Sullivan earned a reputation as a terrible hitter and a superior catcher. His .212 lifetime batting average makes him the second worst hitter of all time (to Bill Bergen) among those with 3,000 at-bats. But from 1901 through 1911, with Sullivan calling the pitches, the White Sox won two pennants, came within two games of two others, and never finished lower than fourth. The two years he was injured, Chicago finished more than 30 games back. The sinewy Sullivan excelled in all aspects of catching – calling the game, blocking the plate, catching foul pops, and throwing out runners. Ty Cobb called him the best catcher “ever to wear shoe leather.”
When Johnny Kling, star catcher of the crosstown Cubs, boasted that he was going to be the first man to catch 1,000 games, a check of the records revealed that Sullivan had already done it. In 1909 Sullivan managed the White Sox and obtained a patent on the first chest protector that featured a wind pad for compressed air. Although he was one of the early White Sox promised “lifetime employment” by Charles Comiskey, the vow was broken with his 1914 release. When his son, Billy Jr., caught in the 1940 World Series for Detroit, the two became the first father-son team to have played in the WS.
Official records indicate the 1906 Hitless Wonders hit only six home runs. Historian Rich Lindberg discovered the Sox had actually hit seven – the missing homer belonging to Sullivan.