Introducing… Billy Goodman

Although Billy Goodman never hit for much power, he was one of the best batsmen of his generation.  Billy was a regular in a few seasons in which he didn’t hit a single homerun, but that didn’t worry Goody, because he was a noted slap-hitter who was a threat to hit .300 every season.  He was only able to win one batting title over the course of his career but had five Top Ten finishes in batting average.  His title came in 1950 when he was essentially a man without a position.  That year he settled in left field after Ted Williams broke his wing in the All-Star Game.

Billy was an instant sensation in the minors with the Atlanta Crackers but put his baseball career on hold in 1945 when he was summoned for the war effort.  Goodman came of age for military service at the end of the war and thus missed just one full season to the military.  After his discharge he picked up where he left off and impressed the Red Sox who bought his contract.  He joined Boston for a twelve-game trial in 1947 before getting regular duty in ’48.  Goodman never was a stellar defender and spent most of his career playing where ever needed.  Boston needed a first baseman in 1948 and Billy filled in there.  As a freshman, Billy hit .310 and finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. 

Still employed as a first baseman in 1949, Billy made his first All-Star Team.  However, first base was seen as a power position even then and Billy, in two Major League seasons, had hit just one homerun.  The Red Sox wanted more power from the position so they called up slugger Walt Dropo and made Billy a Jack-of-all-Trades.  He flourished in the role, capturing the American League batting crown with a lusty .354 batting average.  Billy, who must have been born a proficient hitter, posted an amazing .427 on-base percentage that year and fanned just 25 times.  Over the course of his career, Goodman owned terrific plate discipline–he walked twice as much as he struck out.

When Ted Williams was injured in the All-Star Game, Goodman took over in left field but when The Splendid Splinter was healthy in 1951, Billy returned to his nomadic ways.  He played in 62 games at first (Dropo had a huge drop-off from his monster rookie season), 44 at second and 36 in the pasture.  When the great Bobby Doerr was forced to hang up his spikes after a back injury, Billy settled in at second base.  In 1952, Goodman was the Red Sox regular second baseman and he hit .306 with a .380 on-base percentage.  Named to another All-Star Team in 1953, Goodman hit .313 (3rd in the AL) and tallied 33 doubles. 

Billy posted his third straight .300 season in 1954 before enjoying one of his best seasons in 1955.  That year he scored 100 runs (6th in the AL) and set his career high in base hits. His batting average fell to .293 in 1956 and his walks drawn total went from 99 in 1955 to just 40 in ’56.  After a slow start in 1957 Boston dealt their little slap-hitter to the Orioles for fireman Mike Fornieles.  He became a third baseman at the end of his career as the White Sox picked him up after the ’57 season and used him at the hot corner in 1958 (his last good season–he hit .299) and 1959.  By the 1960s Billy was used as a bat-off-the-bench for the Pale Hose.  He spent his last year with the expansion Houston Colt 45s.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,623/R 807/H 1,691/2B 299/3B 44/HR 19/RBI 591/SB 37/BB 669/SO 329/BA .300/OBP .376/SA .378

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