The Obit For Bill Cotton

CWS star Bill Cotton dies at 60

Published Friday July 11, 2008

BY JOHN MARTIN FEY
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

Bill Cotton was a standout in football and baseball at McCook High School, where he finished in 1966. He had college scholarship offers in both sports.

Bill Cotton hit a three-run home run to lift Arizona State in the championship game of the 1969 College World Series.While mulling his choices, he was contacted by Charlie Finley, the then-owner of the Kansas City Athletics. Finley was trying to sign Cotton out of high school.

It didn't happen, and Finley suggested to Arizona State coach Bobby Winkles that he sign the phenom out of western Nebraska.

Cotton did and went on to a three-year career as a catcher for the Sun Devils, who won the 1969 College World Series.

Those are the memories that Tom Cotton shared about his brother, who died Monday at Kearney's Good Samaritan Hospital. He was 60.

William "Bill" Jay Cotton had health issues his last couple of years and died from a massive stroke.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Herrman Memorial Chapel in McCook.

"Bill was an excellent athlete," Tom Cotton said. "Bob Devaney tried to recruit him to play football for Nebraska."

But Cotton chose Winkles' offer — which came despite the legendary coach never seeing him play, based on Finley's recommendation.

A good move on Winkles' part.

Cotton played 21 games for the Sun Devils in 1968 and 57 in 1969, when he batted .335 with 41 RBIs and three home runs. He saved his best college effort for Omaha.

In the '69 CWS, he blasted a three-run homer in the championship game as the Sun Devils became the first team in CWS history to lose its opener (to Burt Hooton's Texas Longhorns) and come back to win the championship.

After being named to the CWS all-tourney team and earning second-team All-America honors, Cotton was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball supplemental draft by the New York Mets and signed even though he had another year of college eligibility.

He spent six seasons in the minor leagues. His best year came in 1970 with Class A Visalia, where he batted .253 in 81 games.

He made it to Class AAA in 1972 and eventually got a September call-up by the Mets.

Tom Cotton doesn't recall his brother ever getting a chance for a major league at-bat. There is no reference of him in the baseball encyclopedia.

After working in Wisconsin, Bill Cotton returned to North Platte to work for Union Pacific. Health problems forced him to retire.

He never lost his love for Nebraska football, his brother said.

"Bill and I talked weekly about the Nebraska Cornhuskers," Tom Cotton said. "He also followed the baseball team."

Another immediate survivor is sister Kay Scripter of North Platte.