American softball player
Two-time Olympic softball gold medalist Dot Richardson is much more than just a star shortstop. Richardson, who hit the first home run ever in Olympic softball, became an orthopedic surgeon while simultaneously training for the U.S. Olympic team. Richardson chronicled her success in a memoir, Living the Dream.
Dreams of Olympic Gold
Richardson, known as "Dr. Dot," experiencd a defining moment as youth when, in 1968, she watched Olympic highlights on television. That night, she dreamed of standing on the podium, cloaked in Olympic gold. Twenty-eight years later, that dream came true.
Despite her talent, opportunities were limited. Richardson was born in the 1960s, a decade before Title IX opened the pathways for women in sports. The best she could do was be a bat girl for her brothers' baseball team, which at least allowed her the opportunity to practice with the team. At 10, Richardson mesmerized a baseball coach with her throwing arm and was offered a chance to pitch, as long as she cut her hair and answered to "Bob."
"As quickly as I had gotten excited, I became crushed," Richardson recalled in her memoir. "I wanted to play, but I didn't want to pretend to be a boy.… I told him, 'Thanks but no thanks. If I have to hide who I am, I don't feel it's right.'"
Luckily that afternoon, the coach of a local women's fast-pitch team saw Richardson and offered the gangly 10-year-old a chance to join her team.
By 1975, Richardson had joined the Orlando Rebels, an Amateur Softball Association fast-pitch team. Barely a teen, Richardson was competing in softball's "major league." She became the youngest player in the ASA since its founding in 1933, holding her own against women twice her age.
In 1979, just hours after graduating from Colonial, Richardson left to try out for the U.S. team that would compete at the 1979 Pan American Games, where softball was being played the first time. Richardson made the team. It was the first of many times she would earn the right to wear U.S.A. across her chest. The youngest U.S. starter on the squad, Richardson earned her first gold medal in international play. Over the years, she collected three more golds in Pan American play (1987, 1995, and 1999).
That fall, Richardson entered Western Illinois University and played several sports, including softball. Her.480 batting average led the nation. The following year, she transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As a junior, Richardson led the Bruins to the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title.
Struggles to become Doctor, Olympian
After earning a master's degree in exercise physiology from Adelphi University in 1988, Richardson entered the University of Louisville School of Medicine and kept up the frenetic pace of softball and academics. Merging her two passions began to prove problematic. During Richardson's second year of medical school, she concentrated so fiercely on making the USA World Championship team that she failed her boards and had to repeat the year. During her repeat year, she concentrated more on school and failed to make the U.S. Pan American team.
Just as Richardson contemplated giving up softball, the International Olympic Committee announced that the sport would become at Olympic event at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Richardson couldn't quit now.
Richardson stepped up her softball training and simultaneously began her demanding residency in orthopedic surgery at the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center. By now, Richardson was playing for the Raybestos Brakettes, a softball team based in Stratford, Connecticut. It was common for Richardson to finish a shift at the hospital, then fly across the country to join her team for a doubleheader.
Richardson found it increasingly hard to train. She purchased a treadmill for her residence and also set up a net and a pitching machine in her bedroom so she could practice her hitting at night. It wasn't long before she received a letter asking that she train for the Olympics at a more reasonable hour. Her work, however, paid off, and Richardson made the Olympic team.
Golden Olympic Moment
At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Richardson hit the first softball home run ever in the Games. In the gold medal game against China, Richardson whacked a tworun homer that put the U.S. ahead 2-0 en route to a 3-1 victory. She hit three homers and drove in seven runs in nine Olympic games, and batted .273 (9-for-33). The outgoing Richardson became a media darling; her picture was splashed across newspapers and television broadcasts, which showed her at the medal ceremony, joyously weeping during the national anthem.
Richardson again represented the U.S. at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. In the gold medal game, Richardson hit a sixth-inning, bases-empty homer and Lori Harrigan pitched the first Olympic no-hitter ever as the Americans defeated Canada, 6-0.
