Bill Gullickson

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1988 Donruss #586 Bill Gullickson

William Lee Gullickson

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Biographical Information[edit]

Bill Gullickson was an excellent pitcher who won in double figures for four major league teams.

Drafted second overall after Harold Baines in the first round of the 1977 amateur draft, he broke in with the West Palm Beach Expos and went 3-3 with a 4.02 ERA that year. In 1978, he was much better with West Palm Beach. That season, Gullickson was 9-9 but had a 1.82 ERA, third-best in the Florida State League. He threw 12 complete games and struck out 127 batters in 148 innings and made the FSL All-Star team. He finished the year by going 1-4 with a 3.06 ERA for the Memphis Chicks.

In 1979, Bill went 10-3 with a 3.65 ERA for Memphis. With the AAA Denver Bears, he got rocked for a 6.67 ERA, though he went 3-3. Gullickson gave up 10 homers and 92 baserunners in 54 innings for Denver. He pitched one inning in relief in the majors that September, at age 20, thanks to a late call-up.

In 1980, Gullickson learned in spring training that he was suffering from diabetes. This could have ended his career on the spot, but he learned to control the condition with regular injections and to continue to perform at a top level. The beginning of the season had Gullickson go 6-2 with a 1.91 ERA for Denver, one of the greatest minor league clubs ever that year. In 66 innings, he cut his baserunner allowed total to 77 and his homers surrendered to 3. He would make a couple more minor league appearances in 1993 - overall, Gullickson was 34-24 in the minor leagues. He was called up to the Expos on May 29th and was immediately inserted in the starting rotation. He pitched extremely well after losing his first two decisions, going 10-5 with a 3.00 ERA and 2 shutouts as the Expos were involved in a tight pennant race with the Philadelphia Phillies. On September 10th, he struck out 18 Chicago Cubs batters in a game, establishing a major league rookie record that would stand until beaten by Kerry Wood in 1998. In spite of that record, he was not a big strikeout artist, with his best being 155 in 1982. He had, however, excellent control, leading the National League with only 1.47 walks per 9 innings in 1984. He finsihed second to Steve Howe in the 1980 National League Rookie of the Year Award vote.

In 1981, Gullickson pitched well, but his record was a disappointing 7-9 in spite of a great 2.80 ERA in 22 starts. He was the team's top pitcher behind Steve Rogers, and won Game 2 of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies. He then started and lost Games 1 and 4 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, in spite of giving up only 5 runs in 14 innings. He settled in as a mainstay of the Expos' starting rotation over the next few years. He went 12-14, 3.57, in 1982, then in 1983 he won 17 games, tying Rogers for the team lead. When Rogers began to fade in 1984, Gullickson was expected to emerge as his successor, but Charlie Lea was the ace that year, with Bill going 12-9, then in 1985, with Lea also injured, Gullickson was 14-12, 3.52. With some big paydays coming up, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds after the season, along with catcher Sal Butera, in return for Jay Tibbs, Andy McGaffigan, John Stuper and Dann Bilardello­.

He spent a year and two-thirds in Cincinnati, winning 15 games in 1986 under manager Pete Rose. He finished the 1987 season going 4-2 for the New York Yankees.

In 1988, a victim of collusion as a free agent, he signed with the Yomiuri Giants and had a 14-9, 3.10 season and led the Central League with 14 complete games and finishing 8th in the CL in ERA. His next year with the Giants, in 1989, was worse at 8-5, 3.65. He was 21-14 with a 3.29 ERA in two Nippon Pro Baseball seasons. He returned to Major League Baseball after that.

After a so-so year playing for the Houston Astros in 1990, he finished out his career playing four years with the Detroit Tigers. His best year was 1991, when he won 20 games. These were the Tigers of Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton, Alan Trammell, and Lou Whitaker, so he had plenty of offensive support. In fact, he was a fairly mediocre pitcher by that point, but he finally put up the big win numbers that had been expected from him since his debut in the majors a decade earlier.

The most similar player, by the similarity scores method, is his Expos teammate Scott Sanderson.

Lifetime, he won 162 games in the major leagues with a .544 winning percentage. He never appeared in a World Series.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL Wins Leader (1991)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (1983, 1986 & 1991)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 1 (1991)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 7 (1982-84, 1986-87, 1991-92)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Gregory H. Wolf: "Expos Rookie Gullickson Whiffs 18; September 10, 1980: Montreal Expos 4, Chicago Cubs 0 At Olympic Stadium", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 55-57. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6

Related Sites[edit]