Hall of Fame fast-pitch softball legend Joan Joyce died on March 26 at the age of 81 in Boca Raton, Florida.
Joyce was named one of the best softball pitchers of all time, according to The New York Times. She won the World Series of women’s professional softball in four consecutive seasons.
At the age of 16, Joyce played in several exhibition games facing legendary hitters including Henry “Hank” Aaron.
“She was something else,” Aaron was quoted as saying after facing Joyce in an exhibition game in 1978, said the article. “That softball comes at you and rises up around your head by the time you swing at it.”
Joyce also faced off against Ted “Splendid Splinter” Williams in another exhibition game.
Williams, a left-handed hitter, swung at and missed almost everything that Joyce, a right-hander, threw at him, making him finally throw the bat down in frustration, said the Times.
Joyce amassed an impressive 753 wins and 42 losses, 150 no-hit no-run games, 50 perfect games, and a batting average of .324 over her career.
Joyce was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame in 1983. She was inducted into the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame in 1999, one of only three Americans so honored, according to the article.
Joyce played softball for the Raybestos Brakettes (1954-1963; 1967-1975) and the Orange Lionettes (1964-1966). She also played on the USA’s Women’s National Basketball Team (1964-1965) and competed in the LPGA tour as a golfer.
Joyce became head coach of the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls in 1995 and became the only FAU softball coach in program history to amass 1,002 wins and win conference coach of the year titles in three different conferences.
In her first year as FAU head coach, Joyce earned her first Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year Award with a 33-18 season record. She was also named Palm Beach County Coach of the Year.
Eight consecutive conference championships, (1997-2004) – (2006, 2007, 2016, 2018) -12 in all, and eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances (1997-2004) – (2006, 2015, 2016) – 11 in all.
Joyce was named one of the best pitchers of all time. She built the FAU program on a foundation of strong pitching. “Many would say that Joyce was one of the greatest female athletes of her generation,” said the Times article.
At 5-foot-9-inches, Joyce was an imposing presence on the mound and possessed an arsenal of pitches she delivered with a slingshot-like underhand that included curveballs, sliders, fastballs, and her trademark “drop ball,” which sank over the plate and deceived many batters.