Sunday, February 9, 2014

Playing With My Dodgers: Jack Billingham

Signed as an amateaur free agent by Los Angeles in 1961, Jack Billingham was groomed by the Dodgers to be a reliever. He would spend just one season at the big-league level with the franchise, finishing second only to Jim Brewer on the club with 50 appearances in 1968, posting a fine 2.14 ERA.

He would go on to become one of the most dependable starting pitchers of the 1970s, but he made only one start in Dodger Blue. On August 5, at Dodger Stadium, Billingham would duel Pittsburgh's Steve Blass to a scoreless draw through eight innings, allowing just five hits and two walks while striking out seven. The Dodgers would finally get to Blass in the tenth inning, with Zoilo Versalles knocking in the only run of the game.

  • Billingham is a distant cousin of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson.
  • He was nicknamed "Cactus Jack" for his loping gait and laconic personality.
  • Not protected by the pitching-rich Dodgers in the 1968 expansion draft, he was chosen tenth by the Montreal Expos.
  • He was sent to Houston by Montreal on the eve of the 1968 season as a replacement for Donn Clendenon, who refused to report to the Astros following a trade for Rusty Staub.
  • After the 1971 season, Billingham was involved in the trade that also saw key Big Red Machine cogs Cesar Geronimo and Joe Morgan move from Houston to Cincinnati.
  • On Opening Day, 1974, he surrendered the 714th home run of Henry Aaron's career, allowing him to tie Babe Ruth's lifetime record.
  • Billingham recorded double-digit victory totals in each year of the 1970s, including back-to-back 19-win seasons in '73-'74.
  • He remains the stingiest pitcher in World Series history, allowing just one earned run in 25⅓ innings, for a microscopic ERA of 0.36.

1969 Topps Jack Billingham MON #92

Here we have the fourth of five cards sent by the vintage virtuoso Harry/Mark that are being inducted into the PWMD set. Billingham was featured as a Dodger on a 1968 Topps Rookie Stars card, along with Jim Fairey. But I prefer to avoid multi-player cards in this collection whenever possible. And Billingham is pictured as a Dodger on this card. He's just had the "LA" rather artlessly scribbled over on his cap.

Of course, I could fix it...

But I won't.


  1. And of course he finished his career in Boston . Going 1-3 in 1980.

    1. Excellent point. No major issue cards exist of Billingham in a Red Sox uniform, though. I wonder if there are any such oddballs out there...

  2. Don't know of any oddballs either.