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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 generally wasn't until 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 Softball 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 Fastpitch players.
While these women are indeed legends, none of them were catchers.
So, what about famous Softball catchers? Who were some of the best backstops to ever play the game?
This post 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.
Who are the Most Famous Softball Catchers?
Our picks for the 5 best 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 that the following list of notable Fastpitch Softball catchers is in alphabetical order, by last name.
Suzy Brazney played collegiately at Cal Poly Pomona before going 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 the gold medal 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 in Southern California.
Nancy Ito made a name for herself as an excellent defensive catcher over a 25 year-long 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. She passed away in December of 1987.
Stacey Nuveman is the youngest and most recent Softball Hall of Fame catcher to make 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 2019, Nuveman stands as the NCAA career leader in total bases (653), has the highest NCAA career home runs per game percentage of all time (0.34), 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 the 2000 and 2004 games, and the silver medal at the 2008 games in Beijing, China.
Stacey is truly a legend of the game, and was acknowledged as such with her election to the Softball Hall of Fame in 2014. She is currently the Associate Head Coach for San Diego State University's Fastpitch Softball team.
Marilyn Rau played Fastpitch 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 International Softball Federation (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 Softball players to have ever played the game.
She began playing for the Phoenix Ramblers in the ASA back in 1933…. at the age of 11.
Seriously, 11 years old.
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 incredible bowler, and was also inducted into the International Bowling Hall of Fame in 1990.
Dot has thrown out the first pitch at an MLB game (see video below); she has been in Sports Illustrated; has been the subject of a documentary; and she has collaborated on a book about Fastpitch Softball back in the 1940s.
Truly a remarkable life.
2023 Update: Dot Wilkinson passed away on March 18, 2023 at the age of 101. She lived an incredible life and will always remain a softball legend.
Team USA Catchers in the Olympics
In our opinion, it wouldn't be right to have a discussion of famous Softball catchers without at least mentioning those athletes to play behind the plate for Team USA at the summer Olympics.
Fastpitch first appeared in the Olympics in 1996. Starting with those games, we list each catcher on the Team USA roster at the summer games through the most recent Olympics.
- 1996 Team USA (Gold medal)
- Gillian Boxx
- Shelly Stokes
- 2000 Team USA (Gold medal)
- Stacey Nuveman
- Michelle Venturella
- 2004 Team USA (Gold medal)
- Stacey Nuveman
- Jenny Topping
- 2008 Team USA (Silver medal)
- Lauren Lappin
- Stacey Nuveman
- 2012 and 2016 - Softball not in the Olympics
- 2020/2021 Team USA (Silver medal)
- Amanda Chidester
- Dejah Mulipola
- Aubree Munro
Thank You for Reading!
We hope this article was informative and that you learned something new about some of the best Softball catchers in the game's history.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to us through our Contact Us page or by sending an email to scott [at] catchershome [dot] com.
Photo Credits and Sources