If Cat Osterman’s script had been written the way she wanted it to be Monday night in Hoover, Ala., she would have walked away from softball a champion.
The supremely talented southpaw, who announced her impending retirement in May, would have been the one raising her arms in adulation in the pitcher’s circle after a win in her final National Pro Fastpitch game, and soon after, mobbed by teammates to celebrate both a championship victory and the end of one of the greatest careers the sport has ever seen.
Instead, Osterman and the USSSA Pride were defeated 1-0 in the NPF final, and the 32-year-old was left to weep as her team’s season and her illustrious 21-year playing career came to a close.
“I actually started crying because it finally set in that I would never step foot on the field as a player again,” an emotional Osterman said in a phone interview Tuesday, following a superb pitching performance in which she gave up just one unearned run on four hits with six strikeouts. “I feel that I pitched as well as I could have, but it really just wasn’t in the cards for us to win.”
Despite Monday’s defeat, this season was a fine one for the NPF’s 2014 Pitcher of the Year. She finished 15-4 for the regular season champions, with a 1.21 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 121.2 innings of work. In eight seasons in the NPF—two with the now-defunct Rockford Thunder and six with the Pride—Osterman captured four league titles, three Pitcher of the Year awards and was an All-NPF selection six times.
Aside from her bountiful successes and accolades in the NPF, Osterman is proudest of her part in growing the game and helping to mold the next generation of softball superstars during her last two seasons in the league. “I’ll look back and know that I truly feel that I got to play with the next group of legends in our game,” Osterman said. “Madison Shipman, Shelby Pendley and Lauren Chamberlain will carry the torch and play for a while, and I think it’s awesome for those of us on our way out to play with and inspire that new generation of kids who everybody knows and is looking at to be phenomenal.”
Long before the names of today’s stars were known, Osterman was posting jaw-dropping numbers with the U.S. National Team. While with Team USA from 2001 to 2010, Osterman compiled a cumulative record of 59-4 with a minuscule 0.38 ERA. She amassed 832 strikeouts in 425.2 total innings pitched.
Osterman was one of the last remaining active players from the gold medal-winning team at the 2004 Athens Olympics, on which she was the youngest player at 21. In 2008, she was the ace of the American squad that captured the silver medal at the Beijing Summer Games.
“The pinnacle of my career was winning a gold medal,” Osterman said. “It didn’t matter whether I pitched a lot or not at all, just being part of that amazing team was the highlight of my career.”
Osterman also had one of the best collegiate careers in NCAA softball history. The 6’3” Houston-native went 136-25 in her four seasons with the Texas Longhorns, and was a four-time All-America selection and three-time National Player of the Year during her NCAA tenure. She ranks first all-time in NCAA Division I history in strikeouts per seven innings (14.35) and perfect games (seven), second in career strikeouts (2,265) and third in no-hitters (20) and shutouts (85).
“My career took me further than I ever thought it would,” Osterman said. “I’ve cried a lot since [Monday’s] loss, but I’m not really that sad because I know it’s the right decision and the right time to walk away. I’m very happy and content with how my career unfolded and I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Though Osterman’s days in the circle are now done, her time in the dugout is just beginning. She will enter her second season as an assistant coach at Texas State in San Marcos this fall, and continue working primarily with the Bobcats’ pitching staff. “Now when I wake up, it’s not what can I do to be a better pitcher today, it’s what can I do to be a better coach and make my players want to strive for the same things I got,” Osterman said.
And while the ending of one of the finest playing careers in the history of the sport did not follow a seemly script like it perhaps should have, Osterman is left with no regrets and a sparkling legacy that will far outshine Monday’s loss. “Obviously I’d like the storybook ending, but not everybody gets that, and I’m OK with that,” Osterman said. “I loved every pitch of this ride and I hope to be remembered as someone who was constantly out there fighting. It was just amazing to have the ball in my hand for every pitch of every game I played.”
GALLERY: THE BIGGEST SPORTS RETIREMENTS OF 2015
Biggest Retirements of 2015
Wambach, 35, is the winner of two Olympic gold medals, to go along with her World Cup title from the summer. She scored the game-winning header of the 2004 Olympic final against Brazil, and five goals at the 2012 Summer Games in London. Wambach, who finishes her career as America’s all-time leading scorer in both the World Cup and Olympics, is also the top scorer in international soccer history with 184 goals. Wambach's final game with the USWNT will be on Dec. 16 in New Orleans.
The four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon ran his final full-time season in 2015, finishing third in the Sprint Cup standings. Gordon, 43, had raced in the Cup Series since 1992 for Hendrick Motorsports. He won his first championship as a 23-year-old in 1994 and also won titles in 1997, 1998 and 2001. His 93 Cup wins and 81 poles are each No. 3 all-time.
If Floyd Mayweather is to be believed (remember, he originally retired in 2008, only to return), then his Sept. 12 bout against Andre Berto was the last of his illustrious career. The 38-year-old Mayweather finished boxing with a sterling 49-0 record.
Reed spent 11 years in Baltimore before splitting the 2013 season with the New York Jets and Houston Texans. He said in June 2014 that he was not yet retiring and felt he could still play, but never ended up playing last season. The 36-year-old saftey retired in May as a nine-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro. In his final year in Baltimore the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. For his career, Reed finishes with 643 tackles, 64 interceptions, 141 passes defended and 11 forced fumbles. He started 169 games over his 12-year NFL career.
Troy Polamalu retired April 9 after 12 NFL seasons, all with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was one of the best safeties of his generation, intercepting 32 passes, making eight Pro Bowls and four All-Pro First Teams during his career. In 2010, the AP named him the Defensive Player of the Year. Thanks in large part to Polamalu and the Steelers' stout defenses, Pittsburgh made the playoffs in seven of his 12 years, and the safety is a two-time Super Bowl champion.
Steve Nash retired March 22 after a brilliant 19-year career in which he was selected to eight NBA All-Star games and won two MVP awards. The point guard led the "seven seconds or less" Phoenix Suns to four straight playoff appearances from 2005-2008 and another in 2010 after much of the team's core has dissipated. Nash will be remembered for his highlight-reel passing and unselfish distribution, ending his career third all-time with 10,335 assists. Beyond awe-inspiring passing, Nash was one of the best shooters of all-time, with the best free throw percentage in NBA history and also the 10th-best 3-point percentage.
Legendary New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur retired January 27 following a record-breaking 21-year career. Brodeur ended his career as the NHL’s career leader in wins (691), saves (28,928) and shutouts (125), with a goals against average that ranks 10th all-time. Playing for the Devils for all but his final season, Brodeur reached nine All-Star Games and was awarded four Vezina Trophies as the league’s best goalie. He also led the Devils to three Stanley Cups, in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
Martin St. Louis
After 16 NHL seasons, seven All Star selections and one Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Martin St. Louis announced his retirement. The 40-year-old St. Louis had 391 goals and 642 assists in 1,134 regular season games with the Calgary Flames, Lightning and Rangers. He won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004 and the Art Ross Trophy as the league top scorer in 2004 with 94 points. He also won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player, and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHL players association's Most Outstanding Player that season.
A seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker who helped the Chicago Bears reach Super Bowl XLI in 2007, Lance Briggs revealed in September that he plans to retire. Draftred in the third round in 2003, Briggs had 15 sacks and 16 interceptions in his career, and scored five touchdowns.
Seven-time Pro-Bowler Patrick Willis surprised the football world with his teary March 11 retirement announcement. The 49ers linebacker called it quits after only eight seasons, following a 2014 campaign in which a toe injury forced him to miss all but six games. The captain and anchor of a daunting San Francisco defense, he retired with 732 tackles, five All-Pro selections and an appearance in the 2013 Super Bowl.
49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith announced his retirement on March 9, ending a 14-year career that included 87 sacks and five Pro Bowl selections. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2001 draft, Smith played seven seasons, primarily at defensive end, for the Cincinnati Bengals before shifting to tackle during seven years in San Francisco. His finest season came in 2011, when his All-Pro season helped lead the 49ers’ defensive renaissance.
Steve Smith Sr.
Steve Smith, 36, told the Baltimore Ravens in August that the 2015 season will be his last in the NFL. The five-time Pro Bowl receiver is one of 12 players in NFL history with over 900 receptions. He entered his 15th and final NFL season with 13,000 receiving yards and 70 touchdown receptions.
