Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Fast pitch softball the name of his game

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His weapons of choice? A 105-mile-per-hour rise ball and a drop ball.

In baseball the pitcher stands 60-feet from home plate, but in softball the distance is 46 feet. That means when a pitch from Lynch came blazing in at a batter at super-human speeds, the hitter had about a second to decide whether to swing or not as well as decide where to swing.{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=77|imageid=528|displayname=0|float=right}

Lynch grew up in West Nashville where he delivered newspapers for The Tennessean and Nashville Banner newspapers as a youth. His first love was playing ball: softball and baseball.

I went to try out for baseball when I was 12. To play in the Babe Ruth league you had to be 13 to 16 years old. I made the team as the starting third baseman, said the 70-year-old Lynch. Before the first game, we were told we had to bring our birth certificate. I thought they wouldnt even check me. The coach told me, You got to bring your birth certificate or you wont play. I didnt go back since I was 12.

Baseballs loss proved to be softballs gain.

It turned out I had a little more luck in softball than baseball, so I stuck to it. By 17, I was playing for Nashville Transit Company and Mt. Pleasant Church. Then I went on to play with Nashville Sporting Goods and Wright Photo, who picked me up to go to the state tournament in 1959, Lynch recalled.

After his days as a student at Cohn High School, Lynch was working for Purity Dairy, and when the local draft board called, he decided to go into the Navy as he knew they had an excellent softball program.

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=77|imageid=526|displayname=0|float=left}During boot camp in San Diego, Calif., one day at the recreation center, the commander asked the sailors in training if any of them had experience in fast-pitch softball at the AAA level or higher. Lynch raised his hand.

They took me to see the coach of the softball team and had me throw some and asked, How would you like to come back here after boot camp? I said, OK, and they told me, Well bring you back.

Sure enough. They got my orders changed and brought me back. I stayed and got to play softball. I was picked to go to the All-Navy team, and we won the All-Navy championship, Lynch said.

The following year, three or four topnotch ball players who served on the USS Sperry, a submarine tender, asked Lynch to play with their team. The captain invited him to become part of the crew.

Here I was a seaman recruit, and he brought me aboard to build a ball team around. My job was working the athletic gear locker. I ran it for three years, Lynch said, and in the meantime, his team captured the All-Navy tournament title two out of three years.

After leaving the military in 1965, Lynch went to Aurora, Ill., to play ball five years for the Sealmasters and work in the quality control department for the Sealmaster Ball Bearing Company.{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=77|imageid=529|displayname=0|float=right}

We won two national championships and two international championships. I guess winning that first national championship in 1965 was the greatest thrill of my career. I pitched all five wins for the team in the national tournament, he reminisced.

Indeed, during his first season with the Sealmasters, Lynch won 35 games, lost none. His earned run average was 0.24, while he struck out 477 batters. During the national tourney, he struck out 58 men in 35 innings and was named most valuable player.

After winning the national championship, the Sealmasters represented the United States in the inaugural International Softball Federation Mens World Championship in 1966 and won the gold medal. Two years later, the team repeated as national and international champions.

I had the pleasure of playing with Joe for five years from 1965 through 1969 and never have I seen anyone throw the ball harder or with as much break as Joe. He was awesome to watch and even more awesome to bat against, former Aurora Sealmasters teammate and fellow Hall of Fame member HarveySterkel told Balls & Strikes, the official publication of the Amateur Softball Association.

