A list of outstanding athletes from Connecticut wouldn't be complete without Joan Joyce. This month, the Waterbury native got a front-row seat to watch her own incredible story, as she continues to be an inspiration.
"It's mind-blowing what this woman has been able to accomplish and is still accomplishing today," said Kiersten Bjork of Branford, who played Joyce in the musical about Joan's life staged at the Legacy Theater.
Joyce's athletic accomplishments are incredible, including stops on the LPGA Tour and the USA national basketball team but she's most known for her skills on the softball diamond. Joyce pitched 150 no-hitters and 50 perfect games throughout her career with the Brakettes and Lionettes, even leading the Brakettes to become the first American team to win the world championship. The Hall of Famer even once struck out Ted Williams in an exhibition.
"I knew Ted Williams," said Joyce. "When he told the coach and the coach told me that he didn't the high, tight pitch. This guy's got the best eyes in baseball. He can read the writing on the ball when it's coming in, why am I going to throw it at his eyes? That just didn't make any sense at all to me. So you know I'm going to throw him that little drop ball I have and see if he can hit that, and he couldn't."
Widely regarded as one of the greatest female athletes of all time, Joan traveled to Connecticut from Florida in June to watch a musical about her life.
"It was unbelievable," said Joyce.
The musical is based on the book "Connecticut Softball Legend Joan Joyce," written by Tony Renzoni. The goal of both the book and musical is to celebrate Joan's accomplishments and ensure that her legacy lives on.
"I couldn't really put my head around it," said Joyce. "As it went on, I really started to enjoy it."
"When she played ball, there was no such thing as ESPN and not a lot of media attention," said Renzoni.
Joyce chatted with everyone who attended the play, each one with a story about her impact.
"She taught us that distinctive pitch and I was a pitcher and we were undefeated," said Guilford native Babara Pochan. " Nobody else had it."
Joyce is still coaching softball at FAU, getting set for 28th season. She remains an inspiration, encouraging young women to follow their dreams, never give up and work hard to become all they can be.
"She was able to pave the way for women in sports and in other arenas because of what she was able to do," said Bjork. "So as a woman, as an athlete, as an actor, as female trying to make something of myself, it's really, really cool to see a strong woman who's able to do that."
"It really means a lot to still be able to do that and still have people remember me," said Joyce. "That's probably the biggest thing."
The next two performances of the musical are on July 24th and August 8th at the Legacy Theater.