~ The Old Sachem ~
Jean Anna Faut was born on January 17, 1925, in East Greenville, Pennsylvania, and died on February 28, 2023, in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Jean pitched two perfect games during her professional career and is considered as the greatest all-time pitcher in women’s professional baseball. Her lifetime professional record was 140 wins and 64 losses, an earned run average of 1.23 in 235 appearances.
Jean was raised in a family of three girls and three brothers during the Great Depression era and had little use for baseball as a youngster. She went to East Greenville High School and was a star in track and field, basketball and field hockey. Girls only played softball during this period and Jean wasn’t interested. There were few options for young girls playing baseball in this era, but Jean did pitch for her boys’ high school team for batting practice. She later got to pitch on a semipro team in her hometown for exhibition games. She learned to toss three pitches: a fastball, a curveball and a slow pitch.
In the spring of 1946, she went to a tryout for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and signed a contract to play for the South Bend Blue Sox managed by Chester Grant, a former Notre Dame footballer and Sports Editor of The South Bend Tribune. The league started, as I have written in a previous column, in 1942 when young men were away to war and major league professional baseball had only older men on the field. This carried to all levels of baseball, and fans were unhappy with the process.
Significant changes were added to the league in 1946: The basepaths were extended and the size of the ball was decreased from that of a softball, which the pitchers often threw underhand. Side arm, curveballs, changeups and sinkers were taught to the girls to add to the game.
In her rookie season, Faut appeared in 101 games, mostly as a third baseman, batting 61 hits from 344 at bats for a 0.177 batting average. She scored 37 runs and knocked in 40 runs. The manager, after seeing her throwing ability, converted her to pitching, and she finished the season with eight wins and three losses, with 21 strikeouts and a 1.32 earned run average. Jean appeared in 12 outings that included nine starts; she had eight complete games and a pair of two-hitters. Her ERA of 1.32 was third best in the league, and her winning percentage was 0.727, not bad for a rookie.
In 1947 Faut pitched 44 games and had a 1.15 ERA and a 19 and 13 record. She was pregnant late in the season and gave birth to a son in March 1948.
She was back for the 1948 season with a 16–11 record, 165 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.44, over 250 innings. On September 4, Faut pitched her first no-hitter, beating the host Racine Belles 7 to zip.
In the 1949 season, the South Bend Blue Sox finished with a 75–36 record and tied Rockford for first place. In September Faut pitched another no-hitter, beating Fort Wayne by a score of 2–0.
Her 1950 season showed her skills; she finished with a 21–9 record, a 1.12 ERA, over 36 games. She walked 104 batters, gave up 175 hits, 64 runs of which only 36 were earned. At the plate she batted 0.217, scored 23 runs, knocked in 26 runs and stole 15 bases.
For the 1951 season her husband, a former big leaguer with the Phillies, took over the Blue Sox as manager. Faut finished with a 15–7 record and an ERA of 1.33 and struck out 135, which led the league. On July 21 she pitched a perfect game against the Rockford Peaches, striking out five of the last nine batters.
The league was reduced to only six teams for 1952, and Faut compiled a record of 20–2 in 23 starts, allowed 31 runs, only 19 earned, an ERA of 0.51, 42 walks and 114 strikeouts in 184 innings. South Bend won the championship when Faut pitched a scoreless four innings in relief.
In 1953 she led all pitchers in ERA for the fourth consecutive year. Her record was 17–7 with a 2.00 ERA. In September she pitched her second perfect game over the Kalamazoo Lassies. Faut stroked four home runs, scored 33 runs and drove in 38 runs.
She retired after 1954 and took up competitive bowling. She was also an excellent golfer.
Her professional pitching record was 235 games, 140 wins, 64 losses, ERA of 1.23, 1,780 innings pitched, gave up 1,093 hits, 483 runs over 243 earned, walked 589, struck out 913 and had a whip of 1.55.
There will never be another woman pitcher such as Jean Faut.
(Editor’s Note: Bill Stewart, better known to Saugus Advocate readers as “The Old Sachem,” writes a weekly column about sports – and sometimes he opines on current or historical events or famous people.)