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Billy Hoeft

Billy Hoeft

Position(s):
P
Nicknames:
NUL
Born:
May 17, 1932
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Left
Height:
6' 3"
Weight:
180 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-18-1952 with DET

Hoeft was a mainstay in the Tigers starting rotation in the 1950s, then embarked on a second career as an itinerant lefthanded reliever, changing teams six times between 1959 and 1966. He spent most of his rookie season in the Detroit bullpen, then struggled as a starter in 1953-54, winning only 16 games over the two seasons. In 1955 Hoeft was still only Detroit's third starter in terms of starts and innings, but he led the AL with seven shutouts on his way to a 16-7, 2.99 record and a spot on the AL All-Star team. In 1956 Hoeft became the first Tiger lefthander since Hal Newhouser to win 20 games, posting a 20-14 mark, but after mediocre seasons in 1957-58, Hoeft returned to the bullpen for the balance of his career.

He was traded to the Red Sox for Ted Lepcio and Dave Sisler in May, 1959, then shipped to Baltimore for Jack Harshman six weeks later. Hoeft enjoyed his best seasons in relief with the Orioles, recording a 2.02 ERA in 1961 and four wins plus seven saves in 1962, then was traded to the Giants and later to the Braves, spending single seasons with each club. On July 14, 1957 Hoeft hit two of his three career home runs.


Detroit Tigers (1952-1959)

Hoeft attended Oshkosh High School, where he once struck out 27 batters in a game and hurled several no-hitters during his seniot year. After graduating in 1950, he was signed by the Detroit Tigers, and he reached the majors as a 19 year old in 1952, making his major league debut on April 18, 1952 for the Tigers, and went on to pitch seven full seasons in Detroit.

On September 7, 1953, Hoeft struck out three batters on nine pitches in the seventh inning of a 6-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. Hoeft became the fourth American League pitcher and the ninth pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the nine-strike/three-strikeout half-inning.

On June 24, 1955, Hoeft surrendered the first home run in the career of Harmon Killebrew. Killebrew would eventually hit 573 home runs in his career, ninth all-time. He was chosen to be part of the American League All-Star squad in 1955 (in his only baseball all-star selection).

He was primarily used as a starting pitcher in Detroit, starting in 176 games during his time there. His best season came in 1956, when he won 20 games and pitched 18 complete games.

Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles (1959-1962)

In May 1959, Hoeft was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for Dave Sisler and Ted Lepcio. He was the losing pitcher in three of his five appearances for Boston, and was soon dealt to Baltimore for Jack Harshman after a little more than a month.

Hoeft remained in Baltimore through the 1962 season. He was primarily used as a relief pitcher, although he did start 16 games for the Orioles. During the 1961 season, Hoeft posted a career best Earned Run Average of 2.02 in 12 starts and 23 relief appearances.

San Francisco, Milwaukee and Chicago (1963-1966)

After the 1962 season, Baltimore traded Hoeft, as well as Jimmie Coker and Jack Fisher to the San Francisco Giants for Stu Miller, Mike McCormick and John Orsino.

In 23 appearances for San Francisco during the 1963 season, Hoeft saved four games and posted an Earned Run Average of 4.44. After the season ended, he was dealt to the Milwaukee Braves along with Felipe Alou, Ed Bailey and a player to be named later for Del Crandall, Bob Shaw and Bob Hendley. San Francisco ended up sending Ernie Bowman to Milwaukee to complete the deal.

In Milwaukee, Hoeft put up slightly better numbers than he did in San Francisco, appearing in 42 games and posting an ERA of 3.80. He saved four games for the Braves in the 1964 season.

After the 1964 season, Hoeft entered free agency, and ended up being signed by his original team, the Detroit Tigers. He was released during spring training for the 1965 season. Shortly afterwards, the Chicago Cubs signed Hoeft to a contract for the 1965 season, where he ended up posting an ERA of 2.81 in 2 starts and 29 appearances for the Cubs.

1966 was Hoeft's last season in Major League Baseball. He appeared in 36 games for the Cubs, before being released in August. In September, he was signed by the San Francisco Giants once more, where he appeared in only four games. His ERA during his second stint in San Francisco was a career high 7.36.

Hoeft died in Canadian Lakes, Michigan, at the age of 77.

Resources:

Wikipedia, BR Bullpen, Baseball Library

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