Famous Softball Catchers: The 5 Greatest Fastpitch Catchers of All Time
Softball is a game with a rich history, having origins dating back to the late 19th century.
However, it wasn't until roughly in the 1930s that Fastpitch Softball in particular began to increase in popularity, at least in North America.
(For an entertaining and educational overview of Softball history, we recommend the book Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women who Made the Game, by Erica Westly).
Over time, Fastpitch turned into a worldwide sport played by millions from youth leagues all the way up to the Olympic and professional levels.
When one looks back on this rich history of Fastpitch Softball, they'll find many stories of famous personalities and legendary players. Names like Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez or Dot Richardson may come to mind when one first thinks of notable players.
While these women are indeed legends, none were Catchers.
So, what about famous Softball Catchers? Who were some of the best backstops to ever play the game?
This article answers that question by examining the careers of five of the most famous Catchers to ever play Fastpitch Softball. Each of these women are legends, and all have been elected to the Softball Hall of Fame.
Our picks for the 5 most famous Softball Catchers of all time are:
- Suzy Brazney
- Nancy Ito
- Stacey Nuveman
- Marilyn Rau
- Dot Wilkinson
We'll start with looking at the career of Suzy Brazney. Please note: the following list is in alphabetical order, by last name.
Suzy Brazney played collegiately at Cal Poly Pomona then went on to enjoy a long American Softball Association (ASA) playing career as a Catcher with a number of teams.
Between 1980 and 2005, she was named an ASA All-American 20 times.
Brazney played in 3 Pan American Games with Team USA, winning gold twice.
She played so well at the annual Canada Cup tournament that they ended up naming an award after her – the Suzy Brazney Most Outstanding Catcher award.
Brazney was inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame in 2010. She remains active in the sport, currently serving as an Assistant Coach at Chapman University.
Nancy Ito made a name for herself as an excellent defensive Catcher over a 25 year career. She had strong fundamentals, a rocket for an arm, and didn't let anything get past her.
Ito played the majority of her career for a very successful ASA team called the Orange Lionnettes.
Over 8 consecutive seasons with the Lionnettes, Ito made only 10 errors – good for an outstanding .993 Fielding percentage.
Additionally, she was on four national championship teams and earned ASA All-American honors 13 times over her career. Ito was elected to the Softball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Stacey Nuveman is the youngest and most recent Hall of Famer on this list.
She played collegiately for the UCLA Bruins from 1997 – 2002, compiling an eye-popping .466 batting average over the course of her collegiate career. In 1999, she was a member of the UCLA team that won the College World Series.
As of 2018, Nuveman stands as the NCAA career leader in total runs (653), has the second highest NCAA slugging percentage of all-time (.945), and is number 3 all-time in NCAA career home runs (90).
She also caught for Team USA in the Olympics, where she won the gold medal in 2000 and 2004, and the silver medal in 2008.
She is truly a legend of the game, and was acknowledged as such with her election to the Softball Hall of Fame in 2014.
Marilyn Rau played Softball at a high-level from 1960 to 1986, spending some of the best years of her career with the Sun City (Arizona) Saints.
The Saints played in 19 ASA national championships with Rau on the team. They won the national championship in 1979, with Rau being named MVP after batting .500 in the tournament.
She was named an ASA All-American 11 times in her career, and she also played with Team USA in the Pan American games and in the ISF World Championship.
Rau was inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame in 1991.
Dot Wilkinson is widely known as one of the greatest Fastpitch players to have ever played the game.
She began playing for the Phoenix Ramblers in the ASA in 1933…. at the age of 11.
She went on to play for the Ramblers until 1965, winning three national championships in the process.
Wilkinson – who was a 19-time ASA All-American – regularly batted well over .300 (over .400 in some cases), and was a solid defensive Catcher as well as being dangerous at the plate.
She was elected to the Softball Hall of Fame in 1970 in her first year of eligibility. Interestingly, Dot was also an incredibly bowler, and was also inducted into the International Bowling Hall of Fame in 1990.
Wilkinson remains a Softball icon, even now. She will turn 97 this year. Dot has thrown out the first pitch at an MLB game; she has been in Sports Illustrated; has been the subject of a documentary; and she has collaborated on a book about Fastpitch Softball in the 1940s.
Truly a remarkable life.
Photo Credits & Sources
- Santa Ana Lionettes
- USA Softball
- Women's Sports Foundation
- Arizona Softball Foundation
- Softball Hall of Fame
- Sports Illustrated
- Curve Magazine