Reprinted with permission from the Times Union
By Mark McGuire
Former Major Leaguer and softball Hall of Famer Tom “Mac” McAvoy of Stillwater has died. He was 74.
Here is the obituary:
STILLWATER, NY – Thomas J. “Mac” McAvoy, 74, of Clinton Court, passed away peacefully at his home, on Saturday, March 19th, 2011, with his family by his side, following a courageous 3 year battle against pancreatic cancer.
Born in Brooklyn, NY August 12, 1936, son of the late Edward and Gladys McAvoy, “Mac” and family moved upstate when he was a child, and lived in this area most of his life. A wholesale newspaper distributor for many years, Mac also had several other sales jobs earlier in life.
Mac began a professional baseball career in 1956, signing a contract with the former Washington Senators’ Baseball Club. This rangy left-handed pitchers career, although very promising, was cut short after breaking his pitching arm during a game in winter ball in Nicaragua in 1959. The following year, after rehabilitation, his arm broke again while warming up in the bullpen. After another long rehab, he was never able to regain his original form, and was released by the Minnesota Twins in 1961. Mac was always proud that as a rookie, during spring training, he struck out the hitting immortal, Ted Williams. Mac began a professional baseball career in 1956, signing a contract with the former Washington Senators’ Baseball Club. This rangy left-handed pitchers career, although very promising, was cut short after breaking his pitching arm during a game in winter ball in Nicaragua in 1959. The following year, after rehabilitation, his arm broke again while warming up in the bullpen. After another long rehab, he was never able to regain his original form, and was released by the Minnesota Twins in 1961. Mac was always proud that as a rookie, during spring training, he struck out the hitting immortal, Ted Williams.”
In the early 1960’s Mac’s interest turned to fast pitch softball. For almost 50 years, Tom loved softball and was involved locally, nationally and worldwide. He mentored many young men on life, as well as softball and was able to attend softball tournaments across the USA, Canada and the Caribbean for the better part of the last 30 years, as a well known, well respected coach and manager. More importantly, Tom became a second father, who gave his all for his players, including fatherly advice and guidance on and off the softball diamond.
Mac was extremely proud to have been elected into the International Softball Congress’ Hall of Fame, class of 2009 in the Manager’s category, a tribute to a great leader of men.
Last summer, Mac was able to visit with many of his fast pitch friends throughout the country, and those friends will always cherish the effort Mac made, knowing that he was in the last innings of his fight with cancer.
In addition to his parents, Tom was predeceased by his daughter Mary Kathryn McAvoy Diaz and a brother William McAvoy.
Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Jean Taylor McAvoy, his daughter Deborah (Leon) Gandron of Mechanicville and his beautiful granddaughter Angelina Diaz of Clifton Park. Also survived by his many lifelong friends, neighbors, players and the softball world.
A Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, March 26th at 4 PM at the DeVito-Salvadore Funeral Home, 39 So. Main St., Mechanicville. Spring burial in Stillwater Union Cemetery.
Calling hours at the Funeral Home on Saturday from 1-4 PM.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to International Softball Congress’ Carrol Forbes Foundation, c/o Charles Smith, Treasurer, 10317 Sugarberry, El Paso, Tx 29925, in respectful memory of Thomas J. McAvoy.
Click here for the complete story and photos at the Times Union
Below is another feature about Tom written by Mark McGuire in 2009:
Reprinted with permission from the Times Union
AN UNEXPECTED ROUTE TO FAME
Times Union, The (Albany, NY) – Sunday, September 27, 2009
Author/Byline: MARK MCGUIRE SENIOR WRITER
Edition: Final Edition
STILLWATER — That afternoon 50 years ago to this day should have merely represented a start, a footnote of sorts in a Hall of Fame career.
And that’s just how it turned out. Tom McAvoy is a Hall of Famer, just as he always thought he would be, just in a way he never could have envisioned growing up consumed by baseball. Life can be accidental that way.
