With this issue, we debut a new column
by sportswriter extraordinaire, John W. Gearan ’65.
A native of Fitchburg, Mass., Gearan
was an award-winning reporter and columnist at the Worcester
Telegram and Gazette for 36 years, during which time he chronicled
all manner of Crusader athletics. “I’ve been
attending Holy Cross games for 60 years,” he recalls. “My
father, Paul Gearan,
Class of 1927, began bringing me up the Hill in the 1940s!” Gearan
resides in Woonsocket, R.I., with his wife, Karen Maguire.
By John W. Gearan '65
With a tremulous hand held aloft, the Rev. Leonard McCarthy,
S.J., trumpeted with Shakespearean grandeur, “Gentlemen,
we have a celebrity in our midst.’’
An erudite and theatrical Jesuit with magnetic stage presence,
Fr. McCarthy proceeded to introduce Dick Joyce ’65,
an embarrassed 6-foot-5-inch freshman scrunched into an archaic
chair-desk contraption in Wheeler Hall.
The current Time magazine (Sept. 15, 1961), Fr.
McCarthy noted, had highlighted Joyce’s unfathomable
decision to turn down a $100,000 bonus offer from the Boston
Red Sox to attend Holy Cross on a baseball scholarship.
That astounding news induced less-than-polite applause
as fellow freshmen goosenecked to gaze at Joyce, a gap-toothed
behemoth squirming in the back row. Joyce’s choice
had made headlines in his hometown of Portland , Maine ,
and in Worcester and received more than a mention nationally.
His bonus offer was the same as what Carl Yastrzemski had
accepted months earlier after Ted Williams bid adieu.
Joyce proceeded to garner more than one of Fr. McCarthy’s
rare A’s but not due to his celebrity or his choice
of fuzzy academics over cold, hard cash. During the spring
lecture, Fr. McCarthy, known as “Learned Leonard,’’ flippantly
promised an “A” to anyone in our class who might
identify a poetic reference to “Eyeless in Gaza.”
Joyce raised his southpaw meekly.
“Was it Sampson?’’ he asked modestly.
“Mr. Joyce you have just won yourself an ‘A,’’’ Fr.
McCarthy replied. True to form, gentleman Joyce did not skip
a single class thereafter, “because Lennie McCarthy
was a great teacher, maybe the best I ever had.’’ He
even opted to take the final exam, scoring another “A,” just
Joyce earned his baseball marks the old-fashioned way.
His dad, Joe “Jabber” Joyce remained a Portland
pitching legend (22 strikeouts in a schoolboy game) after
laboring in the minor-league vineyards of the Yankees and
Braves. He tutored his son from diapers on.
“I was having a pretty good senior year at Bishop
Cheverus High (8-0) and had pitched well in Legion ball (46-7),
so scouts began showing up at my games,’’ recalls
Joyce, now living in Cary, N.C., with his wife Jeanne, his
His baseball pedigree and demonstrated talent made Joyce
a blue-chipper. His uncanny control—especially for
a 6-5, 220-pound lefty—his blazing fastball and Koufaxian
curve left fans and scouts gasping.
The Red Sox invited him for a private workout at Fenway
Park , where he threw impressively for 25 minutes, absorbing
tips from Sox hurler Bill Monbouquette.
On that summer’s day of 1961, the Red Sox promised
him a $100,000 signing bonus ($50,000 up front and $10,000
a season over five years) and guarantee to pay for college
if Joyce flunked out of baseball.
His dad, a car salesman whose baseball dreams had been
thwarted by a sore arm, wanted his son to sign on the spot.
But Dick, a Jesuit-educated Cheverus cum laude grad,
wanted time to contemplate.
“My dad told me I could always go to college later,” says
Joyce. “I had visited Dartmouth , Boston College ,
Harvard and Holy Cross. I had high-school teammates who were
at Holy Cross, and I felt comfortable there. I know I disappointed
my dad, but it was my decision.”
