Friday, August 9, 2013

#574 - Bill Parsons

This lanky guy is Bill Parsons, one-time future ace of the Milwaukee Brewers. Bill’s 26 wins in ’71 and ’72 were the most on the staff over that time but going into the ’73 season there was some worry about a shoulder injury he suffered early in spring training. It was also thought that a little tinkering with his pitch rotation was all that was deemed necessary to help him up his results. Bill had been all fastball and change-up his first few seasons, throwing almost exclusively from the set position, and new pitching coach Bob Shaw wanted him to pitch from a wind-up position and add a curveball. All good in theory but the results were pretty devastating. In Bill’s first start of the season, Opening Day, he threw shutout ball for over seven innings but walked six guys. He gave up five runs – four unearned – in just two innings in his second start and then walked seven in under four innings his next one. And it kept getting worse: he gave up 14 walks in two successive starts in May, won two in a row to get to 3-4 by mid-June, but then lost his spot in the rotation for over a month and returned to do spot work that just saw his ERA ratchet up. By then Shaw had resigned – or been fired – partly because of Bill’s decline, even though he’d done good work with just about every other pitcher. And Bill himself would be gone less that a year later. And he really would be gone. Like the last couple post subjects, there is virtually nothing in the media universe regarding Bill’s activities since he played. How do you make a guy who’s 6’6” disappear? Apparently by writing a baseball card blog.

Bill Parsons was born in Riverside, California. After that it’s pretty much conjecture since about the only thing matching the lack of info on the guy after he played is the dearth of news before he did. It appears that after graduating high school in ’66 that he may have gone to Riverside Community College for a short bit but for sure he was on the University of Utah baseball team as a freshman pitcher in the spring of ’67. He also played hoops at Utah – George Theodore from this set was a teammate in both sports – but not for long as he was drafted and signed by the new Seattle Pilots in the seventh round of the ’68 draft. Topps isn’t much help either, indicating on one card that Bill was an All-American in hoops (doubt that) and that he graduated Arizona State, which for sure didn’t happen. What he did do, apparently in the spring of ’68, was go 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 61 innings of a local Cali league so maybe that was when he went to Riverside. He definitely followed that bit up with a tough start that summer as a starter in A ball, but kept people happy with the high strikeout totals. In ’69 Bill began his military hitch but around it threw pretty well, posting 11 K’s in his only Rookie ball start and then putting up an excellent ERA after finding his control in A ball. Most of ’70 was military time as well but Bill again impressed when he was pitching, posting great numbers in his four Triple A starts.

By ’71 Parsons’ military requirement was done and he made the Brewers after a great winter ball season that followed a pretty good IL one. He immediately joined the rotation and though he lost his first two, it wasn’t his fault as he only gave up two runs in each of two complete games. He threw shutout ball in three of his first five wins and suffered losing streaks of five and three games, all the while keeping his ERA well below 3.00. It was still there when he was 13-15 by mid-September and was actually receiving some decent hitting support. After being on the losing side of three blowouts his ERA crossed that 3.00 horizon and he suffered another couple losses but he got lots of regards for a season well done, made the Topps Rookie team, and was selected by the TSN player poll as its Rookie of the Year. He also set a team record with his 12 complete games. His follow-up year was all over the place. He began April going 1-2 with an ERA of nearly 7.00 and then won five straight to pull down his ERA to 3.50. Then five straight losses pushed the ERA back above 5.00 and into the pen, where he stayed for a couple weeks. But after he rejoined the rotation in mid-July he went 7-6 with eight complete games and a 2.62 ERA to finish the year on an up note. After the misery of ’73 Bill had an even nastier spring training in ’74 and he was sent down to Triple A Sacramento. Not much good was going on at that level and he requested a trade elsewhere when in late June he was sent to Oakland for Deron Johnson. After going a combined 9-16 with a fat 5.05 ERA – everyone who pitched in Sacramento had a fat ERA – but getting his walks and strikeouts realigned – 57 vs. 99 – Bill made his final MLB appearance in some shutout relief outings for the A’s. After the season he was sold to St. Louis. In ’75 he pitched in the minors for the Triple A franchises of the Cards and the White Sox, going a combined 3-5 as a spot guy with a 4.42 ERA. That was it for Bill as he finished 29-36 with a 3.89 ERA, 22 complete games, and six shutouts for his MLB time and with a 27-33 record with a 3.87 ERA in the minors.

As I mentioned above, Parsons slips into the ether after his playing career ended. There is a gentleman with his same name residing in Phoenix but outside of calling the poor guy up I do not foresee a shot at anything substantial on our guy here. Another mystery.

Topps gives us a little dirt on the card back, and given it is mostly qualifiable, there is no reason to doubt it. One good thing did come up from Bill’s crash and burn of ’73 and that was the 20-win season of the guy who took his place, Jim Colborn.

This time we stick to the AL:

1. Parsons and Jim Slaton ’71 to ’73 Brewers;
2. Slaton and Larry Hisle ’79 to ’82 Brewers;
3. Hisle and Mike Adams ’73 Twins.

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