Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Skip navigation

Great article about coach Joyce


Great article about coach Joyce

This is a good article. It has some things I didn't know about her! ;)

We have probably the best softball coach and player in the country.

From Ted Williams to current players, FAU's Joyce has often left them 'blown away'

By Ted Hutton | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted June 12, 2007

When Jenna Lopez arrived at Florida Atlantic to play softball four years ago, all she knew about coach Joan Joyce was that she had led the Owls to six consecutive conference championships and four NCAA regionals in a row.

"She was coach of a really good team. That's about it," said Lopez, who just finished her four-year career at FAU on the Owls team that won the Sun Belt conference regular season and tournament titles.

She began to learn more about Joyce from teammates and other coaches.

"Finally, one day I got on the Internet, and I was just blown away," Lopez said.

Joyce, who will be 67 in August, will talk if she is asked about her past. The problem is trying to decide what to ask her about.

The time she struck out Ted Williams in a softball exhibition in Waterbury, Conn., when she was 20?

Or starting a professional softball league with Billie Jean King? About shooting a 66 in an LPGA tournament, or the round that she needed just 17 putts, which got her listed in the Guinness Book of Records?

Perhaps about playing on the U.S. national basketball team in 1965? How about her time with the Connecticut Clippers of the U.S. Volleyball Association?

About what it feels like to be enshrined in seven different halls of fame?

"I have to tell the players that they are playing for a woman who was one of the best softball players ever," said FAU assistant coach John Stratton, who has known Joyce for nearly 50 years. "Heck, she is one of the best athletes ever, male or female. But most of these kids don't know that, and it's a shame."

Joyce said she was 14 when she started playing for the Raybestos Brakettes, a softball team sponsored by one of the manufacturers in what was then a blue-collar part of Connecticut.

Joyce grew up in Waterbury, and both her parents worked in factories, taking different shifts so that one of them was home with the three children.

Joyce's father played basketball and fast-pitch softball, and she loved being in a gym or on a softball field, recalling how she would race the referee to the basketball at halftime so she could shoot before the teams returned, and how she would warm up pitchers behind the dugout.

"I had good role models," Joyce said about her father and his teammates.

While in high school she played basketball, getting onto a local AAU team, and then being picked up by an amatuer team in New London that eventually won several national championships.

While Joyce said basketball was her favorite sport and the one she believes she was best at, it was softball that took up the largest part of her playing career.

By 1958 Joyce was a multi-position player for the Brakettes, based in Stratford, playing second base, outfield and getting some chances to pitch.

That year the Brakettes were hosting the national championship, and their ace, Bertha Ragan Tickey, pitched them into the title game against the Fresno Rockets.

"We watched them take the infield, and they scared the living daylights out of us," Joyce said about Fresno.

The Rockets were filled with future Hall of Fame players, and the Brakettes, aside from 34-year-old Tickey, were mostly high school and college-age players.

In the third inning, Tickey was taken to the hospital after tearing a muscle in her hip while picking up a bunt and turning to throw to first base.

"The hype before that was unbelievable," Joyce said. "Ten, twelve thousand people in the stands, and we have a chance to win the national championship in our stadium. Then Bertha goes down."

Here Joyce leans back in her chair and lets out a breath in a long, slow exhale. "You could feel the energy deflate, because – uh-oh, here comes the 17-year-old … "

Joyce was able to maintain Tickey's no-hitter through three more innings, and then, after the Brakettes scratched out a run, she needed just three more outs for the win.

The game was played 49 years ago, but Joyce tells the story as if it ended five minutes ago.

"Gloria May, Kay Rich and Jeanne Contel," Joyce said about the three hitters she faced, all three of them now in the American Softball Association Hall of Fame.

"Gloria hit a ground ball, and we throw her out. Kay Rich strikes out, her only strikeout in the tournament. Contel is big and strong, and she hits one to the fence, but we catch it. I finished the no-hitter, and we had our first national championship," Joyce said, a smile on her face.

Joyce had a 21-year career, going 429-27 with the Brakettes, striking out 5,677 batters in 3,397 innings. Joyce was also a formidable batter, hitting .327.

"She dominated a game that is supposed to be a team sport as an individual," said Bill Plummer, manager of the ASA Hall of Fame.

The pictures, posters and trophies in Joyce's office reveal few details about her past. There is one painting of her pitching, but nearly everything else relates to her 13 years as FAU's softball and golf coach.

Asked why she was able to excel at so many sports, she shrugs. "I guess I have good coordination."

Not all great players can make the transition to coach, but Joyce's softball teams have won 10 conference titles at FAU, and she earned her sixth Coach of the Year award this month after leading the Owls to the Sun Belt title in their first year in the conference.

Asked about her success as a coach, she replies, "I have good assistants."

"She's very confident about everything," Stratton said. "Even if we are running late to get to the airport, she just knows it will work out, and it does."

She was confident enough to shift sports again in the 1970s, when she befriended a couple of LPGA players during a multisport competition.

"I was always interested in playing [golf], but all my time was taken up by basketball and softball. Then I met Jane Blalock and Sandra Palmer when I was in the Superstars competition, and I started playing with them."

She earned her LPGA Tour card in 1977 and played on the tour for about 18 years, making her a natural to also coach golf at FAU.

The confidence has been a constant. It was evident when she was a 17-year-old facing down May, Rich and Contel, and three years later when she stood on the mound staring down Ted Williams in front of a crowd of about 17,000 at Waterbury's municipal stadium.

Williams, the legendary Red Sox slugger who had retired a year earlier with a .344 lifetime average, earlier had asked Joyce how she threw her curveball.

Joyce said she showed him her grip and explained how she did it. "Girls aren't supposed to know that," Joyce recalled him saying. "Well, this girl does," Joyce replied.

Joyce said her strategy against Williams was to throw a riseball up and out of the strike zone, then come in with her drop, the equivalent of a sinker in baseball. The one Joyce threw has been described as a ball rolling off the edge of a table.

"I had a nasty drop," Joyce said, her blue eyes twinkling.

John Statton's wife, Mickey, was one of Joyce's Brakette teammates and caught for Joyce during the exhibition against Williams.

"His knees buckled on the drop," Mickey Stratton said. "He just couldn't hit it. Nobody could."

Williams stood at the plate swinging and missing for more than 10 minutes.

Joyce said he never hit a fair ball, and only touched three of her pitches.

"That sounds right," Mickey Stratton said.

"Then he threw his bat down and walked off," Joyce said, clearly enjoying replaying the memory one more time. "Just threw the bat down."

"She was something else," Plummer said. "I got to see her play, and that was one of the highlights of my life. She will go down in history as one of the greatest players in fast-pitch softball. I seriously doubt there will be another Joan Joyce."

That's something her players will hopefully appreciate. Especially since she plans to keep coaching.

"I guess I am planning on doing it until I am not enjoying it anymore," Joyce said, "so that means I should be doing it for a while longer."

Back to the top


Great article about coach Joyce

While Joyce said basketball was her favorite sport and the one she believes she was best at, it was softball that took up the largest part of her playing career.

Come to think about it, she does go to EVERY home bball game unless her team has a game that night.

She really is an amazing coach.

Go play Intramural Sports! www.fau.edu/campusrec/imsports/
Back to the top


Re: Great article about coach Joyce

Not many people know how lucky we are to have Coach Joyce.  She is simply amazing…
Back to the top