Richardson's Olympic performance brought more respect to women's softball. Broadcaster and author Bob Costas noted in the foreword to her memoir that Richardson helped the sport's audience grow because her pure love for the sport stood out.
|1961||Born September 22 in Orlando, Florida|
|1975||Joins Orlando Rebels, an Amateur Softball Association (ASA) fast-pitch team|
|1979||Graduates from Orlando's Colonial High School|
|1984||Leaves Orlando Rebels and joins the Raybestos Brakettes, another ASA fast-pitch team|
|1984||Graduates with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology from UCLA|
|1988||Graduates with a master's degree in exercise physiology from Adelphi University|
|1993||Graduates from the University of Louisville School of Medicine and begins residency in orthopedic surgery at the Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center|
|2001||Becomes medical director of the USA Triathlon National Training Center in Clermont, Florida|
|2001||Marries Bob Pinto|
Lives up to Dreams
Richardson lives in Clermont, Florida, with her husband, Bob Pinto, whom she married in 2001. A licensed orthopedic surgeon in Florida, Richardson serves as medical director for the USA Triathlon National Training Center, a part of South Lake Hospital in Clermont. She is retired from softball but hopes to spend the 2004 Olympics as a commentator. Richardson spends her free time holding softball clinics. She also oversees the Dot Richardson Softball Association, an instructional, not-for-profit league. In addition, Richardson coaches an 18-and-under girls team called "Dot's Diamonds." Richardson has said she is interested in starting a family. Her ambitions include becoming head coach of the U.S. Olympic softball team, and someday, head U.S. Olympic team physician.
Richardson, a sought-after speaker nationwide, addressed the Republican National Convention in 1996. As Saint Leo University basketball coach Kerri Reaves told the Tampa Tribune, "This is a woman who sets a great precedent, which goes to show you can excel in both aspects of life, athletics and academics." Richardson's story testifies to the power of personal volition.
Address: c/o Dot Richardson Softball Association, 614E. Highway 50, Suite 211, Clermont, Florida, 34711. Fax: (352) 243-0585. Phone: (352) 243-7395. Online: http://www.drsa.org.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1979||Wins gold medal as member of U.S. softball squad at Pan American Games|
|1980s||Named NCAA Softball Player of the Decade|
|1981||Wins USA Softball's MVP award|
|1981-83||Named three-time NCAA All-American at UCLA|
|1982||Win's NCAA softball championship with UCLA|
|1983||Wins UCLA's All University Athlete Award as co-winner with Jackie Joyner-Kersee|
|1987||Wins gold medal at as member of U.S. squad at Pan American Games|
|1989-90||Won USA Softball's MVP award|
|1995||Wins gold medal as member of U.S. squad at Pan American Games|
|1996||Wins the U.S. Olympic Committee's Athlete of the Year award, the Amateur Athletic Foundation's Southern California Athlete of the Year award, and USA Softball's MVP award; also, inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame|
|1996, 2000||Wins Olympic gold medal as member of U.S. softball team|
|1999||Wins gold medal as member of U.S. squad at Pan American Games|
|1999||Inducted into State of Florida Hall of Fame|
|2003||Saint Leo University Women in Sports Achievement Award|
SELECTED WRITINGS BY RICHARDSON:
(With Don Yaeger) Living the Dream, New York: Kensington Books, 1997.
Richardson, Dot and Don Yaeger. Living the Dream. New York: Kensington Books, 1997.
Frey, Jennifer. "Dr. Dot Dispenses Sports Medicine; Lessons from an Olympic Gold Medal Serve Resident Richardson." Washington Post (February 2, 1997).
Hoppes, Lynn. "At Home Today: Dot Richardson, Softball Player." Orlando Sentinel (August 5, 2001).
Moritz, Amy. "Diamond Vision; Olympian Dot Richardson is an Inspirational Ambassador of Softball." Buffalo News (February 21, 2001).
Norrie, David. "Saint Leo to Honor Richardson with Women in Sports Award." Tampa Tribune (December 26, 2002).
"Athletic Awards." Dot Richardson Enterprises Inc. http://www.dotrichardson.com/all%20about%20dot/awards.htm (January 13, 2003).
"Just the Facts." Dot Richardson Enterprises Inc. http://www.dotrichardson.com/all%20about%20dot/facts.htm (January 13, 2003).
Sketch by Lisa Frick