Faith and the fastball, church and the curve.

Joe Faccone’s devotion to Catholicism and baseball ran deep, as well as a love for his students and players during a teaching, coaching and fundraising career that spanned nearly 50 years at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien.

Faccone, who amassed 501 victories over 38 baseball seasons at Kennedy from 1970 through 2007 and won state championships in 1973 and 1999, passed away March 31 after a brief illness.

“It came very suddenly,” said Sheri Sanford, his longtime partner. “It was a blessing he went so fast, but he wasn’t ready. He had plans.”

Plans to watch the upstart Mariners as a longtime season-ticket holder, plans for their usual dinners at one of their favorite restaurants, where he and Sanford regularly ran into former players and students.

“People loved him,” she said. “He was such a big presence.”

Faccone appointed John Ruffo as his scorekeeper and Bob Babbitt as team bus driver in his second season, and they become lifelong friends.

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“He was almost like Bobby Knight — if you were in his inner circle, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you,” Ruffo said.

He remembers Faccone’s aggressive style of coaching.

“I can still see that left arm waving runners home,” Ruffo said.

Faccone was well known for being witty and well-groomed, which carried down from his crisp baseball uniform to the manicured baseball field he and his father helped build in 1974, which would be dedicated and renamed Faccone Field in 2014.

Greg Quitiquit, who was a senior outfielder and leadoff hitter on the 1999 championship team, called Faccone both polished and gritty.

“Coach always looked dapper, incredibly well-dressed,” he said. “After winning the state championship he rented us all tuxedos for a team picture. He expected our uniforms to be fitted and pristine before every game but covered in dirt at the end. He was both lighthearted and stoic. He ensured we took every game seriously, but that we never took ourselves too seriously.”

Faccone played baseball at Seattle Prep High School and Seattle University and was in his early 20s when he became an assistant coach at SU to legendary Al Brightman. He became SU’s head coach for three successful seasons, going 66-26 and was inducted into the Redhawks’ Hall of Fame in 2011.

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From there, Faccone had teaching and coaching stints at Highline High School in Burien and Our Lady of Mount Virgin in Seattle before starting the baseball program at brand-new Kennedy Catholic.

He guided the Lancers to the first WIAA-sanctioned baseball title in 1973 with Floyd Bannister (15-0, 0.00 ERA) as his ace. Bannister went on to pitch professionally and sat with Faccone after throwing out the first pitch at a Mariners game in 2017.

Floyd Bannister at Kennedy during the 1973 season. (Seattle Times archival photo)
Floyd Bannister at Kennedy during the 1973 season. (Seattle Times archival photo)

Sanford remembers Faccone addressing the crowd after the 2-1 victory over Clover Park in the title game.

“He said, ‘We’re on top of the world now and how sweet it is,’” she said.

Six members of that ’73 championship team will be Faccone’s pallbearers. His memorial service is set for April 13 at 10:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Church.

Faccone was inducted into the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1992. Opposing coaches remember him fondly.

“It was rare to hear him raise his voice, more rare to see him angry or upset,” former Mount Rainier coach Darren Rawie said. “Not one to chirp at umpires and his teams modeled that same sportsmanlike behavior.”

“He was a gracious loser and a humble winner, no matter what the outcome,” said Dave Larson, who coached at Highline from 1997 to 2012.

Dino Josie considered Faccone a mentor as he started Kennedy’s fast-pitch softball program and built it into a powerhouse that won back-to-back state crowns in 2007 and ’08.

“Joe was a man of great humility and humanity,” Josie said. “He always had a way of making you feel like the most important person in the world when he was talking to you and he never talked or boasted about himself or any of his many accomplishments. He was a great example of a caring and loving soul.”

Kennedy Catholic president Mike Prato called Faccone a consummate gentleman known for his “unending love for the Lancer family” and passion for raising money to support the school.

“Countless families have, and continue to, benefit from his steadfast work,” Prato said. “He was generous, faith-filled and was an intimate friend, colleague and mentor. I will miss our daily chats.”

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