The word is slowly coming out that the Stratford Brakettes women’s fastpitch softball team will visit the Ballpark at Harbor Yard to play the Independant League Bridgeport Bluefish in a nine-inning exhibition game in the near future. If indeed manager John Stratton’s squad takes the field, it won’t be the first time a Brakette faced the challenge of facing baseball’s top players.
In August, 1961, Joan Joyce of the Raybestos Brakettes was only 20 years old when she walked to the pitching circle at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.
Waiting in the batter’s box was Ted Williams, arguably the best hitter in the annals of Major League baseball, and only one year retired from batting .344 for his career with the Boston Red Sox.
A reported 17,000 fans were on hand in the park that had seats for less than half the number. Accounts show that the crowd stood 10 rows deep on the field to watch the action. Williams believed in the cause that night — the Jimmy Fund to help children suffering from cancer — and also believed he could get a hit off any pitcher alive.
“Joan Joyce is the greatest player who ever played the game,” Stratton was quoted and whose wife Micki caught for Joyce that night.
“She dominated the sport for 24 years. And her name is the biggest name in softball ever. But she was tops at everything — volleyball, basketball, bowling, shooting pool, pingpong, cards — it didn’t make any difference. She’d always beat you.”
Joyce, now a successful coach at Florida Atlantic University with close to 800 wins, compiled a 753-42 record with 150 no-hitters and 50 perfect games in her career. She posted a record 42 wins in a season, including 38 shutouts, and had a lifetime earned run average of 0.09. Williams, who had his 521st home run in his last at bat 10 months earlier, fouled off three pitches before Joyce went to her drop pitch and Teddy Ballgame didn’t get his bat on the ball.
Pitching from 40 feet away, Joyce’s 70 mile per hour pitches were comparable to 119 mph in the Major League.
That was too quick for Williams, who when asked about the toughest pitcher he ever faced, once responded, “You won’t believe this, but it was a girl.”
Joyce’s resume overwhelms those two nights in Waterbury. She competed for 19 years on the LPGA tour, was a member of the U.S. National basketball team, where se set a single-game scoring record with 67 points in 1964. Joyce enshrined in both the Amateur Softball Association of America National Softball Hall of Fame and the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame.