For nearly two decades, Sheila (Cornell) Douty was among the best softball players in the world. At 38, Sheila had won every major title the sport has to offer . But it wasn’t until after the 2000 Olympics that she really had a chance to take it all in.
“My husband and son and I took a 10-day vacation in Australia immediately after the games,” said Douty.‘‘I think that was probably the only time I had to reflect on it and understand what a huge accomplishment it was, coming back the way we did.”
At the start of the Games, Douty and her American teammates seemed assured of a second consecutive gold medal. They won their first two games to extend their international winning streak to 112, but then suffered three straight losses and found themselves on the brink of elimination from medal contention before rallying to win four straight games, including a 2-1 eight inning verdict over Japan in the gold medal game.
Douty started every game at first base, hitting one home run with four RBIs. It maked just the second time women’s softball had been featured as a medal sort at the Olympics and American television audiences marveled at the skills of Douty and her teammates“ In ‘96 it was the first time a lot of women’s sports were looked at (by a national audience),” Douty said.‘‘It was’Oh look at that, they’re pretty good.’ This time it was ‘Look at those athletes out there.’’’
Douty started playing softball at age 10 in Southern California. She had just moved to a new neighborhood so her mother took Sheila and her sister to a playground and told them to sign up for a sport. There was no professional softball then so Douty spent her summer evenings listening to Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully describe Dodger games on the radio and thrilled to the exploits of first baseman Steve Gravey.
By the time she reached college (UCLA) Douty was playing a pretty good brand of first base herself. She played for two national championship teams at UCLA. After college she played for various teams in Southern California before joining the Raybestos Brakettes in 1988 and staying with them through 1994.
During her time with the Brakettes, she batted 1,105 times in 477 games, collected 462 hits (77 douibles, 48 triples and 44 homers) for an eye-popping .418 batting average. She earned All-America honors 16 times in her career and six of them were with the Brakettes, earning first-team honors in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, and 1993 and second-team laurels in 1994. Sheila was a member of seven national championship and three runners-up.
The following year, she joined the California Commotion of Woodland Hills, CA and won three consecutive ASA national championships (1996-1998) and a second place (1995).
Sheila’s first international experience came in the 1983 Pan American Games where the USA finished in second place--the only time the USA has finished second in the Pan American Games. Sheila also was a member of the 1987, 1991 and 1995 USA Pan American Teams.
Starting in 1987, and continuing through the 2000 Olympics, Sheila was a member of USA Teams that won no less than 15 international titles, including three ISF World Championships, three Pan Am gold medals and two gold medals in the Olympics (1996 and 2000).
Through it all, Douty and her teammates were able to blend their skills and personalities and keep each other motivated. “We push each other, she said.Whether it was in practice or in games or whatever. That’s what elite athletes do.”
It’s a run that has never been equaled in the history of women’s team sports, which is a concept Douty is still trying to grasp.”When I think about the people who have impacted on women’s sports in general over the years, people like Billie Jean King and Chris Evert and Jackie Joyner-Kerse, to think that the USA Softball team could be out into that category; it’s so hard when you’re part of it.”