Madlock won four batting titles in his career – one fewer than Wade Boggs and one more than George Brett (position peers) – but failed to achieve 3,000 hits like the two Hall of Famers. Mad Dog was a hard-hitting hot corner custodian who finished in the Top Five in batting average seven times.
Originally drafted by the Washington Senators, Madlock made his debut in 1973 after the Senators relocated to Texas and became the Rangers. In just 21 games, Mad Dog hit a robust .351 but was the center piece in a deal that landed the Rangers Hall of fame hurler Fergie Jenkins. As a rookie with the 1974 Cubs, Mad Dog was the NL’s only .300 hitting third baseman and he finished behind Bake McBride and Greg Gross in Rookie of the Year voting.
Madlock took his game up a notch as a sophomore, winning the NL batting title with a lofty .354 average. Named to the All-Star team, Mad Dog had a fine .402 on-base percentage while walking more than he struck out. He followed up his great ’75 season by winning another batting title in 1976, leading the league with a .339 average. Throughout Mad Dog’s career, he showed a fine eye at the plate, evidenced by walking twice as much as he fanned in ’76.
Despite winning back-to-back batting titles, the Cubs parted with Mad Dog after the ’76 season when he was used to obtain center fielder Bobby Murcer from the Giants. His batting average fell to a more human .302 in ’77 and the Giants switched him to second base in 1978 to accommodate walk-machine Darrell Evans. At his new position, Mad Dog led his position peers in batting average as well as slugging.
After a slow start in ’79 the Giants dealt Bill to Pittsburgh for pitchers Al Holland and Eddie Whitson. The trade worked well for Pittsburgh. Mad Dog plugged the hole at third base and led the Pirates to a World Series. He hit .375 against Baltimore in the World Series, bringing a title to Pittsburgh as a member of the “We Are Family” Buccos.
Mad Dog’s 1980 was modest at best but he returned to his timely hitting in 1981 when he won his third career batting title. In the strike shortened season, Bill hit .341 while also leading his position peers in stolen bases. Although his nickname was that of the canine persuasion, he shared plenty attributes with the symbol of our country: the eagle. Mad Dog used his eagle eye to post twice as many walks as strikeouts.
1982 was a good power year for Mad Dog. He had his highwater mark in homeruns and RBI while slugging a healthy .488. The next season, Madlock won his fourth batting title and made another All-Star team. An injury limited his playing time in 1984 and late in the ’85 season he was traded to Los Angeles for Sid Bream and R.J. Reynolds. Down the stretch for the Dodgers, Madlock’s bat came back to life and he hit .360 in sunny LA, helping the Dodgers to an NL West pennant. In the NLCS, Mad Dog hit Cardinal pitching at a .333 clip with three long balls but the Redbirds prevailed thanks to clutch hitting and the implosion of Tom Niedenfeuer.
Mad Dog hit .280 for the Dodgers in 1986, but convinced that Jeff Hamilton was a coming star, Madlock was released and thus picked up by the Tigers early in the 1987 season. Bill saw his last Major League action in the ALCS with Detroit that year.
G 1,806/R 920/H 2,008/2B 348/HR 163/RBI 860/BB 605/SO 510/SB 174/BA .305/SA .442