In honor of Title IX’s fortieth birthday, I’ve decided to take a controversial swing at one of the most contentious questions in Chicago sports: Who is the most dominant Chicago pitcher ever?
Well that sure seems like a daunting question. But what does it have to do with Title IX? (You’ll see.) Okay, let’s take a swing at some of the candidates.
You’ve got Hall of Famers Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown, Fergie Jenkins, and Bruce Sutter. Brown led the Cubs to their only two World Series in franchise history in 1907 and 1908 without allowing a single run against Ty Cobb’s Detroit Tigers in either one. Jenkins won the Cy Young once during his six consecutive 20-win seasons, and was an important part of the “cursed” 1969 team that might be the best Cubs team to not win the World Series. Sutter won a Cy Young as a reliever back when that was something that just didn’t happen.
Let’s not limit this to Hall of Famers. How about Lee Smith, one of the most glaring Hall of Fame snubs, whose record for career saves was only recently broken? How about Greg Maddux, a sure fire Hall of Famer and the best pitcher of his generation? (Though he is likely to be remembered as a Brave more than a Cub.) How about Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, who teamed up to be the most dominant one-two punch this town (or most others) has ever seen, and likely would’ve blown everyone on this list away if it weren’t for injuries?
Oh, yeah: I hear tell there’s another baseball team in Chicago. How about Mark Buerhle, who’s tossed two career no-hitters (one of which was a perfect game) and won a World Series with the most dominant starting rotation the White Sox may have ever had? Or Eddie Cicotte, who would surely be a Hall of Famer if it weren’t for his role in the “Black Sox” scandal of 1919?
With a contentious debate like this, you’d think I’d have to put a great deal of thought into my answer. This list is absolutely overflowing. Actually, though, it’s a no-brainer.
In addition to playing for USA’s national team in international competition, Jennie Finch played her pro ball for the NFPS’s Chicago Bandits. In high school, she tossed 13 no-hitters and 6 perfect games. She played her college ball for the University of Arizona, where she hurled an eye-popping three no-hitters in a row in the Regional Finals, and shattered the NCAA record for consecutive wins (50) with a 60-win streak. Although statistics are surprisingly difficult to find on this, she threw at least one no-hitter in international play and two perfect games for Chicago. Unbelievable.
She was scary-dominant for her entire career, often holding opponents to below a .100 average with a ridiculous number of strikeouts. (Context: softball is generally known for being very hitter-friendly, with averages well into the .400s not uncommon.) One of the most dramatic examples of her dominance came in the 2004 Pepsi All-Star Softball Game, in which she faced Major League Baseball hitters. Finch struck out Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, and Brian Giles, not allowing a single hit.
Finch was part of USA’s only real “Dream Team” in recent Olympic memory: the 2004 softball team. They didn’t allow a single run until the Gold Medal game against the second best team in the world. She pitched for the Chicago Bandits, at times quite possibly the best professional softball team in the world. They consistently beat not only other Pro Fastpitch teams, but national teams. Making them almost, but not quite, as dominant as Finch herself.
The only thing that eluded Finch during her career? A NPFS championship. I guess she’ll just have to live with an NCAA Championship and a Gold Medal, and possibly being the most dominant softball pitcher ever.