Bill Hands – 1974 Topps
September 26, 2010
All of the primordial Beavis & Buttheads among us in the 1970’s (well, I was in 3rd grade at the end of the 1974 season and that’s about their intellectual level) seemed to always make fun of poor Bill Hands.
It’s kind of odd to be named a body part without some added letters (like Barry Foote or Greg Legg). Sure, there was Elroy Face, Ed and Ralph Head, but it’s still rare. And the plural? Well, that’s just outright odd.
Sidenote #1 before resuming the Bill Hands discussion: Thank God body parts aren’t really common names. I mean, think about Cesar Uvula, Christoper Epiglottis, or Lyle Pancreas. Though, Mudhoney front man Mark Arm would be a heck of a name for a pitcher. And, this gives me an excuse to post this:
Arm and Steve Turner’s combined noise is the best damn guitar sound, EVER! Period. Paragraph.
Sidenote #2: Bill Hands and Rich Hand were both in the AL in 1973. Bill for the Twins (as shown above) and Rich for both Texas and California. That was Rich’s last year in the bigs, after a meteoric rise (starting in AAA for Cleveland in 1969) and spectacular fall. At age 24 he split time between Salt Lake and Pawtucket (on a loan), then was traded as the PTBNL in the Orlando Pena deal, then….the trail goes cold. Well, except that his daughter played on the Oklahoma basketball team with the daughters of Vernon “Bubba” Paris and Hakeem Olajuwon and Ben Roethlisberger’s sister.
Anyway, on April 20, 1973 – Bill Hands faced Rich Hand in a pitching matchup. But only 4,600 braved the April weather at the Met in Minnesota to witness this epic appendage battle. Bill won 5-1 as the Twins pecked away at Rich over 5 innings.
Sidenote #3: Bill Hands’ nickname was Froggy. I ain’t askin’ why.
Sidenote #4: In researching sidenote #2, I found a late-season game where Hands pitched against California. Rich didn’t pitch, but Nolan Ryan did, going 11 innings in a 5-4 win. Ryan faced 49 batters, striking out 16, walking 7 and giving up 10 hits. I would bet Ryan threw over 200 pitches in game 159 of a season where the Angels finished a distant fourth. Rich Hand was 8th on the team in appearances (16) and 7th in innings pitched (54 2/3). Basically Bobby Winkles used four starters and two relievers and the rest of the pitchers collected their checks and played pinochle.
Anyway, thanks for staying with me about Bill Hands after the diversions, sidebars, and rockin’ out!
Hands was a key member of the Durocher Cubs. From 1968-1972 he was a solid #2 or #3 starter. Minnesota was spinning its wheels as were the Cubs by 1972, so Hands and Joe Decker were sent to the Twins for Dave LaRoche. Because, as you know, YOU GOTTA HAVE A LEFTY!
So Hands is in Minnesota and according to the data, Calvin Griffith cut his salary right off the bat. Nice move there. The Twins had a pretty decent staff with Jim Kaat, Bert Blyleven, Ray Corbin, and Dick Woodson along with Decker and Hands. Youngsters Dave Goltz and Bill Campbell were waiting in the wings, and they got Ken Sanders from the Brewers in hopes that he would regain his 1971 form.
Bill started out in the rotation, and was 5-8 with a 4.65 ERA. Then Eddie Bane showed up, and Bill made one more start in 1973. Bane was Griffith’s answer to David Clyde. Fresh off of the USC campus, Bane went right to the bigs. It was just as big of a mistake as David Clyde’s first season.
Hands probably felt a bit miffed, as even after Bane washed out Goltz and Dan Fife got starts instead of him. One thing up his sleeve though was a new right the players received in 1973 after a spring training labor dispute. They were allowed to file for salary arbitration. Bill actually had a decent season after the bad start, so he didn’t think he deserved a cut in pay.
There is no doubt Hands had it up to here with the Twins already – they cut his salary and exiled him to the bullpen for a kid and when the kid failed they still left him to rot there. So Hands filed. He asked for a $1,000 raise. I don’t know what the Twins countered with, but Bill won.
That made Mr. Griffith very, very angry.
What was even worse was that Bill’s first start of the year in 1974 was an unmitigated disaster of the nth degree.
It started single, steal, single, strikeout, RBI single, strikeout looking. OK, two outs, two on, Cookie Rojas up.
2 RBI double, then RBI single, HBP, RBI single, and look here’s Fred Patek, the leadoff hitter again. He laced an RBI single.
Frank Quillici gets Hands. The Twins go on to lose 23-6. Every Twins pitcher that participated in the game left with an ERA of 9 and higher, led (?) by Hands’ FM frequency of 94.5 (they play the classic hits, and it’s always two for Tuesday)!
After four more starts, he was 0-4 with a 8.74 ERA and then exiled to the pen again. Griffith was irate, no doubt. But he was on the hook for his salary, so he stuck around.
Until it was September. In early September Griffith sold his $55,000 pitcher to Texas, who needed pitching depth if they were to make a run at Oakland. Bill pitched in two more games, but only one when the Rangers were in the race.
The next year, he got the same salary, pitched in 18 games, and his arm was done. He was 6-7 with a 4.02 but didn’t try to come back after his truncated season.
You wonder why players fought for their rights. He made the Twins owner irate, and the Twins buried him, because he got a very small raise.
Now, of course, the money is just astronomical. But, the stands are fuller (or at least the tickets are sold) and the TV deals are big for almost every club. So I don’t begrudge the players for making a lot of scratch. But they need to remember guys like Bill Hands, who was run out of Minnesota because of $1,000.