John J. Tivnan, one the best baseball players, coaches, men,
citizens and champions of youth the city of Worcester has ever
known, died on Wednesday, Sept. 15. He was 84.
Born in Worcester, where he lived his entire life, Tivnan was a Grafton Hill original, best know for leading tiny St. Stephen's High School to the state baseball championship in 1958.
A 1943 graduate of St. Stephen's and 1948 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, it was at Holy Cross that Tivnan's legendary baseball career was born.
A left-hander with a blend of power and finesse, he threw a no-hitter against Charleston (R.I.) Naval Base in his first varsity start on April 19, 1945, and finished that first season 12-1, which included an exhibition start against the Red Sox. He held Boston to just one hit in five innings.
Rejecting a contract offer from the Chicago Cubs, Tivnan chose to stay at Holy Cross, where he continued to dominate hitters for the next two years, despite battling an array of ailments, including asthma and a sore arm. In 1947, he led the Crusaders to a 15-2 record.
He was inducted into the Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978.
In 1948, Tivnan became the baseball coach at St. Stephen's, a position he held for 24 seasons until the school closed in 1971. His 249-97 record — not to mention the wisdom, values and discipline he instilled in his players — resulted in his induction into the Massachusetts High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1985. He led St. Stephen's to the state championship in 1958.
Tivnan may be best known for his accomplishments on the baseball field, but he'd be the first to tell you his most important work was done in the classroom, church and neighborhoods.
A teacher in the Worcester Public Schools for 37 years, he left his mark at Wawecus Road, Adams Street and Harrington Way schools, and was named the city's Teacher of the Year in 1973. He received a master's degree from Worcester State College.
A lifelong member of St. Stephen's Church, a short walk from his home on Plantation Street, Tivnan was a lector, Eucharistic minster, religious educator, and founding member of the Grafton Hillers, a charitable organization that benefits many local non-profits.
Tivnan also worked as a leader and supervisor of recreation activities for the Worcester Parks Department from 1948 to 1983.
In 1991, the baseball diamond at Lake Park — St. Stephen's home field and the place where Tivnan learned the game as a teenager — was renamed John J. Tivnan Field in his honor. In 1992, Tivan was honored by Worcester Sports Alive, which supports local athletic programs.
In his retirement, he made several trips to Hawaii, as well as South Bend, Ind., to watch the beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish play football.
Calling hours at the Athy Memorial Home, 111 Lancaster St., Worcester, will he held from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Stephen's, 357 Grafton St. Burial will be in St. John's Cemetery.