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Billy Pierce

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Walter William Pierce

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[edit] Biographical Information

Billy Pierce won 211 games during a stellar major league career that began with the Detroit Tigers in 1945 and ended in 1964 with the San Francisco Giants. The bulk of his career was spent with the Chicago White Sox, however, 13 seasons during which he won 186 games. The left-hander was affectionately known as "Billy the Kid". He made it to the World Series in 1959 and 1962, and appeared in five games with a record of 1-1.

Pierce overcame a slight build to become one of top pitchers of his era. The White Sox retired his number, 19, in 1987 and his larger-than-life image is annually displayed on the outfield wall at New Comiskey Park. Pierce has said that the best pitches in his repertoire were the fastball and slider.

[edit] Tigers

In 1945, Pierce, a Michigan native, made his major league debut as a member of the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park at the age of 18. He pitched in 27 games during his Tigers career. Pierce's record over that span was 3-0 and he surrendered just 53 hits over 65.1 innings. Unfortunately, he walked 61 batters and gave up 6 home runs.

The Tigers traded Pierce to the White Sox in 1948 for Aaron Robinson. Robinson would hit 22 home runs over two seasons in Detroit. Pierce went on to win 208 more games.

[edit] White Sox

The struggling White Sox had no qualms about playing their young talent in 1949. At 22, Pierce was the youngest pitcher on the squad. He tossed 171.2 innings for a team that lost 91 games. Pierce went 7-15 with a 3.88 ERA. He walked 112 and struck out 95.

It was not until 1951 that Pierce really came into his own. Still only 24 years old, Billy won 15 games and posted a 3.03 ERA. He cut his walk total down to 73. Pierce also tossed 18 complete games, the fourth highest total in the American League.

The Sox had found a true ace. He made his first All-Star team in 1953, owned a league-best 1.97 ERA in 1955, and won 20 games for the first time in 1956. The Sporting News named Pierce "Pitcher of the Year" in the AL in both 1956 and 1957. He was also named to five consecutive All-Star teams from 1955 to 1959.

A hip injury forced Pierce to sit out several weeks during the 1959 season. Manager Al Lopez decided to use Pierce as a reliever during the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a decision that many fans second-guessed after the White Sox lost the series.

Pierce pitched two more season in Chicago, making another All-Star team in 1961. Following the 1961 season, he was traded to the Giants.

[edit] Giants

Pierce won 22 games in three seasons with the Giants. He finished third in the 1962 Cy Young Award voting, and also faced off against the New York Yankees in the 1962 World Series. He lost Game 3 by a score of 3-2, but rallied back to lead the Giants to a 5-2 win in Game 6. The Giants lost the series in 7 games.

After 18 seasons in the big leagues, Pierce retired in 1964.

[edit] Retirement

The White Sox have remained an important part of Pierce's life. He lives in the suburbs of Chicago and makes public relations appearances for the Sox. His name appeared in a number of newspaper articles after Mark Buehrle pitched a no-hitter in 2007, as Pierce tossed four one-hitters and once lost a perfect game in the 9th inning.

The lefty was named to the White Sox "Team of the Century", and is applauded for his work both on and off the field.

[edit] Major League Bests

  • Wins: 20 (1956, 1957)
  • ERA: 1.97 (1955)
  • Innings: 276 1/3 (1956)
  • Strikeouts: 192 (1956)
  • WHIP: 1.02 (1964)
  • Saves: 8 (1963)

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 7-time AL All-Star (1953, 1955-1959 & 1961)
  • AL ERA Leader (1955)
  • AL Wins Leader (1957)
  • AL Strikeouts Leader (1953)
  • 3-time AL Complete Games Leader (1956-1958)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 8 (1951-1953, 1955-1958 & 1962)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1956 & 1957)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 9 (1950-1953 & 1955-1959)
  • Won a World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1945 (he did not play in the World Series)

[edit] Further Reading

  • Billy Pierce (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, February 1979, pp. 80-84.[1]

[edit] Related Sites

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