James Melvin Bilbrey
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2½", Weight 205 lb.
- Debut May 17, 1949
- Final Game May 17, 1949
- Born April 20, 1924 in Rickman, TN USA
- Died December 26, 1985 in Toledo, OH USA
Right-hander Jim Bilbrey signed as an amateur free agent with the St. Louis Browns before the 1941 season. The 17-year-old pitcher got off to a rough start, first with the Youngstown Browns then with the St. Joseph Ponies and lastly the Carthage Browns, all class C clubs on his way to a first-year record of 9-16 and a 5.01 ERA.
Somehow, Bilbrey stepped up a notch in league classification and went 6-3 with a 5.21 ERA for the class B Springfield Browns of the Three-I League in his second year on the mound. Jim's improvement was put on hold for three years (1943-1945) while he served in the United States Navy during World War II.
Jim was back in 1946 ready to go and had his best season to date, going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA, while pitching 180 innings for the Elmira Pioneers of the class A Eastern League. This was to be Bilbrey's last winning season of his seven-year pro baseball career and undoubtedly his best performance to date.
He moved up to AAA ball in 1947 with the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association and fell back to a 4-8 record and a 5.33 ERA. The Brownies sent him back to Elmira in 1948 and it wasn't the same place as Jim went 6-11 with a 4.47 ERA in 151 innings.
There had to be a reason, but it isn't apparent, as the Browns brought him to St. Louis for a look and he pitched one inning in May and went back to Elmira with an 18.00 ERA. Jim finished up the '49 season with the Pioneers and went 1-4 with a 5.25 ERA.
Bilbrey was just 26 years old in 1950, so he gave it one more chance. He would spend his last season in pro ball with the Anderson Rebels of the class B Tri-State League, pitching 77 innings on his way to a 3-5 record and a 5.03 ERA. This would end his tour in pro baseball with a seven-year record of 43-58 and a 4.74 ERA while pitching 839 innings.
After baseball, it is unclear from a quick check of sources what Bilbrey did with the rest of his life. The records show that he died on December 26, 1985 in Toledo, OH and was buried at the New Belleville Cemetery in Dowling, Ohio.