||Photo of Louise Mazzuca of Tacoma, action shot throwing a softball.
Louise Mazzuca-A Diamond in the Rough Shines on the Mound to Enjoy National Success
By Nick Dawson, Freelance Writer and former Sports Information Director
at Pacific Lutheran University
Growing up on Grant Street in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood, Louise Mazzuca was, well, just one of the fellas. And that is pretty much the way that she wanted it.
No one could have known that a dozen or so years later Mazzuca, at age 21, would set pitching records at the women's national fastpitch tournament.
Mazzuca was born on Dec. 23, 1939, and began playing softball at age 11 in various leagues in Tacoma. Carl Benson, who married her sister, Betty, remembers helping the eager-to-learn Mazzuca with her pitching. "The first time I saw her throw I knew she had the natural talent to be good. She just needed someone to direct her. I'd come home from work and she's be there waiting to play catch. I'd give her a bad time and occasionally tell her that if she washed the car we would play catch afterwards. She did-and we did."
Louise threw hard, but Carl, himself a fastpitch player, insisted that she "work on her drop and change pitch." Thus, Louise Mazzuca had her start in a game that would help make her famous.
For Louise, being one of the "boys" in the Hilltop area not only meant lots of teasing, but a chance to hone her athletic abilities in baseball and other sports against competitive boys her own age. There were, however, some drawbacks. "The girls in the neighborhood weren't allowed to play with me because I played with the boys and was therefore a bad influence," Mazzuca recalled in a later interview. "They just played with their doll houses and dolls and that appeared very boring."
The friendships she developed with neighborhood chums such as Pat Kelly, Johnny Messina and Tony and Joey DeRosa provided for a humorous moment when all were about 18 years old. Several of the boys had signed up to play in an adult softball league, and they invited Louise to join them for a practice game one day at Peck Field. Louise toed the pitching rubber against the opposing team, whose players figured they would get in some easy batting practice. Louise struck out about nine of the players before they refused to let her pitch any longer.
Not all of her pitching came as easy, or with as much success. Louise learned some difficult, but important lessons in 1954 as a 14-year-old pitcher for the Tacoma Shamrocks. During a 58-game season that included play in the Northwest Women's Major League, the youthful and inexperienced Shamrocks won just 19 games. Still, the talent that would lead her to national fame was easy to see.
The following season, Mazzuca joined Hollywood Boat & Motor, and she would help that club become arguably the best-ever in Tacoma women's fastpitch history. Margaret Zepeda, who would go on to become a nationally acclaimed player and coach in her home state of Texas, was HB&M's coach and third baseman. Carl Benson, Mazzuca's brother-in-law, was an assistant coach. The duo helped Mazzuca, known for bouts of wildness, refine her skill by learning patience and accuracy.
Even though she was among the top hurlers in the area, it took Mazzuca moving to the Portland area for her pitching career to really blossom. After a year with the Forest Grove Meadowlarks, she took her talent to Erv Lind Florists, a nationally ranked team based in Portland. Mazzuca played for Erv Lind from 1959-62, earning first team All-America honors each season.
It didn't take long for Mazzuca to make her mark with the Portland outfit. As a 19-year-old competing in her first national tournament, she threw a pair of no-hitters and a total of three shutouts in leading the Florists to the title game, where she found herself pitching against the powerhouse Raybestos Brakettes and their Hall of Fame pitcher, Bertha Ragan Tickey. The Brakettes beat Mazzuca and the Florists, 1-0, with a ninth-inning run, despite Mazzuca limiting the team from Stratford, Conn., to just four hits. She shared the tournament most valuable player honors with Ragan.
The two teams battled for the 1960 national title in front of 18,000 fans at Memorial Stadium in Stratford, Conn., and again the Brakettes defeated Mazzuca and the Florists. Louise was again outstanding, striking out 75 batters in 45 innings. For the second straight year she shared MVP honors with Ragan.
The following year the event was held at Normandale Park in Portland, and Mazzuca wowed the crowd by setting a national tournament record with three no-hitters, though Erv Lind Florists did not make the finals.
Mazzuca moved to California, where her career came to an end after stints with the Whittier Gold Sox (1963-64), Huntington Park Blue (1965) and Buena Park Gold Sox (1966-67).
