Thursday, April 23, 2009

#15 Bill Campbell

Who was this player?
Bill Campbell, relief pitcher, Boston Red Sox
In 1980, Campbell was trying to regain his status as the top fireman (the term at the time) of the Boston Red Sox.

"Soup" was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball in the mid-1970s, first claiming the job as Twins closer in just his second season (1974). Two seasons later, he would establish an American League record for most wins in relief (17) and log an incredible 167+ innings - unthinkable by today's standards for the guy who was seen as the bullpen ace. He was named the Rolaids "Fireman of the Year" for 1976.

For his efforts, Campbell was seeking an $8000 raise, which was refused by Twins owner Calvin Griffith. With free agency changing the landscape of baseball at precisely the same moment, Campbell instead became the first free agent ever to sign with a new team. He became a member of the Boston Red Sox, signing a four-year contract at one million dollars.

Campbell repeated his status as Fireman of the Year in 1977, the same year fellow reliever Sparky Lyle won the Cy Young. He was an All Star that season and saved a career hig 31 games, also tops in the American League.

The 1978 season began poorly for Campbell, and it was later determined that he was suffering from an elbow injury. A subsequent shoulder injury similarly reduced his performance. He never regained his status as a premier closer.

He played 15 seasons in the major leagues for 7 teams (Minnesota, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Detroit and Montreal), ending his career in 1987.

Why I love this card
I know that I professed my love for the powder blue road unis earlier in this blog, but there is something to be said about the simplicity of the Red Sox road uniform. Campbell's uniform and the flag right below it completes the entire name of the team boldly on the front of the card.

Something else....
While Campbell's excessive workload eventually showed managers how not to use their bullpen ace, Campbell did establish himself as a fine relief pitcher after he left Boston. In many ways, he was one of the pitchers resposible for establishing the role of setup man in the 1980s, first for Lee Smith in Chicago and later for Todd Worrell in St. Louis. He led the NL in appearance with the Cubs in 1983 and helped the Cardinals win the National League pennant in 1985.

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