Bill Faul was a baseball classic
Bill Faul's death last month was quiet. His baseball
legacy was quite a contrast. Throughout his career, the pitcher from Pleasant
Plain, Ohio, with the strong right arm was known for his eccentricity.
He was viewed as the comic relief of the clubhouse at the University of
Cincinnati and then for three big-league teams, off and on, from 1962-70.
Faul's antics were so legendary that Baseball Digest named him
to its all-time all-flake team in 1985.
Former Detroit Tigers manager Chuck Dressen once said:
“You watch him for a while, watch how he acts, talk
to him, spend some time with him, and you figure either he's the dumbest
guy in the world or the smartest one you've ever met.”
Faul was most known for hypnotizing himself before games
to boost his confidence. He would go stand in a corner and place himself
in a trance, telling himself to keep the ball low and block out all influences.
don't like to talk about it because I have heard some unkind remarks like,
"It's weird,'” Faul once said. “But
I wanted to do it as an experiment.”
Self-hypnosis was Faul's trademark, but not his only
unorthodox behavior. Faul bit off the heads of live parakeets. And he
swallowed live toads. Faul said toads put an extra hop on his fastball.
“His managers didn't like all the attention he was getting,”
said Jerome Holtzman, a former Chicago baseball writer and now Major League
Baseball's historian. “But they couldn't do anything about it.” Although
Faul had said he wasn't looking for attention, only for ways to better
prepare himself to pitch, he once reported for spring training wearing
a cowboy suit and riding a bicycle.
If his out-of-the-ordinary routine wasn't enough, his
jersey number was — you guessed it — 13.
Faul also could be cool under pressure. He slept until
a half-hour before his first major-league start. His teammates had to
wake him up in the clubhouse. Faul stretched, yawned and went out and
pitched a three-hit, 5-1 win.
In all, Faul pitched parts of six major-league seasons
for the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, going 12-16
with a 4.72 ERA in 71 games, including 33 starts. His best year was 1965,
when he went 6-6 with a 3.54 ERA with the Cubs.
In his younger days, Faul had led Goshen High to the
1958 Class A championship. His success continued at the University of
Cincinnati, where he became the school's first All-American, a first-team
selection of the American Association of College Baseball Coaches as a
junior in 1961. He earned third-team honors his senior year.
Faul led the nation in average strikeouts per game (14.6)
in 1961. He holds several school records, including career strikeouts
(295) and single-season ERA (0.80 in 1962).
Glenn Sample, Faul's former UC baseball coach, said Faul pitched sidearm
and stepped across his body to throw.
“He would throw the ball like it was BB's,” Sample said.
“Guys loved him. We knew when he pitched, we had a
good chance to win.”
Sample described Faul as gullible, unable to pick up
on his teammates' pranks as quickly as he adjusted to batters.
believed everything you told him,” Sample said. “They'd tell him a guy is hitting .785 and is 8-for-8. It
would get Bill going. And Bill would go out and strike the guy out three
Former UC teammate Carl Bouldin says the night before
Faul struck out a school-record 24 against Jacksonville Naval Station
in 1961, Faul was teased that he would have to parachute onto the field.
“He couldn't sleep,” Bouldin said. “He was really worried about it. Coach had to tell him the
guys were just joking.”
Faul took his antics further in the major leagues. While
teammates and the media laughed at his antics, he often ran into trouble
certainly has a major-league arm, but whether or not he thinks or acts
like (a major-leaguer) is a different story,” Dressen
once said. Faul later said he gained an unfair reputation as a “kook” and was sentenced to a life in the minor leagues.
Faul, 61, died in Pleasant Plain on Feb. 21. Yet memories
of his unusual outlook on baseball remain.
Sample said his first exposure to Faul's offbeat side
came one afternoon in Cincinnati. Faul complained his arm was sore, so
a UC trainer jokingly told him to put his arm under a lamp.
“Get under here for 15 minutes, and you'll feel like a new
man,” the trainer told Faul.
Faul did. Minutes later, Faul bounced up, stretched his
arm, and said, “That does feel really good!”