On the final day of the 1959 season, two sub-.500 teams — the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox — played at Fenway Park. In a game won 6-2 by the Sox, McAvoy made his major-league debut, tossing 22/3 innings of shutout ball.
Relieving fellow rookie Jim Kaat, the newcomer even induced the immortal Ted Williams to hit into a double play. McAvoy already had struck out arguably the greatest hitter who ever lived in spring training.
“I owned him,” says McAvoy , unable to keep a straight face.
Growing up on Long Island, McAvoy suffered from rheumatic fever. Doctors suggested he move in with his grandmother in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he lived from seventh grade until his senior year of high school.
The fresh air and open spaces — he rode a horse to school from time to time — helped his condition, and he sprouted. McAvoy moved back with his parents, by then relocated to Mechanicville, in 1954 for what would have been his senior year had he cared to attend high school.
He didn’t. Only one thing interested him. “From the day I was born,” he says, “my ambition was to do nothing but to play baseball.”
In 1955, McAvoy signed with the Washington Senators. As he worked his way through the minors, he met his future wife, Jean, in Charlotte, N.C. By his fourth season of pro ball he got called up to the bigs, not long after his teammate Kaat.
“He had a great arm,” says Kaat, the MLB Network analyst who would log a 283-win career and Hall of Fame consideration. “We were both similar style pitchers … we threw really hard.”
Like many young players of the era, McAvoy went down to Latin America in the off-season to work on his game, namely developing a better curveball. Playing a November 1959 game in Nicaragua, he fired a fastball to major leaguer Joe Hicks.
McAvoy heard it before he felt it: His upper arm snapped, just like that. Kaat, playing on an opposing team, says he heard the crack from the dugout.
“It sounded like a 2-by-4 in my head,” McAvoy says. “The ball went into the stands. And I fell to my knee. And that was about it.”
His 1960 season shot, McAvoy pitched a bullpen session later in the year so coaches could gauge his comeback. He broke his arm again with a routine fastball.
By 1962 he had to admit he was done. That afternoon in Boston would be a beginning and an end, the sum total of his major-league career. Only 26, with no career or diploma, and a young family in tow, a despondent McAvoy returned to upstate New York.
“I just couldn’t put it together and cope with it,” McAvoy says. “My whole life was planning to be what you want to be. And you don’t get there.”
Jean, a retired nurse, says simply, “He had lost his whole life. He had lost direction.”
Not much later a friend who managed a men’s fast-pitch softball team asked McAvoy to come down and watch a game in Watervliet. McAvoy scoffed at John Salvadore’s suggestion: “I don’t want to come down there and watch these girls play.”
McAvoy relented, and during a taut 2-1 game that lasted 13 innings, he became hooked.
“Can I come back tomorrow?” he asked afterward.
By 1965 McAvoy , who would develop a debilitating arthritis that would land him on permanent disability from his sales job, began managing his own men’s teams. In the early years his teams played out of Schenectady’s Sportsman’s Park. Later travel teams would crisscross the United States, Canada and even the Dominican Republic.
In a managerial career that would touch five decades, local, state and regional titles mounted. In 1999, his team finished fourth in the International Softball Congress Worlds. The guy who had trouble finding direction after baseball turned out to be a great leader in its sibling sport.
McAvoy is battling pancreatic cancer now, the same disease that took the life of his daughter Mary Kathryn Diaz three years ago. (He and Jean have another daughter, Debbie, who lives in Mechanicville.) As a result, McAvoy missed a road trip to Iowa last month.
He missed his induction to the ISC Hall of Fame.
Sitting in his Stillwater dining room, McAvoy fiddles with his Hall of Fame ring. No, it’s not from Cooperstown, but it will do just fine. He’s a Hall of Famer, just like he thought he’d be someday a half-century ago.
“Getting this here meant so much to me,” h e says. “Maybe it was the way it was supposed to be.”