November 30, 2023


Inspired by sport

Joan Joyce, a Sensation in Softball and More, Is Dead at 81

On a heat August night time in 1961, Ted Williams, the “Splendid Splinter” who had completed his Hall of Fame baseball vocation the calendar year prior to as the last hitter to bat .400 in a solitary time, strode to the plate before an overflow group at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury, Conn., to deal with a young softball pitching phenom by the title of Joan Joyce.

The celebration was a charity fund-elevating exhibition. Williams was in his Boston Pink Sox uniform, No. 9. Joyce stood on the mound 40 ft absent (regulation in women’s softball, as opposed to 60 ft 6 inches in significant-league baseball), clad in the pink-and-white jersey and shorts she wore as the premier pitcher for the Raybestos Brakettes, one of the leading teams in the women’s recreation, with its home discipline 30 miles to the south in suburban Stratford, Conn.

It was just one of a number of these exhibitions in which Williams and Joyce faced off in the early 1960s, but the one in Waterbury — Joyce’s hometown, where the lovers have been chanting “Joanie, Joanie Joanie!” — proved to be the most unforgettable. It would develop into an oft-told tale in the lore that enveloped Joyce around her extensive profession as, numerous would say, the most dominant participant in the background of women’s rapidly-pitch softball and — given her prowess in basketball, volleyball and golfing as properly — as just one of the best woman athletes of her technology.

With a slingshot-like underhanded shipping, Joyce, a couple of weeks shy of her 21st birthday, took her total arsenal of blazing pitches to the mound that evening: curveballs, sliders, fastballs and her trademark “drop ball,” which sank about the plate. And though she warmed up, Williams, who was approaching 43 but coming off a sterling, age-defying final period in Boston (hitting .316 and swatting 29 dwelling runs), analyzed the motion of her ball.

To no avail, as it turned out.

For 10 to 15 minutes, Williams, a left-handed hitter, swung at and skipped nearly every thing Joyce, a correct-hander, threw at him (conserve for a couple of foul suggestions).

“Finally,” Joyce afterwards recalled, “he threw the bat down and explained, ‘I just can’t strike her’” and walked away.

Mighty Williams experienced struck out.

Several years later, Joyce would notify her biographer, Tony Renzoni, how she the moment achieved a male who experienced fished with Williams off the Florida Keys. The man instructed her that he experienced asked Williams to identify the toughest pitcher he experienced ever confronted. “And he reported,” she recalled, “‘You will not believe that this, but it was a teenage female.’”

Her quite a few enthusiasts would not have been so astonished. Joyce, who died on Saturday in Boca Raton, Fla., at 81, was, at the time, in the midst of a Hall of Fame profession of her very own. And when that job finished, just after almost two decades of softball at a countrywide and worldwide level, she experienced amassed a staggering set of accomplishments.

More than 19 seasons she compiled a herculean 753-42 gain-reduction file, tossing 150 no-hitters and 50 fantastic games and hanging out extra than 10,000 batters even though accruing an astonishingly lower lifetime attained-run common of .090.

In 1 period she gained 42 game titles. She recorded strings of consecutive scoreless innings, such as 123 in 1971 and 229 in 1975-76, and gained eight Most Valuable Participant awards in championship match perform, largely with the Brakettes, a perennial powerhouse that took its identify from its business sponsor, a Stratford manufacturer of brake lining for vehicles.

She also struck out Hank Aaron in a further exhibition, in 1978 in West Hartford, Conn. Aaron was 44, two decades removed from his playing days, and Joyce was 37, but the face-off was billed as one thing of a heavyweight fight.

“She was a thing else,” Aaron was quoted as indicating afterward. “That softball will come at you and rises up all over your head by the time you swing at it.”

And, for excellent evaluate, Joyce, like Aaron, could hit: She experienced a profession batting typical of .327.

She went on to coach the women’s softball team at Florida Atlantic College, in Boca Raton, and was in her 28th period there at her dying, which the university announced without having providing a trigger. At F.A.U., where she was the program’s founding coach, she designed a towering record of 1,002-674-1 as she coached the team to 11 conference championships and 11 N.C.A.A. postseason tournaments. She was voted the conference mentor of the calendar year eight moments.

But softball was not the only arena in which Joyce excelled. As a rangy 5-foot-9 forward (some resources say 5 foot 10), she took multiple all-American honors in basketball actively playing for Connecticut groups in the Women’s Basketball Association and the Newbie Athletic Union. She set a national A.A.U. match record scoring 67 factors in one video game and 3 instances was voted an A.A.U. All-Star. She had a vocation scoring ordinary of 30 points for each recreation (and this was prior to the three-point shot was released).

