Leda Peterson might be the finest female athlete ever produced in Chautauqua County. Peterson has been a superb performer in various sports throughout her career and in all likelihood is the only local woman ever to play for a professional team sport, having played softball for the Buffalo Breskis.
The daughter of John and Rose Marie Peterson of Falconer was born December 18, 1955, in Jamestown. She showed her athletic ability at an early age by rolling several high 500 and 600 series in junior-senior high school bowling competition at Falconer Central School.
In 1974 girls high school sports were introduced in Chautauqua County and Peterson received the Most Athletic Award for her senior class at Falconer. In addition, she was presented the Sportsmanship Award, which was chosen by the Falconer faculty. Earlier that spring, she guided the Golden Falcons to a Chautauqua County softball championship. The summer of 1974 saw Peterson become the Most Valuable Player at the Kinzua Women's Softball Tournament in Warren, Pennsylvania.
Peterson then took her talents to Jamestown Community College where she had an outstanding career in basketball. Her first season in 1974-1975 saw her receiving the top defensive award for the Lady Jayhawks. In 1975-1976, the Lady Jayhawks had their finest season ever by winning the Region 3 title and earning a berth in the National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament in Overland Park, Kansas. Led by Peterson, the Lady Jayhawks recorded a fantastic 19-0 record before being defeated in the nationals. She earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team at the nationals after averaging 20 points for her two seasons at JCC. She was the team's MVP that year and set a Lady Jayhawk single-game record of 39 points against Alfred Tech.
Later in 1976, Peterson became the first local woman to sign with a professional team as she inked a contract with the Buffalo Breskis of the National Women's Softball League. She played 114 games, which was second on the team, hit 16 doubles and drove in 28 runs, fourth on the team. Her lone home run was a grand slam and she had a .945 fielding average and twice broke up no-hitters by legendary pitcher Joan Joyce. In 1977, Peterson compiled a .500 batting average, but leg injuries forced the Breskis to release her. That same year, the Statehood Anniversary Committee from Falconer recognized her for outstanding sports achievement.
Peterson was awarded a softball scholarship to Peru State College in Nebraska following reinstatement of her amateur status per ASA rules (one year of noninvolvement in league play). While at Peru, Peterson finished first in batting with a .393 average in 1979 and came back in 1980 with another top average of .344 while captaining the team. That 1980 squad completed in the NCAA Region 6 Division 2 Tournament championship.
Later that year, Peterson was asked by the Buffalo Bisons (formerly the Buffalo Breskis) to play professionally again. However, the league folded weeks later. Peterson graduated with a bachelor of science degree in health and physical education from Peru State in 1981.
In 1980, Peterson was a first team all-star in the first annual Western New York Women's Fast Pitch Tournament and three years later was a tournament all-star in the WNY Fast Pitch Association. It was in 1986 that she was the MVP in the WNY Fast Pitch Tournament. Peterson was named an All-American shortstop in 1985 on the ASA National Women's Major Modified Softball Tournament in Binghamton, where her team placed fifth.
From 1986-89, she was a member of the Western Region Women's Open softball team in the Empire State Games and participated on several title winning teams. Gold medal titles were achieved in 1986, 1987 and 1988 with a silver medal in 1989. Peterson was the co-captain in 1987 and 1988. In 1990, due to a new Empire State ruling, Peterson was considered ineligible because of her professional status. Her four-year Empire State playing career showed she led the Western Region in batting with a .339 average and a perfect fielding percentage. She was third with her .429 slugging average and her nine RBIs and a .383 on base average was fourth.
Another gold medal was attained in 1991 when Peterson was assistant coach to Larry O'Connor, founder and coach of the Shamrock's of Tonawanda. Peterson played five years for the Shamrock's and was a strong contributor to the huge success of the team competing in the Class A Senior Ladies Ontario League and in various tournaments. She won the defensive award for the Shamrock's from 1987 through 1989 while in 1988 the club was runner-up in the ASA Mid-Atlantic Region Women's Major Fast Pitch Tournament. In 1989, Peterson was on the Shamrock's ASA Mid-Atlantic Region champions, qualifying for the ASA National Major Tournament in Decatur, Illinois. Coach Larry O'Connor of the Shamrock's said that Peterson was one of the top five defensive shortstops he had seen in more than 40 years of coaching. In 1989, when the Shamrock's were in nationals, it was Peterson with the lone hit in a 2-0 opening loss to the eventual champions, the California Raiders.
Peterson was a member of The House That Jack Built from Greenhurst, which captured the National Major Modified Tournament championship in 1991 at Spokane, Washington. She was named an All-American shortstop on the First Team. In 1992, Peterson repeated as an All-American with The House That Jack Built placing third in the Nationals at Aberdeen, Maryland. Peterson was a Third Team All-American in 1993 and stroked at a prolific clip of .692 in the Nationals in Drifton, Pennsylvania. The following year in the National at Worton, Maryland, she compiled a .450 average.
This marks the second Hall of Fame she has been inducted into within a year, as in 1996 she was placed in the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame in Buffalo.
Leda Peterson was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.