Joyce, Joan (1940—)

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Joyce, Joan (1940—)

American softball player . Born on August 18, 1940, in Waterbury, Connecticut; attended Chapman College in California.

At age 13, joined Raybestos Brakettes, amateur women's fast-pitch softball team in Stratford, Connecticut (1953); launched pitching career during Amateur Softball Association's (ASA) National championships (1958); became a dominant force behind Raybestos Brakettes team with her pitching, hitting and fielding expertise (1970s); led team to World championship, first ever won by Americans (1974); retired from amateur softball and helped found International Women's Professional Softball Association (1975); retired from softball (1978); inducted into National Softball Hall of Fame (1983); inducted into Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame (1990); named head coach for women's softball program at Florida Atlantic University (1994).

One of the most successful athletes in the world, Joan Joyce, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on August 18, 1940. At age eight, she was taught how to play softball by her father, but girls, at that time, were barred from playing baseball. Joyce also played basketball, volleyball, and in later years, took up golf—all of which led to her often being compared to Babe Didrikson Zaharias . By her teenage years, Joyce had perfected a fastball which, at the height of her career, was reputedly clocked at over 115 miles an hour. At age 13, in 1953, she joined the Raybestos Brakettes, an amateur women's fast-pitch softball team based in Stratford, Connecticut. Unlike most women's softball teams during those years, the Brakettes were well funded, enjoyed excellent facilities, and were able to acquire exceptional players. In 1958, during the Amateur Softball Association's (ASA) National championship, Joyce's pitching career was launched with the Brakettes when she was called into the game to replace an injured teammate. She pitched a no-hitter for the rest of the game to help win the National championship for her team. With veteran teammate, Bertha Tickey , Joyce helped the Brakettes win three consecutive Amateur Softball Association National championships.

Joyce attended Chapman College in Orange, California, and joined the school team, known as the Orange Lionettes. While playing for Chapman, she helped the Lionettes defeat her former team, the Brakettes, to win a National championship. Joyce played a total of 20 years as an amateur with the Brakettes and Lionettes. Upon graduation from college, she moved back to Connecticut and opened a travel agency, appropriately named Joan Joyce's All-Star Travel, and rejoined the Brakettes.

Joyce was a major force behind the Brakettes during the early to mid-1970s, leading her team to a World championship in 1974, the first ever won by Americans. In 1975, she decided to retire from amateur softball and turned her attention to help found, along with Dennis Murphy and tennis star Billie Jean King , the International Women's Professional Softball Association (IWPSA). The IWPSA only lasted for four years, but during that time Joyce again led her team, the Connecticut Falcons, to the first-ever World Series victory in professional softball.

During her softball career, Joyce compiled an impressive list of statistics. During 22 pitching seasons, she had 509 wins and 33 losses; she pitched 105 no-hit games, 33 perfect games, and struck out 6,648 batters in 3,972 innings; she recorded a lifetime Earned Run Average (ERA) of 0.21; she holds or shares the ASA National championship records for most total strikeouts in a National championship tournament (134), most strikeouts in a seven-inning game (19), most innings pitched in one tournament (70), and the most no-hitters in a national tournament (2). Joyce also had considerable talents as a fielder and hitter. Her lifetime batting average was .327, and she knocked in 534 runs, leading the Brakettes in batting six times. She was a member of 15 National championship teams. The ASA named her to All-American teams 18 consecutive years, and she was named MVP eight times. In 1983, she was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame, and in 1990, she was named to the Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame.

Joan Joyce, women's softball's Babe Ruth, admits that she prefers golf to softball, adding that she was never totally pleased playing women's team sports because "my success wasn't totally my own." She began her golfing career in 1975, and within two years had become a member of the LPGA. She posted a career-low round of 66 at the S&H Golf Classic and tied her career-best finish, a tie for sixth. Joyce also earned AAU All-American basketball honors three times while at college, compiled a 180 average in bowling, and starred on a leading amateur volleyball team. In 1994, she accepted a position as head women's softball coach at Florida Atlantic University.


Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1998.

Jordan, Pat. Broken Patterns. NY: Dodd, Mead, 1977.

Markel, Robert, Nancy Brooks, and Susan Markel. For the Record: Women in Sports. NY: World Almanac, 1985.

Woolum, Janet. Outstanding Women Athletes. Phoenix, AZ: The Oryx Press, 1992.

suggested reading:

Joyce, Joan, and Anquillare, John. Winning Softball. Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery, 1975.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont