PAUL SANDERS GIOVAGNOLI
January 6, 1927 to April 27, 2013
Paul Giovagnoli, a life-long inventor known widely as the father of the modern baseball pitching machine, died April 27, 2013, with his beloved wife, Joyce Thomas Giovagnoli, at his side. The Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:00 AM Thursday, May 2, 2013 at St. Gabriel Catholic Church, 4737 N Cleveland, burial in Resurrection Cemetery. Friends may call from 6-8 PM Wednesday at the Church where a Prayer Service will be at 7:45 PM. Contributions to St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
Paul was born January 6, 1927 in an immigrant farming community near Girard, Kansas. He grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs and tinkerers, proudly calling himself a pretty good "junkyard mechanic," something he learned from his father, Paul, an Italian immigrant, and older brother, Jim, who inspired him to repurpose old farm equipment into new machines. His mother, Madeline, and older sister Eugenia, were equally industrious and creative, teaching Paul at a young age that engineering and design was as much a part of making a home as it was of running a farm.
Paul came of age during World War II, graduating at 16 from high school and attending two years of college at Pittsburgh State Teachers College before joining the Navy at 18 to train in the prestigious new field of RADAR. He was a proud naval veteran who counted among his most life-altering experiences his service at Bikini Atoll, where he witnessed the third and fourth nuclear bomb blasts during military experiments in 1946.
Upon his discharge he returned to Kansas, graduating from K-State in 1948 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He became an instructor at K-State, specializing in teaching mechanical engineering to non-engineers, and went on to work as a methods engineer for Boeing and Ford during the early 1950s.
His baseball career began when he opened a pair of golf driving ranges in Wichita and Topeka. He wanted to add baseball to his ranges in 1951, but pitching machines at the time were hard-to-find and notoriously unreliable. So he built a simple, arm-type machine of his own design from scraps found in a junkyard.
His machine gained a reputation as "the Model T of baseball" for its reliability and ease of repair. Over the next 60 years, the strength of that aluminum arm worked deeply to shape American baseball culture, as batting cages and training machines spread across the country, and players from the little leagues to virtually every Major League club took their swings against an "Iron Mike."
In November 1957, he noticed the legs of the pretty bookkeeper in the A & N hardware store in North Kansas City. Four months later, on April 12, 1958, Paul and Joyce Elaine Thomas began a marriage that would inspire their ten children with its tenderness and devotion for fifty-five years.
During the early sixties, he was active in the Republican Party, running twice for state office. Paul and Joyce eventually sold Commercial Mechanisms so that Paul cold turn his attention to other designs, including coin box mechanisms, and automatic sprayers for car washes, creating the "Mr. G." brand of automatic car washing machines with businesses around the Kansas City area.
In the 1970s, the oil crisis inspired Paul to design a new line of wood-burning stoves and an innovative stove kit that allowed consumers to make a stove from an oil barrel. During this same period, he also began Durastill, Inc, a company that manufactures electric water distillers.
In 1976, he returned to his first love, the pitching machine, starting Master Pitching Machine, which remains the leader in its field for baseball and softball pitching machines, equipment, and range designs.
Paul held numerous patents on his designs. Even in his hospital bed, he was designing tools to help with his own rehabilitation.
He remained engaged and alert to the end, proud of his large family and the lessons in kindness, industriousness, and creativity that he taught them all.
A man of deep faith, he belonged to St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Kansas City North, for more than fifty years.
He is survived by his wife, partner, and "sweet patootie" Joyce, Kansas City; sister -in law, Janet Forbes (Ed) of Phoenix, Arizona; ten sons and daughters-Mary E. Giovagnoli (Michael Kades), Washington, D.C; Jim Giovagnoli (Mary M.), Kansas City, MO; Tom Giovagnoli (Cassandra), San Francisco, CA; Anita Marple (Perry), Lander, WY; Elizabeth Thompson (Jeff), Kansas City, MO; Joe Giovagnoli (Michele), Leawood, KS; Pete Giovagnoli (Greg Tefs), Chicago, Illinois; Cathy Curry (Ryan), Nixa, MO; Michelle Cox, Kansas City, MO; Andrea Giovagnoli (Brad Meyer), Kansas City, MO; and 17 grandchildren-David, Anthony, Hannah, Cassie, Andrew, Tate, Connor, Rebecca, Chase, Rachel, Lily, Sully, Rollie, Jason, Nolan, Gina, and Madeline; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Arr.'s: McGilley Antioch Chapel