She was also a standout volleyball participant. After setting up her personal group, the Connecticut Clippers, she competed in the United States Volleyball Association’s national tournament from 1969 to 1974 and was selected for an All-East Regional group. Fewer than a thirty day period after taking up bowling, she gained the Connecticut condition title in the sport and, by her account, later on turned down an offer you to go experienced.

And at 35, an age when a lot of athletes are retiring, she tried her hand at golfing. Within just two decades, she certified for the Girls Specialist Golf Tour — whilst however pursuing her softball profession. At age 42 she set an L.P.G.A. document for the fewest putts in a single spherical: 17 (a quantity matched in men’s qualified golfing only by Bob Brue, on the PGA Champions Tour).

Joyce, recognized for her highly effective drives if not her accuracy, ongoing as a professional golfer for 19 a long time, till she was 55, remaining a contender even though by no means recording a event get. At Florida Atlantic, she was also the women’s head golf mentor.

Inducted into as several as 19 Halls of Fame, Joyce was frequently as opposed to Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who, with triumphs in keep track of and field, swimming, baseball, basketball and golfing in the 1940s and ’50s, has frequently been cited as the biggest female athlete in American record. But to Jane Blalock, the L.P.G.A. star who persuaded Joyce to embrace golfing, “Joan was even greater.”

“Joan was the biggest female athlete in sports activities historical past,” Renzoni quoted Blalock as saying. “Actually, she’s a person of the greatest athletes of all time — male or woman.”

Joan Joyce was born in Waterbury on Aug. 18, 1940, and grew up there, the eldest baby of Joseph and Jean Joyce. Her mother and father labored at rival brass factories (her father as a foreman) and purposely worked distinctive shifts so that a person mum or dad would constantly be at residence with their three young children.

Her father, an accomplished amateur basketball and softball participant, taught Joan both sports activities when she was a child, and her athleticism quickly became apparent. She was the star of her girl’s basketball team at Crosby Substantial University in Waterbury and, soon after participating in in neighborhood arranged softball video games as a lady, she tried out out for the Brakettes at 13 and received a spot on the roster.

Her feats with the crew shortly became legend. In 1961, in event perform for the nationwide championship, she pitched in a few straight games in a 24-hour period of time, striking out 67 batters more than 32 innings before dropping to a workforce from Whittier, Calif., in the ultimate activity, a marathon determined in the bottom of the 19th inning at 3:30 in the morning. (Even with the decline, she was named the tournament’s M.V.P.)

In 1974, the Brakettes grew to become the to start with United States staff to acquire the Women’s Softball Planet Championship, very first held in 1965 in Melbourne, Australia. Playing at Raybestos Memorial Area in Stratford, with the factory’s familiar oily smell wafting throughout the floodlit discipline, Joyce threw a one-hitter (a bunted blooper) versus a effective Japanese team to acquire the title. She experienced produced 5 appearances in the match, a few of them no-hitters.

Joyce remaining the team in 1963 to attend Chapman College or university in Orange, Calif., graduating in 1966. Whilst there, she performed for one of the Brakettes’ chief rivals, the Orange Lionettes, top them to a national championship in 1965. After rejoining the Brakettes in 1967, she went on to pitch 4 consecutive no-hitters for them in 1968.

In 1976, she teamed up with the tennis star Billie Jean King and a sporting activities entrepreneur, Dennis Murphy, to located the International Women’s Skilled Softball League. Joyce became the participant-mentor of the Connecticut Falcons, a crew she owned with King and Blalock. The Falcons took the W.P.S.L. crown in four straight decades ahead of the league went out of enterprise. In its very last calendar year, Joyce took the staff on a 6-match exhibition tour in China, profitable all 6 and dazzling Chinese supporters.

The 1970s also introduced Joyce some attention on television: She appeared on the match clearly show “To Convey to the Truth” and competed with other elite athletes in a decathlon-like structure on ABC’s “Superstars Levels of competition.”

She is survived by a sister, Janis Joyce and a brother, Joseph.

Shelling out most of her softball profession as an novice, Joyce was compelled to take different jobs to fork out the costs — instructing, refereeing, serving section-time as a neighborhood college athletic director and working a vacation company. But she did not complain about the deficiency of remuneration.

“A good deal of individuals experience I should really be bitter about not remaining in a position to get the massive-time money that a male with abilities comparable to mine would acquire,” she advised The New York Periods in 1975. “I don’t treatment about the dollars, I appreciate the activity, and which is the most vital issue. I’d play this video game even if it intended getting broke the rest of my daily life.”

By no means 1 for self-advertising, Joyce nevertheless set modesty aside in her own self-assessment.

“I would have hated to bat versus me,” she explained.