Best Softball Players of All Time- Who Are The Icons of The Game?

Best softball players of all time

6 minutes

Last Updated: May 24, 2024

Scott Kostov

Ranking the best softball players ever is hard. After all, it’s a team game. While some of you might not even know what it really is, there are legends in this sport as well. Sure they play in stadiums smaller than the smallest MLB stadium. But that doesn’t discredit the physical toll they undergo.

Much like the NFL all time receiving leaders, you can’t be considered the best of all time in something without a long playing career. You also need personal statistics to back up that claim, and team success is a major factor.

So who are the best softball players of all time? How do you even go about ranking them? In this article, we’ll go over the most successful pro softball players and how their careers stack up.

Who is the Best Softball Player in the World

Monica Abbott recently retired, but she’s still the best Softball player in the world in my book. Born on July 28, 1985, in Santa Cruz, California, Monica became a softball icon in her childhood.

After graduating from North Salinas High School, Abbott continued her softball journey at the University of Tennessee, where she dominated at the collegiate level. There, her left-handed pitching became her trademark. She would use this advantageous angle throughout her career, making it hard for right-handed batters, at all levels of competition.

Monica Abbott shattered multiple NCAA Division I records and earned multiple Player of the Year awards, becoming one of the most famous softball players. She would later go on to have a professional career with multiple NPF Pitcher of the Year honors thanks to record-setting performances.

In 2008, Abbott made history both on and off the field. She signed a six-year, $1 million contract with the Scrap Yard Dawgs of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. Coming off a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Abbott was pretty much in the prime of her career.

Abbott’s drive to become the most famous softball player led her to join the Japan Softball League. There she represented teams like the Toyota Red Terriers and the Denso Bright Pegasus. Her stint in Japan made her a global softball sensation, something rare for pro softball players.

Abbott also played a pivotal role in securing gold for Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, marking softball’s triumphant return to the Olympic stage after a 12-year hiatus. 

Abbott’s unparalleled work ethic has resonated deeply with aspiring athletes, particularly young girls. While men have usually knocked the longest home runs ever, Monica Abbott is proof that women can dominate a niche as well.

Best Softball Players of All Time

Dot Richardson

Dot Richardson is a worthy opponent of Monica Abbott for the title of the best softball player of all time. Born in Orlando, Florida, Richardson’s remarkable career began at the age of 10 in 1972.

By the time she was 13, in 1975, she became the youngest player ever to compete in the ASA Women’s Major Fastpitch National Championships. This achievement foreshadowed her future greatness.

In college, she played for Western Illinois and later for the UCLA Bruins. There, she earned the NCAA Player of the Decade for the 1980s. In 1982, Richardson became known on the national stage as she played a pivotal role in leading the UCLA Bruins to their first NCAA Championship.

As softball made its Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996, Richardson emerged as a leader of the USA team. Firmly in the prime of her career, she helped clinch the gold medal and etched her name in Olympic US history.

She was back at it again, four years later in Sydney, where she helped win another gold medal for the United States national team. After playing for more than 30 years, Richardson moved into coaching in 2014.

She’s the Liberty Lady Flames head coach to this day and she even pursued a career as an orthopedic doctor. If that ain’t the definition of girl power, I don’t know what is. With so many fat MLB players these days, her expertise in softball and limb health will continue contributing to the game.

Lisa Fernandez

Making a list of the best softball players ever without Lisa Fernandez wouldn’t be done any justice. She’s a true legend of the game, boasting an impressive resume. Apart from being a three-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA, her dominance on the field made her one of the most famous softball players ever.

Similar to Dot Richardson, Fernandez’s journey began at UCLA, where she now serves as an assistant coach. She won two national championships while being named the country’s top softball player three times.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she set an Olympic record with an astounding 25 strikeouts in a single game, contributing to her career total of 784 strikeouts. But that wasn’t the only time she had shown out internationally.

She led the USA softball team to Olympic gold medal victories in 1996, 2000, and 2004. Her personal records and team achievements speak a lot about her impact on the game. Just like the NBA’s 50 40 90 club members, she’ll go down in history as one of the best pro softball players to ever grace the pitch.

Jennie Finch

TIME Magazine once dubbed Jennie Finch as “the most famous softball player in history”. And for good reason. Her performance at the 2004 Pepsi All-Star Softball Game catapulted her into the mainstream media spotlight.

There, she struck out baseball stars Albert Pujols, Brian Giles, and Mike Piazza. As a result, her popularity skyrocketed, leading her to collaborate with Mizuno to develop softball cleats, youth fastpitch bats, and other fastpitch equipment.

But Flinch’s commercial success didn’t happen overnight. Finch’s prowess as a pitcher was evident from a young age, as she began throwing laser darts at just 8 years old. But it was at the University of Arizona, where she showcased her exceptional talent.

She led Arizona to a national championship on the back of an NCAA record, 51 straight wins. Her throwing 35 consecutive shutout innings certainly played a big role in that. You had a better chance of winning the lottery than making contact with her pitch.

She was rewarded with three first-team All-American honors, and that 2001 national championship run with a 32-0 record remains one of the greatest achievements in Arizona Wildcats history.

With two Olympic medals to her name, a gold in 2004 in Athens and a silver in 2008 in Beijing, Finch’s resume had everything it needed to stack up against the rest of the good softball players on this list. As if throwing the hardest pitch to hit in softball history wasn’t enough.

Cat Osterman

When talking about the greatest softball pitchers, we need to mention Cat Osterman. If dominating collegiate hitters was a contest, her name would be in the record books. Actually, it already is. Playing for the University of Texas, she won 136 games to just 25 losses.

Individual performance was never an issue, as she still currently holds three NCAA Division I records for perfect games, WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched), and strikeout ratio. This led to clinching the College World Series title three times and earning the title of the NCAA’s top college pitcher.

During her nine-year tenure with Team USA, Osterman secured one gold and two bronze medals. That 74-5 win ratio on the international stage ain’t nothing to scoff at. She would also go on to compile a 95 to 24 record in the National Pro Fastpitch League and record a 17-5 win ratio in Athletes Unlimited.

Osterman had proved time and time again to be a winner. That’s why she’s currently serving as an assistant softball coach at Texas State University in San Marcos. Passing on her experience and expertise to the younger generations seems to be a go-to choice for many pro softball players.

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