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William Jay Cotton
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 195 lbs.
- School Arizona State University
- High School McCook High School
Catcher Billy Cotton made it to the majors but did not get into a game. He played from 1969 through 1974 as a professional, reaching Triple-A in his last three seasons.
He was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in the fourth round of the 1966 amateur draft (three rounds earlier, the A's had selected Reggie Jackson). He was picked 62nd overall, between two 1,000-game major leaguers (Mike Jorgensen and Elliott Maddox). Cotton wanted to sign; in February 1972, he said, "Any kid offered that kind of money ($28,000 plus other bonuses) out of high school and doesn't take it is stupid. . .I think right now I would have been in the major leagues if I had signed then." However, Cotton's father wanted him to go to college, and so he decided to go to Arizona State University. He was a star there and played in the 1969 College World Series, hitting a three-run homer in the championship game. He was named to the Series All-Tournament team as the catcher.
The New York Mets drafted Cotton no fewer than three times before he finally signed with them after his junior year. He was picked in the first round of the 1968 secondary draft, one pick before John Curtis; in the 13th round of the January 1969 draft; and in the first round of the 1969 secondary draft (one pick after Pat Osburn).
He split his first pro summer between the 1969 Pompano Beach Mets (.265/.356/.388 in 19 G) and Visalia Mets (2 for 4, 2 BB). In 1970, he hit .253/.334/.424 with 11 homers in 81 games for Visalia. During '71, he batted .267/.353/.357 in 61 contests for the Memphis Blues, only scoring 9 runs. However, he suffered injuries during his career and never really developed. "I think I was a better catcher in college than I am today," Cotton said in 1972. "I'm doing things worse now than I did then." He shared the position that season with José Morales and Randy Brown. With the 1972 Tidewater Tides, he fielded .992 at C and hit .258/.341/.290 with 13 runs, 14 RBI and no home runs in 62 games.
Nonetheless, the Mets called up Cotton on September 13, 1972, along with pitcher Tommy Moore. Wire service stories at the time said that Cotton would report to the Mets the following spring, but according to the book Mets by the Numbers, he was with the big club for the remainder of the 1972 season without getting into a game. He wore #22.
There is one other piece of possible evidence, albeit indirect, to support the idea that he was in fact with the Mets that September - he was outrighted to Triple-A the following month. Cotton went to spring training with the Mets again in 1973, but did not make the team. He was dealt to the Detroit Tigers organization partway through the 1973 season; he hit .201/.279/.275 in 56 games between the Tides and Toledo Mud Hens and was 2 for 4 for Memphis that year. His last year as a pro was spent in the Chicago White Sox chain, batting just .206/.319/.268 while backing up Pete Varney for the Iowa Oaks.
Cotton lived and worked in Wisconsin after leaving baseball. Later in life, he returned to his native Nebraska. After suffering ill health for a couple of years, he died of a massive stroke at age 60.
Source: Mets by the Numbers.