Monday, November 7, 2011

#271 - Bill Hands

So it's apology time. We had a crazy winter snowstorm in October resulting in lots of cleaning, no power, and no time for blogging. But now I'm back and after a last post of a recently departed - in more ways than one unfortunately - Cub, we have another player removed from a Cubs uniform by a year. Bill Hands poses in Oakland during his first season with the Twins for whom he would regrettably not reproduce the big wins he put up in Chicago. Around this time Bill only lived a couple towns away from where I grew up so he was sort of a local favorite.

Bill Hands grew up in Rutherford, NJ - which is about where the Meadowlands is/was - and was a multi-sport star in high school. His baseball and hoops got him to college and after a year at Ohio-Wesleyan and another at Fairley Dickinson in Jersey he was signed in '59 by the Giants. He struggled for a few years in the lower minors  - a combined 17-24 with a 4.90 ERA - but in '60 he had picked up a slider and in '62 he had it working well enough to go 14-12 with a 2.91 ERA in A ball. After an off '63 spent mostly in Triple A he recovered to have a good year at that level out of the pen in '64 followed by an excellent season - 17-6 with a 2.19 ERA - back in the rotation there in '65. After a couple games for San Francisco late in the season he was sent to the Cubs with Randy Hundley for Lindy McDaniel and Don Landrum in what would be a pretty good trade for Chicago.

In Chicago Hands continued his propensity as a slow starter and '66 was a more-or-less lost season but in '67 he improved nicely as a long man in the pen and spot starter, adding six saves to his record. The next year he got promoted to the rotation and had what would be sort of a signature year for him there: lots of homers given up (he led the league in '68 with 26) but for relatively little damage since he gave up very few walks. He was a groundball pitcher and the homers were generally results of non-breaking sliders. He joined Fergie Jenkins as a 20-game winner in '69, a year in which he continued to perform well down the stretch as his team collapsed around him. After a decline in innings in '72 he was sent to the Twins with Joe Decker for Dave LaRoche. In Minnesota Bill went back to being the long man/ spot starter in '73 and '74 - he had three saves each year - before he was nabbed off waivers by the Rangers late in '74. For Texas he had two excellent starts down the stretch and then a season in the rotation the following year where apparent back ailments contributed to him having only 18 starts with a 6-7 record and a 4.02 ERA. In early '76 he was sent to the Mets for George Stone but he never played again and finished with a record of 111-110 with a 3.35 ERA, 72 complete games, 17 shutouts, and 14 saves.

Hands had worked for oil companies during the off-season while he was playing which he continued to do after he retired. In '85 he bought a service station on Long Island and also started his own home delivery heating oil business, both of which did pretty well. As of 2006, according to an interview linked to here, he still showed up regularly at his station for work and has been a happy fisherman and golfer.

The two minor league seasons mentioned in the star bullets were by far Bill's best at that level. He'd better have enjoyed boating for all the fishing he did.

In 1973, on November 2 Bob Dylan began recording his first non-Columbia album. Dylan had gone free agent and the resulting album, "Planet Waves" would be his first to top the charts. In '74 on the same date, George Harrison became the first former Beatle to go on a world tour (with Billy Preston, among others). On the US charts, Stevie Wonder took over the top with "You Haven't Done Nothing."

As indicated above, these guys were both long-time Cubbies so this one's easy:

1. Hands and Ron Santo '66 to '72 Cubs.

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