Bill Potthoff

Bill Potthoff was a Lutheran pastor who could deliver an impassioned sermon to the unsaved from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, and later that week toss no-hitters and strike out opposing batters at a rate that earned converts to his status as one of the area’s best fastpitch hurlers.

Born on March 20, 1934, in Emporia, Kansas, Bill began pitching a softball while attending a one-room country grade school. He eventually graduated from Hillsboro (Ore.) High School in 1952 and then earned a degree from Concordia University in Portland in 1956. He graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in 1960, and came out west to start a new congregation in the Puget Sound area.

Upon his arrival at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Milton, the new pastor put together a fastpitch team that rivaled the best in the area. Led by its “pitching preacher” who also served as coach, Beautiful Savior won the 1962 church league championship, rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the final inning to beat St. Rita’s, 3-2. Beautiful Savior finished with a perfect 20-0 record.  That season, he recorded several no-hitters and a perfect game.

The following year the talented team was asked to move out of the church league and into the city league where it again won the championship game, this time by a 1-0 score. Starting in 1964, the team expanded beyond a church team, was renamed Lutheran Merchants, and started participating in tournaments in numerous cities throughout Washington and also in Portland. Potthoff was the team’s only pitcher, and for many years the team played at least 50 games per year, winning more than 80 percent of those contests.

In 1967 he was picked up by a Tacoma team for a tournament in Everett. On a Friday night, Potthoff shut out the opposing team, much to the delight of the team that had just defeated a regional pitching legend named Bob Fesler. “I hadn’t grown up in this area so I didn’t even know who Fesler…was, otherwise I probably would have been too nervous to pitch,” Potthoff stated.

In the 1970s and 80s, players came and went, but the heavy schedule of games continued. The team added another player who played outfield and pitched on occasion, but Potthoff handled most of the pitching duties, even during seasons where the team played in excess of 100 games.

Potthoff estimates that he pitched an average of at least 50 games per year between 1962-82, which equates to pitching more than 1,000 games.

His interest in sports rubbed off on his family, as evidenced by 12 grandchildren all playing sports at a high level.

“Softball was important, but it was not my life,” Potthoff stated. “”My 50 years in the ministry were my calling and vocation. Softball was my avocation.”