Mazzuca's 10-year career resulted with five consecutive berths on the All-America team (1958-62), 35 no-hitters and nine perfect games, and a World Tournament record established in 1961 (or 1962) that still stands( as of 1984) by throwing three no-hitters in the tournament.
Despite her success in three national tournaments, Louise Mazzuca never quite received the recognition given to peers such as Bertha Ragan Tickey, Margie Law, Jackie Rice and Joan Joyce, each of whom is enshrined in the Amateur Softball Association's Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
For Louise Mazzuca (who now likes to be called Chris), the talented girl from Grant Street who would go on to national stardom, it seems time to correct that oversight.
NOTES: Mazzuca was inducted into the Northwest Softball Hall of Fame in June of 1984.
Mazzuca was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports HOF in 2005.
Mazzuca was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Baseball-Softball Oldtimers OF in 199?
She shared Most Valuable Player honors two straight years at the World Tournament
A three-time first team All-American in 1950, 60, and 61 for sure. Maybe two more.
1958 Forest Grove Meadowlarks
At age 18, Louise Mazzuca pitched the Forest Grove entry into the semifinals of the 1958 World Tournament. At the World Tournament in Stratford, CT she pitched a game against Ginny Busick of the Fresno Rockets, the defending world champions. She pitched the full 16 innings and lost 4-0 but she struck out 26 opponents, thus creating a world record of 26 strikeouts in 16 consecutive innings.
At the Northwest Regional Championships she was a member of the Regional All-Star team, and was named the "outstanding pitcher of the tournament." He team knocked off Erv Lind Florists to win the regional title. In the Northwest League that season she was voted the best pitcher in the league with a 14-2 won-lost record. She led the league in strikeouts with 221 in 124 innings. She pitched against four members of the Portland Beavers and four members of the Seattle Rainiers PCL baseball team and stuck out seven of them with the last one fouling out to the third baseman. As the number one pitcher for the Meadowlarks team, she pitched 31 innings in four days at the regional tournament.
1959 Erv Lind Florists
Finished second in the World Softball Tournament in Stratford, CT to the Raybestos Brakettes
In the World tournament, Mazzuca threw two no-hitters, a one-hitter, and a seven-hitter.
The team went to the Orient and played 24 games in 46 days in Japan, Taiwan, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Hawaii, mostly against men's military teams,. They won 11, lost 8 and tied 5.
1960 Erv Lind Florists
1963-64 Whittier Park Gold Sox
In 1966 Mazzuca was a second team All-America selection.
Her most famous accomplishment came in 1964 in a losing effort when she pitched seven innings to win the first game of a doubleheader in the 1964 Regional Tournament in Orange, CA (August 16-17) and then came back with 20 minutes rest to pitch a 29-inning epic classic second game against Orange's Joan Joyce, which Orange won 1-0. In the space of one night, Mazzuca pitched a total of 36 innings.
1966 Buena Park Gold Sox
Louise pitched for them at nationals this season.
1. Co-MVP in 1959 and 1960 World Tournament with Bertha Ragan.
2. Five-time All-America team member from 1958-62.
3. Threw 35 no-hitters and nine perfect games.
4. In 1959 World Tournament threw two no-hitters, a one-hitter, and a seven-hitter.
5. In 1960 World Tournament set a national record with three no-hitters. Up through 1984 this record still stood.
6. In 1958 World Tournament pitched a 16-ining game and struck out 26 batters, a world record at the time.
7. In 1964 Regional Tournament, pitched a seven inning game, took a 20 minute rest, and then pitched against Joan Joyce and the Orange, CA team. This epic classic game between two of the greatest pitchers in the world, lasted 29 innings before Orange won 1-0. In the space of one night, Mazzuca pitched a total of 36 consecutive innings.
From what I can gather, her career included playing at:
1955-57 Hollywood Boat & Motor Tacoma, WA
1958 Forest Grove Meadowlarks Forest Grove, OR
1959-62 Erv Lind Florists Portland, OR
1963-64 Whittier Gold Sox Whittier, CA
1965 Huntington Park Blues Huntington Park, CA
1966-7 Buena Park Gold Sox Buena Park, CA