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Premier softball pitcher Stoddard dies at 78

When softball was king in Spokane a half-century or so ago, Don Stoddard was a member of a Royal Army of dominant pitchers.

No-hitters, one-hitters, perfect games … all appeared regularly on his resume during a playing career that spanned nearly 30 years from the 1950s into the 1980s when he retired from the game for a second and final time.

Stoddard, who retired after a 38-year career with Avista in the early 1990s, died Friday morning of a heart attack at his home in Spokane Valley. He was 78.

A 1971 article in the local softball publication “Spokane Softball Hits & Errors” said Stoddard, inducted into the Inland Empire Softball Hall of Fame in 1984, “was a real workhorse. His strong right arm tossed plenty of no-hitters against the best in the area.”

“He was quite a stud, that’s for sure,” said Jim Porter, a longtime friend and former teammate. “He was a competitor … but he worked at it.”

An article from 1962 in The Spokesman-Review archives reported that Stoddard and rival Denny Newcomb pitched every inning of a 24-inning game that was “the longest softball game in Spokane history.” Stoddard’s team won 4-3.

Two years later, at the ASA Northwest Regional tournament in Bremerton, Stoddard “pitched 27 consecutive innings of shutout ball,” said his brother-in-law, Doug Bender. “That was against the big boys, the Pay ‘n Paks. … That was phenomenal.” Stoddard’s Ring Inn Tavern team finished third and he was named the outstanding pitcher of the tournament.

“He was the best I ever played with around here,” said Bender, who caught Stoddard late in his career. “His drop ball was so heavy it was like catching a rock, not a ball.”

Porter recalled that in one two-day period, Stoddard “pitched a no-hitter one night at Franklin (Park), then the next night pitched a perfect game out at Fairchild (Air Force Base).”

Golf became Stoddard’s passion – “he was an avid golfer; he loved golf,” said son Danny – and he was pretty good at it. “He shot his age at Downriver two or three weeks ago,” said Porter. “He was proud of that.”

Born in Spokane, Stoddard lived in Montana for a short period, and then returned to spend the rest of his life here. He didn’t stray far from softball, using his expertise and love for the game to coach girls fastpitch pitchers at the youth, high school and college levels in recent years.

Stoddard, preceded in death by his wife, Bonnie, 10 years ago, is survived by son Danny of Seattle and daughter Brenda Bennett and two granddaughters of Spokane Valley. Services are pending.

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