Nina Korgan – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
New Orleans Jax Maids
Nina “Tiger” Korgan had established herself as a professional softball star before joining the powerhouse New Orleans Jax Maids in 1942 but shortly after coming to New Orleans, she was widely recognized as the greatest softball pitcher of all-time. With Korgan on board, the Jax Maids would win five softball national championships in the next eight years – a period when industrial league softball was highly competitive around the country. Top softball players were hired to work for prominent businesses while playing for their elite promotional softball teams – like Jackson Brewing in New Orleans sponsoring the Jax Maids.
Korgan, recognized as one of the top pitchers in softball history, essentially stumbled into the role. After graduating from high school, she wanted to join a local softball team, but she had the date mixed up for practice and when she arrived, the only vacant position was pitcher. And the legend was born.
From 1934-48, she played on six American Softball Association (ASA) national championship teams, including five with the Jax Maids. She pitched for the Syracuse (Nebraska) Blue Birds from 1935-37, leading them to state championships all three years and posting a 95-5 record, and Thames (Mo.) from 1938-40. Her first national championship came in 1941 with the Higgins Midgets of Tulsa, Okla., when she completely dominated the national tournament. In 30 innings of work, she struck out 67 batters and hurled four shutouts, including a perfect game with 20 strikeouts. She allowed only five hits in the four games – one of those came in a 1-0 victory over New Orleans.
When the Midgets were disbanded following their national title, she moved to New Orleans for the 1942 season. Korgan extended her scoreless inning streak in the ADA national tourney to 67 innings before giving up a run in the seventh inning of the 1942 championship game in Detroit. Korgan won four games in that tourney with three of them one-hitters.
Korgan and the Jax Maids would repeat in 1943, defeating a Phoenix entry, but a team from Portland, Ore., took the 1944 title. New Orleans returned to the top the following year to start a three-year stretch of national championships. They knocked off teams from Toronto (1945), Chicago (1946) and New York City (1947) in the title games.
She was lauded regularly in print: “Nina Korgan, the Walter Johnson of girls’ softball…” said the Associated Press. “Nina Korgan likely has no equal as a girls’ softball pitcher. She enjoys the distinction of being the world’s best…” said the Charlotte Observer. “Her record in incomparable. She has a magnetic personality and moves about with the grace of a leopard. She’s a champion and looks it…” said Scoop Kennedy. “The Bob Feller of the ladies’ league…” said The Saturday Evening Post.
She would remain with the Jax Maids until retiring from competition in 1949. She worked for the Jackson Brewing Company until retiring in 1978.
Korgan was born February 1, 1916 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and attended Abraham Lincoln High School where she was a star athlete in every discipline she attempted. The Council Bluffs Nonpareil wrote the following in 1944:
“No one ever questioned her right to be called this city’s greatest girl athlete of all-time…she played volleyball, basketball, baseball, captainball, soccer and tennis, won prizes pitching horseshoes, shot a mean rifle and scarcely had to draw a breath to win any event she chose to enter in the various high school girls’ track and field playground meets. She was city champion in the baseball far throw, high jump and broad jump, and captained the city championship girls’ basketball team.”
She was inducted into the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame in 1960 and the Nebraska Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame in 1979. She died on July 19, 2009 in Sand Springs, Okla., at the age of 93.