The final out was recorded, the final play in the 51-season recreational softball career of Mary Duke. Players from both church-league women’s teams, who had just played in the league’s championship game, surrounded the 75-year-old St. Charles native last month, chanting her name, a fitting tribute to a woman who just loved the game.
“I feel like sports have been what kept me going; the field is truly where my heart is,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Duke, who played for her church, Florissant Valley Baptist Church, wasn’t regarded as the best player in the league, but someone who was a constant threat to get on base and a player who made her teammates better through her enthusiasm for the game. A multisport athlete in high school, Duke has gotten better with age, competing in several sports in the Senior Olympics.
But for now, Duke, the iron woman of recreational softball in this corner of the St. Louis area, has thrown her last pitch. For Sheila Duke, her daughter, her mother’s spirit for the game has carried over to everyday life, and she is forever grateful for it.
“My mom was truly inspired by sports,” said Sheila Duke, 44, of Wentzville. “She taught me how to be a team player, to back people up, and that lesson continues to affect me in my life now.”