10 Stories You Didn't Know About Softball Legend Joan Joyce
Joan Joyce is a known softball legend. As one of the pioneers of the sport, Joyce enjoyed a decorated playing career in softball and is in the midst of a long college coaching tenure at Florida Atlantic.
During her time as the head coach at Florida Atlantic, Joyce has guided the Owls to 12 conference titles and 11 NCAA Tournament berths. But Joyce's softball story began long before her coaching journey did.
The Connecticut native and former multi-sport athlete has an expansive list of athletic accomplishments, including her induction into 20 different halls of fame, so we broke down 10 interesting stories about her.
See them below.
1. Where It All Began
Joyce’s incredible softball playing career started with her father.
“He was an athlete and played softball and basketball,” she told Softball America.
Joyce’s mother worked the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, which meant her father babysat her and her brother during that stretch of time.
“From the time my brother and I were really young, we would go to the basketball courts every night,” Joyce recalled. “My father had to take us to the fields all the time, and my brother and I just learned how to play.”
2. The Greatest Pitcher Ever Who Almost Didn’t Pitch
Joyce pitched for the Raybestos Brakettes, a women’s major fastpitch softball team, for 19 seasons. During that time, she boasted a 753-42 record and tossed 150 no-hitters and 50 perfect games. Her lifetime ERA was 0.09. But she almost never played an inning for the Connecticut-based team.
“My mother let me try out,” Joyce said. “But she didn’t think I would make the team because of how young I was.”
When she found herself on the roster, Joyce’s mother said she could not play.
“She told me that I couldn’t travel the country at 14 years old,” Joyce recalled.
But after some convincing and carpooling propositions, her mother finally caved. And thus, Joyce’s journey to softball dominance was born.
3. Major League Baseball Pitchers Couldn’t Touch Her Curveball
Ted Williams could not put a ball in fair territory against Joyce. As part of different fundraisers, she faced the Red Sox star multiple times. On one occasion, Joyce said Williams threw his bat down in frustration and said, “I cannot hit this.” She also said Williams credited her with being the toughest pitcher he ever faced.
And according to Joyce, Hank Aaron wasn’t much better. He, too, struggled to put a ball in fair territory against the Connecticut hurler.
“Carl Yastrzemski was supposed to hit off me too,” Joyce recalled. “But he said, ‘I am not going to be struck out by a girl’ and didn’t come.”
4. Joyce’s First Love Was Basketball
Despite her tremendous softball ability, Joyce’s first love was basketball.
“I made the All-American team for AAU every year,” Joyce said. “I was the highest scorer in the first tournament I ever played in, and they were supposed to pick a team to go play the Russians out of the best players in the tournament.”
But Joyce did not get selected since it was her first time participating.
“They thought it would be more fair to send the people who had already played for a few years,” she remembered.
5. Her Bat Became A Golf Club
Joyce traded her bat for a golf club. One of her teammates’ father’s friends asked her to give up softball to train in golf, and at first, she didn’t accept. Then, in 1975 she added the sport to her repertoire.
“I never played golf,” she said. “But I was always a visualizer when I did stuff; so, I just visualized the way I wanted the golf ball to go.”
That method seemed to work because by 1977, she had joined the LPGA Tour. In 1982, she broke the LPGA and PGA record for fewest putts in a round with 17.
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6. A Superstar By ABC – TV Standards
Joyce was a two-time participant in the ABC-TV Superstars Competition, an event that honors some of the greatest athletes in the world. However, Joyce said that her performance in her tennis match against Mickey King was the only time she ever choked.
“I was so mad at myself because I could have beaten her,” Joyce said.
So, after the games she went back to Connecticut and played tennis every day for two months in preparation for the following year.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen again,” she said.
And she didn’t. Joyce came back to the Superstars the following year and placed second, much higher than the previous outing. According to her, the second-place finish was not because she choked but because her opponent this time was just a little better. Therefore, she was satisfied.
7. The (Almost) Bowler
“I was hired to be a professional bowler,” Joyce said. “I would work at the local bowling alley and get paid to practice every night.”
On one occasion, Joyce found herself bowling against Brian Hyland. She won, of course. However, her bowling career ending up not working out.
8. Taking Over For A Nun
One of Joyce’s first coaching jobs was in high school basketball, and she fell into that position in an unusual way. She was supposed to be officiating a high school basketball game, but the visiting team was running late. The home team was warming up, and she was sitting there watching.
“A nun was the coach of the team and she was trying to help them do drills and she couldn’t explain anything,” Joyce said. “And I just felt so bad for her so I said, ‘Sister, would you like me to help you?’”
The nun said yes and the next day Joyce was offered the head basketball coach position for Waterbury Catholic High School.
9. Becoming An Owl
Joyce became the head coach of the Florida Atlantic softball team in 1994. But ironically, she was offered the position at a golf course.
The associate athletic director at FAU at the time came up to her and asked her to coach the program they were starting in a few years.
“I looked at him and said, ‘I’m a golfer,’” Joyce said. “He looked at me and said, ‘I’m from New England.’”
Joyce wanted to coach a Division I program. So, when the team became Division I at FAU, she accepted the position and has been there ever since.
10. The Secret Behind It All
Joyce seemed to be good at every sport she ever tried. So, we asked, what made her such a great athlete?
She said, “I wouldn’t let anybody beat me.”