1979 - Player - Pitcher
“Bo,” or “Bobo” Willis was “Mr. Softball Northwest.” He began pitching his way to fame and the hearts of thousands in 1930 at age 13 and didn’t stop until he was 58. Bo taught himself to pitch.
Bo’s list of achievements seems endless. His career of 1,584 softball matches included more than 100 no-hit/no-run games, 300 no-hitters, and 12 perfect games. Several times Bo struck everyone out – all 21 batters – while the fielders behind him merely watched and counted pitches!
He won “at least 80%” of his games, including 15 state titles, and regional titles which earned five trips to world softball tourneys. In 1946 his Longview, Washington team placed third in the world tournament in Cleveland, and just the year before that, he hurled the Navy to its championship. At his peak, Bo was reputed to pitch the ball in excess of 100 mph, but he also threw a rise, a drop and a change-up.
Bo pitched against – and with – many of the greatest names in softball: Eddie Feigner, Harold “Shirty” Gears, who pitched ambidextrously and was the first pitcher to go into the National Hall of Fame, “King Kong” Kelly – the list goes on and on. Feigner, the pitcher from “The King and His Court,” was on the Longview pitching staff with Bo. In his book, "What Little I Know About Pitching and Hitting", Feigner lists Bo among the greatest pitchers in the history of softball.
Forty-five years in a sport, in the days well before scholarships and clinics were dinner-table topics, in the days when sport was truly one’s own sacrificed time – these 45 years point to the true grit and greatness of Bo. Needless to say, he amassed many all-star honors, including being named outstanding pitcher and top hitter in at least two state tournaments in Oregon.
Bo came out of retirement several times. When he was 54, the “ageless softball pitcher” hurled a perfect game in a Eugene, Oregon tournament, striking out 11 of the total 21 batters and hitting two for three, including a double. Later that season he was called upon to pitch in Oregon’s state tournament in Baker, the other pitchers from the team being “pitched out,” tired and needing relief. The opponents from White City heard that “the old man” would be pitching and thought they would have an easy time with him.The headlines in the sports section the next day told the story: “Bobo Shows Kids How.” He struck out 12 of the first 13 batters, pitched for 6 ½ innings, got two hits, and ended up with another win and state championship. That incident has become legend.
Bo passed away in 2007 at the age of 90, leaving a legacy that few will achieve and all will admire.