Five-time Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson retired in April 2015 after having gone two seasons without appearing on the field. The long-time Arizona Cardinal closed out his career with 25.5 sacks and 27 interceptions.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora signed a one-day contract with the New York Giants in August and called it a career. The 12-year veteran amassed 85 sacks (75 of them with the Giants) and set New York’s single-game record with six sacks against Philadelphia in September 2007.
Richard Hamilton, who announced his retirement on Feb. 26, was the leading scorer on both an NCAA Champion — UConn in 1999 — and an NBA title-winner — the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Hamilton played for three teams over a 14-year NBA career, posting a career average of 17.1 points per game. Beyond his play, Hamilton gained attention for the protective mask he began wearing in 2004 and donned for much of the rest of his career.
Kirilenko, 34, was a first-round pick of the Utah Jazz in 1999. He spent 13 seasons in the NBA, including 10 with the Jazz, one with the Minnesota Timberwolves and two with the Brooklyn Nets. A 6-foot-9 forward, Kirilenko had career averages of 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.4 steals in the NBA. The 2004 NBA All-Star led the league in blocks (220) in 2005-06 and blocks per game (3.3) in 2004-05.
At his best, Maurice Jones-Drew was one of the NFL’s best running backs. The 29-year-old earned three Pro Bowl selections over a nine-year career, which ended with his retirement March 5. Jones-Drew holds the Jacksonville Jaguars’ franchise record for rushing touchdowns with 68 and is second on the franchise’s all-time rushing list, with 8,071 yards accrued during his eight years with the team.
Longtime NFL safety Ryan Clark announced his retirement as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers on Feb. 18. Clark, who won the Super Bowl with the Steelers in 2008, overcame a life-threatening illness in 2007 to become one of the NFL’s best free safeties. Over the course of his 13-year career he recorded 16 interceptions and 643 tackles and earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2011. In 2014, he was named to the NFLPA’s Executive Committee and will work part-time as an ESPN analyst in retirement.
A two-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ike Taylor announced his retirement in April after 12 NFL seasons. He was often tasked with covering the opposition’s leading receiver in his 140 regular season games. More famously, he had an interception in helping the Steelers win Super Bowl XL over Seattle.
The 46-year-old New Zealander, who won the U.S. Open during a breakout year in 2005 in which he also won the World Matchplay Championships at Wentworth, told New Zealand's Radio Sport on May 2 that he has lost the motivation to play top-level golf and is quitting to concentrate on teaching. Campbell lives in Malaga, Spain where he runs a golf academy and has plans to establish others in Asia and New Zealand. He told Radio Sport he hopes to play senior tournaments when he becomes eligible in four years' time. Edging Tiger Woods by two strokes to win the U.S. Open, Campbell was only the second New Zealander to win a major after Bob Charles, who won the 1963 British Open.
Juan Roman Riquelme
Argentine soccer star Juan Roman Riquelme retired Jan. 26, ending a nearly two-decade-long professional career that included stints with Boca, Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentinos and 51 appearances for the Argentine national team. Riquelme, who wore the iconic No. 10 for Argentina, was known around the world for his playmaking skills and delivered three assists at the 2006 World Cup, where Argentina reached the quarterfinals.
After 20 seasons in the Major Leagues, former MVP Jason Giambi announced his retirement Feb. 17. Giambi evolved from a rebellious, rabble-rousing (and steroid-using) superstar in Oakland and New York to a mature veteran bench bat late in his career in Colorado and Cleveland. The slugging first baseman launched 440 home runs and thrice led the American League in on-base percentage, including in 2000, when he won the AL MVP thanks to 43 homers and a .333/.476/.647 slash-line.
Tim Hudson revealed in September that he plans to retire at the end of the current season—his 17th in the major leagues. The 40-year-old righthander is 74th on the all time wins list with 221 as of Sept. 10, the most among active pitchers.
A three-time All-Star who won a World Series title with St. Louis in 2011, the 37-year-old shortstop hit .281 with 311 doubles, 113 homers and 314 steals for Atlanta (2000-05), the Los Angeles Dodgers (2006-11), the Cardinals (2011-12) and Miami (2014). He won the NL Rookie of the Year award with the Braves in 2000. An All-Star in 2012, Furcal missed the 2013 season after right elbow ligament-replacement surgery that March. He appeared in nine big league games last year, leaving what turned out to be his finale on June 21 after injuring his left hamstring.
Former middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez announced his retirement at boxing’s Hall of Fame weekend in June 2015. He amassed a 51-3-2 record with 28 knockouts over his career, with six successful title defenses between 2010 and 2013.
It was reported on May 1 that two-time All-Star Carlos Quentin would retire. Quentin played nine Major League seasons, batting .252 with 154 home runs. His best year came in 2008 while playing for the White Sox, when he batted .288 with 36 home runs (second in the league) and 100 RBIs and finished fifth in AL MVP voting. Quentin struggled with injuries throughout his career. After becoming a regular in 2008, he averaged only 99 games per season over the next seven seasons.
Juan Pierre’s 14-year World Series-winning career ended with his retirement on Feb. 27. Though the outfielder played for six teams on his way to 2,217 hits and 614 stolen bases, he’ll be best remembered for his role on the Florida Marlins’ 2003 title-winning squad. That season, Pierre finished a career-best 10th in MVP voting, as he hit .305 and led the league with 65 stolen bases.
In the final game of a 16-year NHL career and a lifetime in hockey, the 40-year-old defenseman became a champion at last. Timonen, 40, has four Olympic medals with Finland, but no golds. He reached three World Championships finals, losing every time. The four-time NHL All-Star was the captain of the Nashville Predators during his first eight NHL seasons with the club, never making a lengthy playoff run. Timonen got close to a Cup in 2010 with the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Blackhawks rallied past them in the Stanley Cup Final to claim the first of their three titles in six years.
Evengi Nabokov retired from the NHL as a member of the organization that drafted him more than two decades early. The goalie called it quits Feb. 11, two days after being traded to the San Jose Sharks, the team for which he played 10 of his 14 seasons. Nabokov holds the Sharks’ franchise records for wins (293) and shutouts (50) and helped San Jose to the playoffs in all but one of his seasons there.
Ray Whitney retired Jan. 21 after a 22-year career spent with eight NHL teams, most notably the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. Nicknamed “The Wizard” for his playmaking ability, the longtime left wing tallied 385 goals and 679 assists to finish his career in 63th place on the all-time points record.
Over 17 NHL seasons, the dimunitive Danel Briere (5-foot-9) played for Phoenix, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Montreal and Colorado before announcing his retirement in August. He garnered 307 goals, 389 assists and 696 career points and scored 30 goals five times in his career.
Longtime Chargers center Nick Hardwick retired Feb. 3 after 11 NFL seasons, all spent in San Diego. Hardwick started all 136 games in which he appeared, including every Chargers contest between 2010 and 2013. He also appeared in 10 playoff games across six postseason appearances, snapping the ball to Pro Bowl quarterbacks Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. He was a five-time Chargers captain and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2006.
Former Pro Bowl offensive tackle Michael Roos called it quits Feb. 26 after a 10-year NFL career spent exclusively with the Tennessee Titans. Roos was a workhorse, missing only one game (for an emergency appendectomy) during his first nine seasons before losing the final 11 games of 2014 to a knee injury. He was a First-Team All-Pro in 2008, when he earned his lone Pro Bowl selection.
Right wing Radek Dvorak played 18 NHL seasons before announcing his retirement Jan. 27. Dvorak began his career with the Florida Panthers and returned to South Florida in 2007 after seven seasons playing for the Rangers, Oilers and Blues. After leaving the Panthers again in 2011, Dvorak bounced around before ending his career with the Carolina Hurricanes. Overall, he produced 590 NHL points, on 227 goals and 363 assists.
The linebacker announced his retirement from the NFL on May 7. Wimbley, who was set to enter his tenth season in the league, played for the Browns, Raiders and Titans during his career. Drafted 13th overall by Cleveland in 2006, Wimbley had 11 sacks his rookie season. Last season, Wimbley tallied 32 tackles and two sacks for the Titans. In his nine years in the NFL, Wimbley recorded 442 tackles, 53.5 sacks and two interceptions.
Only former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre has more UFC fights (21) among Canadians than Sam Stout, who announced his retirement from MMA in September 2015. Stout was 21-12-1 in MMA and 9-11 in the UFC.
After 63 years of coaching the Summerville (S.C.) High School football team to 621 victories and 10 state championships, John McKissick announced his retirement ahead of the 2015 season. The 89-year-old McKissick coached his first season in 1952 and has the most wins of any coach in football on all levels.