Joe Lynchs softball feats

A member of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America Hall of Fame as well as the Tennessee Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame, Joe Lynch had a stellar 22-year-career in the ASA that put him in the record books. Among his highlights in the sport of fast-pitch softball:
Named to five ASA All-America teams
Named MVP of the 1965 ASA national championship
Member of three national championship teams
Member of two International Softball Federation world championship teams
Member of three All-Navy championship teams
Won 576 games, lost 94 games
Combined perfect games and no-hitters total 61
Listed in the Guinness World Book of Records for throwing a perfect game during the 1976 world championship game
Won 53 consecutive games
In 1965 he had a regular season record of 29-0 and then won all five games he pitched in the national championship.
During the 1966 championship, he went 3-0, had an E.R.A. of 0.00 and struck out 45 batters in 22 innings.
During the 1974 season, he went undefeated (30-0) and fanned 357 batters in 218 and a third innings

From Illinois, it was on Clearwater, Fla., where the Bombers asked Lynch to join their team, so from 1970 to 1974 he pitched while working in plumbing and drywall work. With the Bombers, Lynch won another national championship.

As for his success, he simply said, I was smart enough to surround myself with good ball players, and my brother (Billy Lynch, 22, of Pleasant View) was a big influence on me and taught me to play it right.

For his mastery from the mound, Lynch explained, Its all with the timing and the routine. I had the rise ball. It came in and then started going up. It will rise up to 2 feet sometimes. And then I had the drop ball. I didnt have much of a change-up.

When I started out, Id beat that poor old catcher to death, and the ball would go to the screen, but as time went on, the catcher would hold his glove, and I would hit his hand pretty good until at the end. I kept pitching and it come to me.

He had the disposition of a teddy bear off the mound. And he could bring it in. He could flat throw that softball, Bill White, a former Clearwater Sun sportswriter who covered the Bombers in the mid-1970s, told Balls & Strikes.

Lynch was none too shabby with his bat, either. His lifetime batting average was .282.

I could hit the long ball but did not have not much speed. Id average six to 12 home runs a year, the right-handed hurler said.

In 1975, Lynch and his family moved home to Nashville for two years where he played for country music singer Tammy Wynettes softball team.

We went to the world tournament one time and after that the team split up. I felt like I wanted to play some more ball, so we went back to Clearwater in 1977; and I played until I retired in 1981. The last year, I went 4-0 and was voted most valuable player in the tournament, said Lynch, who left the game he loved at 40.

It was easy to retire, he said. I pulled a bad hamstring in my leg and hurt my arm pretty good. I could see the writing on the wall and knew it was time to hang it up. I didnt want to stop but was wise enough to do so.

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=77|imageid=527|displayname=0|float=left}Lynch moved back to Tennessee where he worked in construction in Nashville. In 1989 he was elected into the Softball Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and later he went into the Tennessee Softball Hall of Fame.

Softball was not the only sport in which Lynch excelled. He took up skeet shooting, competed in the world championships and won the Class A 12-gauge championship in 1989. He also played golf to a 10 handicap.

Lynch and his wife, the former Gail Revis of Dayton, Tenn., have been married for 51 years and have three daughters: Terri Davis, Tammy Cox and Joellen Grooms, who live in the Watertown area.

He made the acquaintance of his wife to be at a softball game in the late 1950s. She came to see a game when I played for Nashville Transit Company. We met. Thats where we started, on a ball diamond, said Lynch, whose parents, Dallas and Clara (Trammel) Lynch were Watertown natives.

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=77|imageid=530|displayname=0|float=right}After we retired from playing ball in Florida, she (Gail) wanted to live here and let the grandparents see their grandchildren grow up, the ball player said. Now, he and his wife are watching their own grandkids (Dillon, Chance, Heather and Jessica) grow up.

Lynchs mate has compiled three scrapbooks filled with photos and newspaper clippings of the fast-pitch stars career. His collection of memorabilia includes a 1965 softball signed the by the members of the national championship team, his Softball Hall of Fame plaque, a Softball Hall of Fame bat with his name engraved upon it and more than 20 miniature baseball bats that represent national tournaments and all-star teams on which Lynch participated.

These days, Joe and Gail Lynch watch television, baby-sit their grandkids and spoil Chico, their Chihuahua.

We just try to take care of each other and spoil the grandchildren. We made lots of good friends in softball, said the master of the underarm fast pitch who sent thousands of hitters back to the dugout shaking their heads.

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at

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