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Friday, February 9, 2024

Jack Billingham got raise, made bigs, gave up Aaron's 714th

Jack Billingham 1990 Osceola Astros card

Jack Billingham
's major league career was almost over before it began, the minor leaguer engaged and frustrated at his progress, he told The Associated Press in 1972.

Billingham responded by demanding the organization give him a $50 a month raise and getting him out of Santa Barbara, he told The AP.

"It was a week or so later when a Santa Barbara club official telephoned me and said 'I hate to tell you this but you're going to St. Petersburg," Billingham told The AP. "And I got the 50 bucks a month, too. It was all uphill from there."

Billingham continued on and he eventually made the majors over 13 seasons, winning 10 or more games over 10 of those campaigns. He won 19 games twice. He also later became a coach.

But Billingham is perhaps most remembered for a pitch where he gave up a home run - Hank Aaron's 714th.

Billingham's career began in 1961, signed by the Dodgers out of Winter Park High School in Florida.

Billingham started at Class D Orlando. He made Class A Santa Barbara and then St. Petersburg in 1964 and AAA Albuquerque in 1965.

He made Los Angeles in 1968, them moved to Houston in 1969. He went 13-9 for the Astros in 1970, with a 3.98 ERA.

He moved to the Reds for 1972 and went 12-12. He also took the win in Game 3 of the World Series and saved Game 5. He became an All-Star in 1973 as he went 19-10.

Then, to start 1974, he threw Aaron an outside fastball and Aaron hit No. 714 to tie Babe Ruth.

"He deserves it," Billingham told The AP afterward. "He's the greatest I've ever seen. It's unfortunate he hit it against me."

Billingham continued in the majors through 1980. He ended with a total of 145 major league wins to 113 losses and a career 3.83 ERA. He also played in the 1975 and 1976 World Series.

Billingham then started his coaching career by 1987, at single-A Osceola. He stayed with Osceola and then Kissimmee as pitching coach trough 1999.

In August 1991, he worked with pitcher Brian Griffiths on his control, The Orlando Sentinel wrote.

"Velocity is only one tool a pitcher has," Billingham told The Sentinel. "If it isn't directed over the plate, it does no good. We finally convinced Brian there's a plate he has to throw it over."

Billing is last credited as serving as a pitching coach in 2002, with the Astros at rookie Martinsville.

Jack Billingham 1990 Osceola Astros card

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:4,306
Made the Majors:1,394-32.4%
Never Made Majors:2,912-67.6%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:567
10+ Seasons in the Minors:349

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