Cheers rise up from her teammates as she approaches the field, chanting variations of “Go, Mama!” and “Congratulations, Mama!” When the game starts and 71-year-old Theresa Sahm steps to the mound, all eyes remain locked on her. She’s been pitching for Harrington’s for 15 years, and even though she has a reputation for being the team mom off the field, she’s known as a formidable opponent on.
In about two minutes, the three batters who step up from the opposing Crafty’s team are out, paving the way for Harrington’s to win the game 6-4. With that victory, they’re the No. 1 team in the Northeast Women’s Softball League.
In her 70s, Sahm hasn’t slowed down at all. She’s been playing softball for 50 years, which is almost as long as she’s been married to her husband Ralph, who became her first softball coach for the McCrossen’s Dust Bowl Tavern half a century ago. Craig Leva and Kathy Dillon, managers for Harrington’s, discovered her 15 years ago when she spontaneously filled in for an injured shortstop at a game her daughter was playing. She was wearing flip-flops at the time.
“I was given cleats and a glove and the rest is history,” she said.
She’s been playing on the same team with her daughter, Andrea, ever since. Sahm lives down in the Fairmount area of the city, where she participates on other teams, but makes sure to be at Tarken Playground in Oxford Circle for every Northeast game.
“All the girls on even the opposite teams we play will call me mom,” she said. “I’m like a mother figure to them because of my age, and that is so sweet of them. Some girls, I might not know their name, but they know mine.”
Leva said that off the field Sahm brings leadership, respect and ability to the team. Her smile will disappear as soon as she steps onto the mound, though, as she calculates how to take out her opponents. In her years pitching, she’s developed a few strategies to strike them out.
“When I know a girl has two strikes on her, I’ll call out to the umpire and ask the count, and I do that on purpose because I want to remind the batter,” she revealed. She may also crank out her high spin ball, a throw designed to drop right in front of the plate and trick the batter into swinging their final strike.
“It’s mostly been working out,” she said.
Sahm recalled a new umpire told her telling her she shouldn’t be throwing balls so quickly in this league when she was just doing her warmup routine.
She’s active in teams all across the city, pitching in tournaments such as Wounded Warriors in Fairmount and Sean Daily and McCook in Port Richmond. She also coaches a Lisa’s Army tee-ball team, which is dedicated to providing comfort and care to individuals battling cancer. She also helps coach the Leprechauns for the Fairmount Sports Association.
She and Ralph celebrated 53 years of marriage last year, and their four daughters have taken after their athletic ways. Her daughters Theresa Rodack, Lisa Sahm-McGuigan, Paula Sahm and Andrea Sahm-Loonstyn all play sports as well as her eight grandchildren, whether it’s tennis, baseball or softball. She also has two great-granddaughters who may not be old enough to play sports yet – but odds are they’ll take after their family.
“We’re united by sports,” she said, adding she can’t see herself quitting anytime soon.
“I like the thrill, I like the running, I like the hitting, I like the pitching,” she said. And she’s just getting warmed up. ••