World Series pitcher, Ninety Six native,
February 2, 2005
By MICHAEL STONE
Index-Journal sports editor
than a decade ago, William Symmes Bill Voiselle summed up
his life in two sentences.
Everything I got, I owe it to baseball, Voiselle said in
a 1991 story that appeared in Sports Collectors Digest. Im
a little ol cotton mill boy never had nothing and never
The humble Voiselle, who died Monday at 86, was understating the truth,
while at the same time reflecting the values he grew up with.
At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds during his playing days, Voiselle was anything
but little. His professional baseball career took him across the United
States and to Canada.
He was an All-Star major-league pitcher who had a nine-year career and
pitched in the 1948 World Series.
But Voiselle also loved the Ninety Six community where he grew up.
After he was traded to the Boston Braves in 1947, Voiselle had to get
special permission from baseball commissioner A.B. Happy
Chandler to wear uniform No. 96 to honor the town.
When he retired, he returned to his beloved Ninety Six for the chance
to play baseball with his brothers, Jim and Claude, again this
time for the Ninety Six mill team in the Central Carolina Textile League.
Back then we didnt make much money playing baseball,
said Jim Voiselle, who along with Claude played in the minor leagues.
We played for the fun of it.
I think he was great. He just had a good attitude and he loved
to play ball.
And he wasnt forgotten after his pro career.
In 1999, The Index-Journal named Voiselle one of the top 100 most influential
sports figures from Greenwood and the Lakelands area.
In 2001, he was honored by the South Carolina House of Representatives,
along with Negro League player and Greenwood native Chino Smith, before
a Lander-Erskine baseball game for bringing honor and glory to
the State of South Carolina.
He was just a wonderful guy, and everybody loved him to death,
said Bubba Summers, of Ninety Six, Voiselles neighbor for more
than 50 years. If you didnt know him, you really missed
Voiselle came from a baseball-playing family. The four brothers
Carl, Bill, Jim and Claude, nicknamed Diz all played.
In the 30s, the brothers went to school in the morning and, by
the time they were 14, they were working in the cotton mill in the afternoon.
They still found time for baseball, and the four helped turn the Ninety
Six High School team into one of the most feared prep squads in the
We had a coach that made us play Erskine College and Presbyterian
College in exhibition games, said Jim Voiselle, Bills younger
brother by two years. Thats how good a ball team we had
at Ninety Six.
Diz Voiselle remembers a game Bill pitched against Saluda,
probably the one that propelled him into professional baseball.
Back then, (Bill) could just rare back and fire it, the
82-year-old said. One year here, he was being scouted by Bill
Laval, out of Newberry, and we were playing Saluda, and he struck out
19 batters in one game.
Next thing you knew, he had signed with the Red Sox.
Bill Voiselle made his major-league debut with the New York Giants in
He pitched for several minor-league teams in 1942 and 43, coming
up to the big club at the end of the season to pitch in a handful of
Voiselle made six appearances for the Giants in those two years, pitching
In 1944, Voiselle took the National League by storm.
Still a rookie, Voiselle went 21-16, starting 41 games for the Giants
and was the only pitcher with a winning record on a team that went 67-87.
Voiselle pitched in 43 games, starting 41 and pitching 25 complete games.
His 312.667 innings pitched and 167 strikeouts led the National League.
No rookie has matched his complete game- or innings-pitched total since.
Voiselle was named to the 1944 All-Star team and finished fifth in MVP
voting, just a few votes behind Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial.
He was named baseballs Most Valuable Pitcher by The Sporting News.
Voiselle would have been named The Rookie of the Year, but Major League
Baseball did not start that award until 1947. Instead, he earned the
honor from the Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers of America Association,
which started giving out rookie awards in 1940.
Voiselle played for then player-manager Mel Ott and earned the ire of
his boss on one famous occasion in 1945.
The Giants had a rule forbidding pitchers to throw a strike if they
were ahead in an 0-2 count. Voiselle faced such a situation in a game
and intended an 0-2 pitch to be high and inside. But the batter reached
up and smacked the ball for a hit, and the Giants eventually lost the
Ott fined Voiselle $500, 10 times the normal amount. And he was earning
just $3,500 at the time.
Voiselle pitched for two-plus more seasons for the Giants before being
traded to the Boston Braves.
In 1948, Voiselle teamed with Warren Spann and Johnny Sain to form the
top pitching rotation in the majors and led the Braves to the World
Voiselle made two appearances in the 48 Fall Classic against the
Cleveland Indians and was the starting pitcher in Game 6, which the
Indians won 4-3 to win the world title.
Even though he was a major leaguer, Voiselle never forgot his community.
In 1949, he helped put together a benefit exhibition game for Jackie
Spearman, a Ninety Six woman with cancer.
He brought in a bunch of major-league players, and they filled
in the park at Ninety Six, said George Voiselle, Bills nephew.
He was a real caring person to all us kids. Teachers would have
him talk to students, and he never turned anyone down.
Voiselle spent one more season with the Braves, then was traded to the
Chicago Cubs and pitched one final season in the big leagues.
He played minor-league ball for parts of seven more seasons before retiring
In his nine-year major-league career, Voiselle went 74-84 with a 3.83
earned-run average, 74 complete games and 637 strikeouts.
He pitched 502 games in the minors, going 88-107, with a 3.72 ERA.
In 1955, he pitched in 72 games for AAA Richmond, then a minor-league
When Voiselle and his wife, Virginia, moved back to Ninety Six, he didnt
give up on baseball.
He continued to pitch for the Ninety Six team in the Central Carolina
League in-between stints in the minors. He was doing what he had done
as a little boy playing baseball with his brothers.
Greenwoods Ray Riddle, who played with the Clinton Cavaliers in
the 1950s, remembers battling against Voiselle in those Friday night
He had lost his real hard fastball, but he still had a good curveball.
He was always a very good fellow, just wonderful to be around,
Voiselle also had a sense of humor.
Riddle remembers one game Voiselle was pitching where the Clinton first
baseman, Charlie Gaffney, was getting the better of the Ninety Six resident.
Voiselle had given up two hits to Gaffney and when the first baseman
came up for the third time, Voiselle tried a different strategy.
Bill took his glove off and threw his glove up there for (Gaffney)
to hit, and Gaffney hit that over his head, Riddle said. He
was just a lot of fun.
Greenwoods Earl Proctor played with Voiselle for just one season,
One game Voiselle was schedule to pitch, the teams catcher didnt
show up, and Proctor took his place behind the plate although
he didnt stay there long.
I spent more time going back to the backstop than I did at home
plate, Proctor laughed. He could still throw it.
Even after he stopped playing, Voiselle never lost his passion for baseball.
He would often watch Ninety Six games, and later major league games
on television, with family and friends.
Voiselle had the uncanny ability to predict which pitchers would do
well and which would have long nights.
He was smart and he always knew how the game was going to come
out, Summers said. He could tell you just by looking at
a pitcher if he was going to make it or not.
Long after his playing days were over, Voiselle was still influencing
Greenwoods Dean Lollis runs the Web site www.historicbaseball.com,
which contains information on the more than 900 professional baseball
players from South Carolina.
Lollis was at Legion Field when Voiselle was honored a few years ago
and remembers seeing Voiselle smiling from ear-to-ear just before
the ceremony started.
The umpire of the game walked over to shake Mr. Voiselles
hand, said Lollis, who presented Voiselle the Houses proclamation
before the game. The umpire had been scheduled to call another
game that afternoon, but he had switched to be at the Lander game because
Mr. Voiselle was going to be there.
Thats the kind of respect he earned from baseball fans
and from the Ninety Six community.