Top 6 Best Womens Softball Players Of All Time
Who are the top 6 best women's softball players of all time?
- Joan Joyce
- Dot Richardson
- Lisa Fernandez
- Jennie Finch
- Cat Osterman
- Jessica Mendoza
1. Joan Joyce
- Career ERA of 0.09
- 50 career perfect games
- 150 career no-hitters
- Eight-time National Tournament MVP
- Struck out Ted Williams
Joan Joyce was a world class athlete that competed in fastpitch softball, basketball, golf, and volleyball. While playing basketball on the United States Women's National Basketball Team in 1964-65, Joyce broke the national tournament record for points scored in a game (67). She has been inducted into 19 different halls of fame for her performance across various sports. However, her primary sport was softball.
Joyce began her professional softball career on the Raybestos Brakettes from 1954 to 1963. She then played for the Orange Lionettes from 1964 to 1966 before returning to the Barkettes from 1967 to 1975. She then played golf on the LPGA and went on to become one of the most successful coaches in softball history at Florida Atlantic University.
In this 11-year span, Joyce amassed some truly insane statistical feats: 150 no-hitters, 50 perfect games, a lifetime earned run average of 0.09, and 42 wins in a single season (1974) that also included 38 shutouts. She also pitched 29 innings in a single game in 1968.
Joyce was more than just an impressive pitcher, though. She also holds softball records for doubles (153), triples (67), and single season batting average (.437 in 1971). Joyce also holds the record for doubles in a season (22; 1968) and led the Brakettes in batting in six different years.
One of Joyce's most famous anecdotes, though, involves striking out legendary baseball player Ted Williams at an exhibition game in 1961. She was still 21 at the time, while Williams had just retired from baseball.
2. Dot Richardson
- Won a 1996 Olympic gold medal in softball
- Won a 2000 Olympic gold medal in softball
- Youngest player ever in the ASA Women's Major Fastpitch National Championships (13 years old)
- Four-time MVP
- Became the face of fastpitch softball
Dot Richardson earns the number two spot on this list because while she never put together the consistent, sustained dominance of Joan Joyce, Richardson used her athletic abilities to spread the popularity of softball to a much wider audience. Of course, Richardson had her fair share of dominance on the diamond as well.
Dot Richardson's softball playing career began in 1972, and three years later (at the age of 13) she became the youngest player to ever compete in the Amateur Softball Association of America Women's Major Fast-Pitch National Championships, which her team, the Orlando Rebels, won.
After a stellar college career with the UCLA Bruins (highlighted by three NCAA All-American honors, an NCAA Player of the Decade award, and an NCAA Championship in 1982) Dot Richardson played professionally for the Florida Rebels, Raybestos Brakettes, and California Commotion. She was MVP of the National Women's Major FastPitch National Championship four times.
Richardson played shortstop for the USA's national softball team, which won the first ever gold medal for softball at the 1996 Summer Olympic games. Team USA followed it up with another gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Sydney four years later. Richardson was arguably the team's best player throughout both winning teams, and her passion on the field captured the attention of many around the country.
After winning two gold medals, Richardson became an orthopedic surgeon and head coach of the Liberty University softball team. In her first six years as head coach, Richardson has taken the Liberty program from a record of 11-46 to 40-22.
3. Lisa Fernandez
- Won three Olympic gold medals with Team USA
- Struck out a record 25 batters in one game
- Three-time winner of the Honda Award and two-time College World Series winner at UCLA
- Named greatest college softball player of all time by the NCAA
- Holds the record for best batting average in a single tournament
Lisa Fernandez earns the third spot on this list for her incredible college and international career. Fernandez played for the UCLA Bruins from 1990 to 1993. In those four years, she won three Honda Awards (awarded to the best softball player in the nation), appeared on four All-American first teams, was part of two College World Series-winning teams, and winner of the 1993 Honda-Broderick Cup (given to the best collegiate female athlete across all sports).
