Billy Pierce

This prep sensation from Detroit was acquired by the White Sox from the Tigers before the 1949 season in a lopsided deal for journeyman catcher Aaron Robinson and $10,000. In the 13 years he wore a Sox uniform, Pierce was a pitching anchor. He threw four one-hitters, and in 1953 he had seven shutouts, pitching 51 consecutive innings without yielding an earned run. His 186 strikeouts that year led the league. But his Sox teammates had trouble scoring runs. Following one particularly dry stretch, after the Sox put across a run, Nellie Fox turned to Pierce and said: “Here’s your run. Now go out there and hold it.” And most of the time he did. Trouble was, AL managers saved their best for Pierce. In head-to-head competition against Whitey Ford, Pierce won eight and lost six lifetime; against Bob Lemon, he won seven of nine decisions.

In 1955 Pierce’s 1.97 ERA led the league, and in 1957 only Pierce and Jim Bunning won 20 games in the AL. Pierce tied for the league lead in complete games each year from 1956 through 1958. A seven-time All-Star, Pierce missed a chance at immortality in a June 27, 1958 game against Washington. He had allowed no baserunners through 8-2/3 innings when backup catcher Ed Fitz Gerald pinch hit. He whacked a Pierce curveball that landed fair down the right-field line, depriving Pierce of a perfect game.

Pierce concluded his career with the Giants, and it was with San Francisco’s 1962 NL pennant winners that he earned his WS decisions, including a three-hit 2-0 victory in Game Six.