Chicago Bandits. But it was her Olympic play that got her national exposure.
From 1998 to 2010, Finch became the most recognizable face on a dominant squad. Her 2004 Olympics showing put her on an elite level as her fast pitches were nearly impossible to hit. Finch often posted a season-long E.R.A. south of 1. Since competing, she’s done everything from managing an independent pro baseball team to serving as a softball ambassador with the MLB.
3. Jessica Mendoza
Jessica Mendoza was part of the last hurrah for Team USA softball in the Olympics. After a college career at Stanford, she was a part of both the 2004 gold-medal team in Athens and the 2008 silver-medal team in Beijing. While many of the most famous softball players were known for pitching, Mendoza was known for hitting and good decision-making.
Baseball fans may recognize her as part of ESPN’s coverage of the sport, but Mendoza has also worked for the New York Mets as an advisor and is an advocate for more diversity in baseball.
4. Lisa Fernandez
Lisa Fernandez followed in the footsteps of Richardson at UCLA. A member of three different Olympic teams, she amassed three gold medals. Her ERA in the 2000 Olympics was a perplexing .47 as she helped lead the team to the gold medal. Recently, Fernandez returned to UCLA as an assistant coach to generate interest in softball for a new generation of women.
5. Cat Osterman
Cat Osterman won gold and silver in 2004 and 2008 and became a dominant pitcher in the process. During her first Olympic experience, she was still making a name for herself as a Texas Longhorn, where she won three college world series and was the collegiate player of the year three times.
Osterman stepped away from the game in 2015, but it didn’t last long. While the other famous softball players on the list are done competing, Osterman is making a comeback just in time to represent Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Games, where she can provide some veteran leadership.