Fernandez both pitched and batted impressively at UCLA, posting a college ERA of 0.22 and batting average of .381. She was named the #1 Greatest College Softball Player by the NCAA.
But her incredible career did not end at the college ranks. Fernandez helped lead the United States Softball Team to three straight gold medals, starting with the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and continuing through the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. In the 2000 Olympics, she struck out an unprecedented 25 batters in one game, setting the record for strikeouts in a game.
Fernandez is now an assistant softball coach at UCLA.
4. Jennie Finch
- Won one gold and one silver medal in two Olympics appearances
- NCAA record 51 consecutive wins
- Threw a record 35 consecutive scoreless innings twice in college
- Three-time First Team All-American
- College record of 119-16
Jennie Finch began pitching at the age of eight. By the time she turned 15, Finch had already won two ASA national softball titles with her youth team, the California Cruisers.
Finch attended the University of Arizona from 1999-2002, amassing truly groundbreaking numbers along the way: 51 wins in a row, 35 shutout innings in a row (she did this twice), three first team All-American honors, a record of 119 wins to 16 losses, a pitching ERA of 1.08 and a batting average of .301.
Finch went on to play for the US National Softball Team, which won a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics.
The silver medal was a subject of extreme disappointment for American softball players and fans alike. Before the 2008 Olympics started, it had been determined that softball would be removed from the list of Olympic sports, along with baseball, in reaction to baseball's doping scandals. Everyone knew this could be the last softball competition in the Olympics, but Team USA lost 3-1 to Japan, their only time never winning gold.
Softball has since been added back to the 2020 Olympic docket.
5. Cat Osterman
- Won gold and silver Olympic medals
- Holds college softball records for strikeout ratio, WHIP, and perfect games
- Holds the NPF records for strikeout ratio and perfect games
- Named the 3rd best college softball player by the NCAA
- 2nd in total NCAA strikeouts
Cat Osterman, a left-handed pitcher, established herself as one of the greats at the University of Texas, where she pitched her way to numerous Division I records, including the most ever NCAA Division I Player of the Year awards (3) and four All-American selections. Osterman is first all-time in career strikeouts per 7 innings (14.34), Big 12 Pitcher of the Week Awards (25), perfect games (7), and Big 12 Pitcher of the Year awards (4 one each year). She is second all-time in strikeouts (2,265) and third in shutouts (85) and no-hitters (20).
These astounding stats earned Osterman a spot on Team USA's softball team for the 2004 and 2008 Olympic squads. The team won gold medals in 2004 and silver in 2008.
Osterman also starred in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. Her rookie strikeout ratio of 12.5 set a new league record (although it has since been broken). She finished with a NPF career ERA of 0.91, 1,260 strikeouts, and a 95-24 record.
6. Jessica Mendoza
- Won gold and silver Olympic medals
- Fifth player ever to be a four-time NCAA All-American
- Finished with a college ERA of .416
- Holds many Stanford career records
- Became a well-known ESPN broadcaster after retiring from softball
While Jessica Mendoza may not have the outstanding career statistics of some of the others on this list, her work as a broadcaster for ESPN helped to pioneer female involvement and exposure in baseball; as well as being an outspoken advocate for softball.
Usually softball pitchers get the bulk of the credit for offensive and defensive performances, but as an outfielder, Mendoza demanded respect at the plate.
Mendoza played college softball for the Stanford Cardinal from 1999-2002. She holds career school records for batting average (.416), hits (327), home runs (50), slugging percentage (.719), and runs scored (230). She remains in the top 10 for doubles, triples, runs batted in, stolen bases, walks, at bats, and games played.
Mendoza played with the USA National softball team alongside Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman, among many other greats, winning a gold medal in 2004 and silver in 2008. Her career batting average with Team USA is an impressive .432.
Mendoza joined the NPF in 2005, posting a .491 batting average in her rookie season.
Mendoza joined ESPN's Baseball Tonight broadcast team in 2014 and has worked with ESPN and the New York Mets ever since.