Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Billy Champion (#149)

Yes, this now seems like an all-Phillies blog, and will be for just the next 8 posts, as I complete my multi-blog  "Phillies players from 1966 to 1969" series...

Billy Champion was one of the many pitchers not named Steve Carlton who haunted the Phillies' pitching staff in the early 1970s.

Champion was signed by the Phillies in 1965, and was a starting pitcher for their class-A teams for 4 seasons, followed by a half-season in triple-A before making his major-league debut in June 1969. Champion's minor-league seasons were so-so, except for 1968 (15-5, 2.03 ERA) and 1969 (7-1, 1.66 ERA).

In 1969, long-time veteran Chris Short was the opening day starter, but after 2 starts he was lost for the season. The team carried on with 4 starters until Champion was recalled in early June, becoming the 5th starter. Billy responded with a 5-10 record and a 5.01 ERA in 23 starts.

He found himself back in the minors for most of 1970, while also pitching 7 games for the Phillies (14 innings and an ERA over 9.00) in August and September. Somehow, that won him a fulltime job with the team for 1971, when he was used mostly as a reliever.

The 1972 season opened with Steve Carlton as the new man on the staff, and I must have gotten swept up in the euphoria, because I remember thinking to myself back then that Champion "just might" give the Phillies a 1-2 punch along with Carlton. (If only we had Baseball-Reference.com back then, I might have avoided such nonsensical thoughts!)

The 1972 season was a disaster for every Phillies' pitcher not named Carlton. On the bright side, the team cleaned house in the off-season, getting rid of suspects like Champion, Ken Reynolds, and Jim Nash, along with the aging Short and Woodie Fryman, and brought in Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett, Dick Ruthven, Larry Christensen, and Wayne Twitchell, so that Carlton didn't have to account for half the team's wins again.

Champion was shipped to the Brewers along with 3rd basemen Don Money and John Vukovich for Lonborg, Brett, and others. He pitched for 3 full seasons in Milwaukee, with the high point coming in 1974 when he compiled an 11-4 record in 31 games (23 starts).

Billy began the 1976 season with the Brewers, but played his last major-league game on June 5th, 7 years and 1 day after his debut. He was released in late June and spent the remainder of the '76 season with the Braves' AAA team in Richmond. His final season was in 1977, back with the Phillies' AAA team.


Douglas said...

Medicore pitcher...but great name.

Jim from Downingtown said...

The Phillies' 1972 pitching staff (except for Steve Carlton) was laughable!

Carlton had 27 wins, the next guy: 7
Carlton had 30 complete games, the next guy: 3
Carlton had 310 strikeouts, the next guy: 112

The team saves leader had FOUR!