Some baseball players are brought to the major league after minimal time in the minors, so prepared are they to play at the highest level. Mike Joyce was one of those players. He was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1962 as a right-handed pitcher and spent the first half of the season in the low minors, pitching effectively.
On July 2, 1962 Joyce was summoned to the Big Leagues to pitch out of the Chicago bullpen. Although the White Sox finished 1962 in 5th place, they won 85 games, and finished only 11 games behind the eventual American League champion New York Yankees. They were in the pennant race until the end of the season, and the contributions of the rookie Joyce were important to the team.
Joyce ended up pitching in 25 games, all but one in relief, in 1962. He went 2-1, with victories against the Orioles and Red Sox, a 3.32 ERA and two saves. It was an impressive showing, but did not automatically earn him a spot on the 1963 team. Instead, Chicago chose to go with a more seasoned bullpen headed by Hoyt Wilhelm and Jim Brosnan.
Joyce pitched as a starter in the minors for most of 1963, picking up 6 relief appearances with the White Sox. He posted a disappointing 8.44 ERA during that time and became expendable. Prior to the start of the 1964 season, he was sold to the New York Mets.
1964 marked Joyce’s decline that quickly led to his exit from baseball. Trying to battle through shoulder injuries, he combined to go 0-13 with a 7.09 ERA in the Mets’ system. Without the medical technology to deal with his bad shoulder, he likely only damaged it worse by trying to pitch through the pain.
Joyce pitched in 2 minor league games for the Mets in 1965, but was no better than the year before. Seeing the writing on the wall, he left the game, never able to get back to the success he enjoyed in the majors in 1962. He pitched in 31 career Big League games, but did not fulfill the early promise he showed. More information on his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/joycemi01.shtml.
Recently Joyce took a few minutes to answer some questions I had about his experiences in baseball. As always, it was interesting to see what he had to say.
Mike Joyce Interview:
If you would do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: I would find a way to keep from damaging my shoulder which cut short my pitching career very abruptly in the spring of 1964.
What is the strangest play you ever saw in baseball?: I honestly don’t recall anything too strange other than playing in Maracaibo Venezuela on a field guarded by teenagers with machine guns…
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Easy… Les Moss. He understood me and encouraged me to stay competitive and use my natural talent… I do not recall him ever yelling at me… Always for me.
Can you recall the furthest home run you ever saw hit?: Actually while I have seen some over the roof shots and the like, the most impressive I ever witnessed was while in high school and working out with the Tigers in Briggs Stadium, I watched a day game between the Yankees and Tigers. Mickey Mantle hit a home run to dead center field, on a line, while hitting left handed against Frank Lary. He came up later in the same game and hit another one, same area, batting right-handed off of Al Aber. Two prodigious shots, that even being only 17 when I watched, I learned that 440’ to dead center, then up about thirty feet was a whole, long way!
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