Joyce consulted community leaders, calculated his bonus
minus taxes, and compared the long-term value of a college
education and his scholarship (room, board and tuition was
$3,600). There were rumors about baseball outlawing bonuses.
But Joyce figured, barring injury, he could play pro ball
later. So he turned down a small fortune and came to Holy
“I’ve never been disappointed with that decision,’’ says
Joyce, now 61 and a longtime, high-ranking IBM executive.
Joyce enhanced his pitching resume and career potential
at Holy Cross. Academically, athletically and otherwise he
became a leader in the Class of 1965. He seemed joined at
the hip with Tim Murtaugh, his celebrity batterymate. With
low-key pride, Murtaugh toted around a burdensome media tag: “Son
of Pittsburgh Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh.” His
dad’s Pirates had won the dramatic 1960 World Series
on Bill Mazeroski’s historic ninth-inning homer.
Joyce was elected freshman class president as astute campaign
manager Paul “Willis” Hart blared “the
Duke of Earl’’ out a window in O’Kane III
whilst disseminating a pre-recorded spiel of inflated promises.
Murtaugh would become senior class president, demonstrating
superior political skills, which flourished when he was an
elected county commissioner in Pennsylvania .
In the spring, Joyce posted an amazing earned run average
of 0.44 with a 4-0 record for the frosh. Murtaugh, later
a minor-leaguer and triple-A manager, hit .483 and served
as Joyce’s catcher and hardball mentor. “I can
still picture impish Tim smirking behind that mask as he
called for a curveball, knowing we were going to make someone
look foolish,” recalls Joyce.
As sophomores, Joyce and Murtaugh delivered on their baseball
promise. Joyce had a glittering 0.94 earned run average and
80 strikeouts. Murtaugh hit .312 and drove in 14 of the College’s
29 runs as the Crusaders swept doubleheaders against Boston
College and Providence College to win a trip to the College
World Series in Omaha .
At the Crusaders’ spirited core were four members
of the Class of 1963 who had been state champs for St. Stephen’s
of Worcester under Holy Cross Hall of Famer John Tivnan ’48.
Those four lads were righty Donnie Riedl, second baseman
Billy Prizio, first baseman Bobby Arena and shortstop Paul
Morano, the team’s leading hitter (.338).
“It was a quick trip. I pitched the first game, and
we lost 3-0 to Missouri (the 1962 NCAA champ) on a Monday.
The next day we lost a tough one, 5-4, to USC, the eventual
winner,’’ Joyce says. “Playing for Holy
Cross in the World Series remains my greatest baseball thrill.’’
Despite Morano’s two-run triple and holding a 4-0
lead going into the seventh, Holy Cross came up short against
legendary coach Ron Dedeaux and the USC Trojans, who beat
Arizona 5-2 for the title.
The consensus of 60 major-league scouts at the World Series
labeled Joyce as “the best long-range prospect.” During
his college years, Joyce honed his reputation and skills
earning All-Star status in the Basin League in South Dakota
, where Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Don Sutton also twirled.
In his junior season—troubled somewhat by curveball
control and, according to a local scribe, “a tendency
to pack on suet”—Joyce had a 7-2 record, but
his ERA slipped to respectable 2.28.
In the summer of 1964, Joyce turned down handsome major-league
offers. He decided to take the fall semester off to pitch
for the United States Baseball Federation team that would
compete in Japan during the Summer Olympics. Joyce was 3-0
(20 innings, 2 earned runs) on the 20-game international
On Dec. 23, 1964 , he decided to turn pro. In the penthouse
of Charles O. Finley’s Chicago office building—with
the Kansas City A’s General Manager Pat Friday dressed
up as Santa Claus—Joyce signed a contract with a $40,000
Flashing typical wit, he labels his major-league career, “distinguished
by its brevity.” Yet it had many yarn-worthy memories.
On Sept. 19, 1965 , prideful classmates arrived at Fenway
Park on a Saturday afternoon (attendance 10,854) to bear
witness to Joyce’s first and only appearance there.
