Softball has been around for 100-plus years, with fastpitch softball emerging in the 1930s in the United States. While softball is a popular sport in the USA, it has also garnered attention worldwide, with multiple countries featuring women’s fastpitch softball teams during the recent Summer Olympics.
The list of best women’s softball players of all time is split between multiple players, including Dot Richardson, Lisa Fernandez, Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman, and Jessica Mendoza, to name a few. These women’s fastpitch softball players were dominant on the field during their high school and collegiate careers while also playing parts in Olympic play and within the National Pro Fastpitch league.
The men’s slow pitch softball list is less extensive but does feature some big-time players who have dominated the sport over the years.
Here is a look at the best softball players of all time for Women’s Fast Pitch Softball as well as the Best Male Slow Pitch Softball Player of all time:
Who Is the Best Softball Player of All Time?
10. Michele Mary Smith – Oklahoma State Cowgirls, Team USA
Coming in at number 10 on the 10 Best Women Softball Players of All Time is Michele Mary Smith, who played her collegiate career with the Oklahoma State Cowgirls.
In addition, Smith was a member of the 1996 and 2000 Team USA softball teams that won Gold Medals during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Over four years of playing with the Cowgirls, Smith pitched to an astonishing .75 earned run average while allowing just 76 runs over 707.1 innings of work.
Smith pitched 41.2 innings over her time with Team USA, allowing just a .51 earned run average. Along with playing for those two teams, Smith played internationally within the Japan Pro Softball League, winning eight championships and an MVP award.
Her performance on the softball field earned her a spot in the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame in 2006.
9. Stacey Nuveman – UCLA Bruins, Team USA
It is hard to leave Stacey Nuveman off the best softball players of all time. The former UCLA Bruins and Team USA softball player was as good as any during her playing career, capping off her college career with the Bruins with a .466 career batting average to go along with 90 home runs, 299 runs batted in, and holding multiple records in college as well as being selected as a First Team All American four times.
Her playing career didn’t stop there, as Nuveman was a key member of the 2000 and 2004 Team USA Gold Medal softball teams and the 2008 Team USA Silver Medal team.
8. Leah O’Brien – Arizona Wildcats, Team USA
One softball player loaded with accolades over her playing career is Leah O’Brien. O’Brien, who played her college softball with the Arizona Wildcats as well as Team USA, made the game look easy.
She won three Women’s College World Series championships and three Gold Medals with Team USA during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and 2004 Summer Olympics in 2004.
During her collegiate career, O’Brien posted a .428 batting average with 181 runs batted in while earning her four All-Pac 10 team selections. In 216 career at-bats at the Olympics, O’Brien batted .338 with 50 runs batted in.
7. Natasha Watley – UCLA Bruins, Team USA
Natasha Watley, former UCLA Bruins and Team USA and National Pro Fastpitch star put together a stellar career that landed her in the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.
During her collegiate career, Watley was a four-time First-Team All-American while joining an elite group of players to post a career .400 batting average to go with 100 stolen bases, 200 runs scored, and 300 hits.
The former Bruins star also was a key contributor posting a .456 career batting average during the 2004 Summer Olympics and 2008 Summer Olympics.
Watley finished her National Pro Fastpitch career with a .394 batting average with seven All-Star selections.
6. Alicia Hollowell – Arizona Wildcats, Team USA
The Arizona Wildcats put together some strong teams over the year, with several softball players on the best softball players of all time playing in the team.
One of those players is Alicia Hollowell, a 2006 Women’s College World Series Championship Wildcats team member. Hollowell put together a stellar college career while ranking among the top 10 in NCAA Women’s softball in wins with 144 and strikeouts with 1,768.
The former Wildcats star was also a Team USA bronze medalist during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Her performance with the Wildcats landed her with the Akron Heat of the National Pro Fastpitch League, where she played for one season.
5. Jessica Mendoza – Stanford Cardinal, Team USA
Rounding out the top 5 on the best softball players of all time list is the former Stanford Cardinal and Team USA outfielder, Jessica Mendoza.
Mendoza was a vital member of the Cardinal team that reached their first Women’s College World Series while earning First-Team All-American selections in all four years while playing for the team.
Over her collegiate career, Mendoza posted a .416 batting average while hitting 50 home runs, driving in 188 runs, and posting 70 doubles. The former Cardinal was also a member of the 2004 Summer Olympics Team USA Gold Medal team and the 2008 Summer Olympics Silver Medal team. In addition, Mendoza played for the Arizona Heat and USSSA Pride with National Pro Fastpitch.
4. Cat Osterman – Texas Longhorns, Team USA
Among the most notable names of women’s fastpitch softball players over the past 20 years is the former Texas Longhorns and Team USA pitcher Cat Osterman.
Osterman was a four-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Year (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006) while posting a 136-25 record over her four years with the Longhorns. She also posted a .49 WHIP and a .50 earned run average over 1105.2 innings of work while striking out 2265 batters.
During her Team USA days, Osterman helped Team USA to the Gold Medal during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and Silver Medals during the Summer Olympics in 2008 in Beijing and 2020 in Tokyo.
3. Lisa Fernandez – UCLA Bruins, Team USA
Lisa Fernandez is a former four-time medal winner with Team USA, including winning Gold Medals during the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympics, making her one of the top five fastpitch softball players of all time, if not the best.
Her performance on the softball diamond landed her with the UCLA Bruins, where she would win three Pac-12 Player of the Year awards and be selected as a First-Team All-American in all four years with the team.
The Bruins pitcher would pitch to a .22 earned run average over 694.2 innings while striking out 784 batters.
At the plate, Fernandez would also add a .381 career batting average with 128 runs batted in. While playing for Team USA, Fernandez would post a 7-1 record with a .37 earned run average and a .36 WHIP.
2. Jennie Finch – Arizona Wildcats, Team USA
Jennie Finch, who would become one of the most glorified female softball players during her time, gracing multiple covers of top sports magazines, including Sports Illustrated, with Time Magazine classified her as the most famous softball player of All Time.
The Arizona Wildcats star posted a 119-16 record on the mound to go along with a 1.08 earned run average while also batting .301 at the plate with 50 home runs and 195 runs batted in.
Finch would win a Gold and Silver Medal with Team USA during the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics.
1. Dot Richardson – UCLA Bruins, Team USA
Number one on the 10 best softball players of all time list for fastpitch softball is legendary softball player Dot Richardson.
Richardson accomplished much over her playing career, winning two Gold Medals during the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics and leading her Bruins team to a National Championship during the 1982 NCAA fastpitch softball season.
In two seasons with the Bruins, Richardson posted a .331 batting average, with 25 runs batted in and 97 hits. In the 1996 Summer Olympics, Richardson would pick up two doubles, three home runs, and drive in nine runs.
Her playing career landed her in the National Softball Hall of Fame while also winning multiple awards during her playing career.
Best Male Slow Pitch Softball Players of All Time
While it is not often you hear much talk about the best male slow pitch softball player of all time, however when you do, Mike Macenko is one name that is always involved.
Macenko, who is only one of two players inducted into the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), Independent Softball Association (ISA), and National Softball Association (NSA) Hall of Fame, hit nearly 7,000 home runs and a career batting average of .721 over his long-storied career.
The best softball player of all time could vary based on the metrics used to rate them and personal opinion. In women’s fastpitch softball, Dot Richardson tops our list as the best of all time, while others such as Jennie Finch and Lisa Fernandez are close behind. Meanwhile in men’s slow pitch softball Mike Macenko comes out on top. Did we miss anyone? Let us know.