At 21, the Kansas City rookie call-up squared off against
Earl Wilson in what Finley sarcastically touted as a “battle
of the American League cellar dwellers.”
Joyce did not survive the first inning. He walked Frank
Malzone, then, seemingly, picked him off, employing his marvelous
move to first. Alas, Joyce was called for a balk. Then doom
struck: a two-base throwing error by the A’s Wayne
Causey, a walk to Tony Conigliaro, two wild pitches and a
Tony Horton single. Joyce got the hook.
He pitched in four other games and in 11 other innings
without yielding a run. Yet his major-league experience cannot
be summed up by the very decent 2.77 ERA statistic.
“I had the very cool pleasure of pitching on the
same staff as Satchel Paige,” Joyce says. “I
remember Yaz screwing himself into the ground trying to hit
Satchel’s famous hesitation pitch. Satchel would stop
in the middle of his delivery, almost imperceptibly, and
turn a fastball into a mesmerizing 20 mile-an-hour lob. He
pretzelized hitters. I was in awe, sitting in the bullpen
listening to Satchel tell stories about the Negro Leagues
and guys like Cool Papa Bell.’’
Owner Finley signed Paige to make him eligible for a major-league
pension. Paige, 59, pitched three innings of shutout ball
for the 1965 A’s to close out his legendary career.
Joyce shared in another historic hardball moment that month.
He started the game in which Bert Campaneris played all nine
positions in a nine-inning game.
Back in the minors, Joyce arrived late for the 1966 season
due to Army Reserve commitments. After an excellent start
with Triple A Vancouver, Joyce heard a dreadful pop in his
left shoulder during a midseason game. Cortisone treatments
and rest were prescribed but nothing cured the nagging pain
of what was likely an undiagnosed rotator cuff tear.
For two seasons he did well and built a repository of stories.
Rooming in spring training with Catfish Hunter. Rubbing shoulders
with Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson,
Dave Duncan and others who would win the World Series after
the A’s moved to Oakland . Being managed in Birmingham
by John McNamara of 1986 Red Sox infamy.
But as the 1967 season wound down and the arm still ached,
Joyce decided to return to Holy Cross. Finley called, imploring
Joyce to change his mind. But Joyce played the percentages.
He would earn his degree, and the A’s would pick up
the tab. “I knew it was time to return to the real
world,’’ says Joyce. He even got to hear “Learned
Leonard’’ lecture once again.
Since leaving baseball, life has been good. Joyce worked
his way up the corporate ladder with IBM, from sales to corporate
strategist to international communications chieftain. He
and Jeanne have raised three terrific children—Tyler,
Brandon and Danielle—and have two grandchildren.
In recent times, fate has thrown Joyce a few nasty sliders.
Already dealing with diabetes and outfitted years ago with
a pacemaker, Joyce has endured two major-league heart surgeries
since October. An aortic valve was repaired, four arteries
were bypassed, his pacemaker wires were relocated—infections
attacked, and Joyce barely survived the ordeal.
“My surgeon attributed my survival to miraculous
intervention,’’ Joyce has told family, friends
Joyce had not kept in close contact with classmates over
the years. But when his fellow Crusaders learned of his heart
surgeries, his old pals began to call and write. He heard
from his catcher, Murtaugh, who immediately challenged him
to a footrace. He talked with his old roomie, John Connorton,
a New York lawyer and powerbroker. Another teammate Jim Gravel
became class liaison with Dick’s family, talking with
Jeanne and e-mailing progress reports to others.
“Friends are the hands of God,’’ is the
saying hand-written by Jeanne Joyce and hanging in the kitchen
as a constant reminder to her husband.
“I have nothing but humble thanks for your wonderful
and powerful prayers for life,’’ Joyce wrote
to his friends.
After 40 years, Dick Joyce remains a man who has lived
up to his celebrity and a Crusader who continues to be admired
as the very best, by the Class of 1965 and so many others.