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The Top 100 Cubs Of All Time - #81 Bill Hands

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This is Bill Hands' 1970 card which shows clearly the 1969 MLB 100th Anniversary patch all players wore that year. The uniform is obviously the road uniform, but I can't quite tell where the photo was taken. And, it appears to be another one of those "fake pitching motion" shots that were so popular with the Topps photographers from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Profile by BCB reader goody14

The 1969 Cubs are known for many things - some of them not so positive. This team contained three Hall of Famers in Banks, Jenkins and Williams and another player should be in the Hall with Santo. The team also had two 20 game winners. The obvious first one would be the aforementioned Jenkins, but the other one that would win a bar bet anywhere except Clark and Addison is Bill Hands, nicknamed "Froggy" for reasons lost to time.

Bill was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, on May 6, 1940 and signed with the San Francisco Giants out of high school. It took him six years to make it to the major leagues in 1965, and after pitching only 6 innings for the Giants that year, he was traded along with Randy Hundley to the Cubs during the offseason, in exchange for Lindy McDaniel and Don Landrum, one of the better deals that GM John Holland made in that era. He pitched both as a starter and reliever in 1966 and 1967 putting up around 150 innings pitched in each season.

In 1968 things started to click for Bill. He became almost exclusively a starter and put up a 16-10 record and jumped his innings pitched from 150 to 258 2/3. He made another jump in 1969 pitching 300 innings. He wound up going 20-14 and was in top ten in ERA, wins, WHIP, BB/9, innings, and complete games.

While in his prime Hands had impeccable control. In 1968 he walked only 36 men in his 258 2/3 innings. He did give up the most home runs in the league during this season, but with no one on base he still managed to pitch a below league average ERA. Jenkins also tended to give up lots of long balls but not many runs due to the lack of walks - maybe the Cubs should give modern day pitchers this important lesson.

Hands was an atrocious batter even for a pitcher. During his career he hit .078 and "slugged" .091. Only 6 of his career 37 hits went for extra bases - all doubles. During one stretch in 1968 he whiffed in 14 straight official at bats setting a major league record. In 1972, the last season he came to the plate before being traded to the DH league, he had one hit in 57 at-bats (.018), and struck out thirty times.

While the microscopic attention paid to pitchers and pitch counts is a fairly new phenomenon, the effects of over use are evident even in older ballplayers - no matter how many Bob Gibson stories Tim McCarver tells each October. Bill Hands is a great case study for pitcher burnout. In his 4th season his innings pitched jumped by over 100. Starting with that season the next four seasons he racked up 258 2/3, 300, 265 and 242 innings - the last of those seasons was the only under .500. He was 31 after the fourth season in this stretch.

His innings and effectiveness fell in each of the next four seasons; he was, among the famed members of the 1969 team, the first to be dealt, traded to the Twins for Dave LaRoche after the 1972 season, but not before turning in the best game of his career that last Cub season, a one-hit shutout of the Expos in Montreal on August 3. Hands threw six perfect innings before issuing a walk and giving up a single with one out in the seventh.

He spent three mediocre seasons with the Twins and Rangers and after the 1975 season, he was out of baseball at 35. The website baseballlibrary.com states his downfall was brought about by "back ailments and muscle spasms in his pitching arm". Diagnosing pitcher misuse from anecdotal and observational data is a slippery slope, but no one can argue that Hands had a short peak probably due to an exaggerated ramp up in usage. No matter how his career ended, his best season will always be remembered as coinciding with one of the Cubs' best in the mid 20th century.

After retirement Hands moved to the small community of Orient on eastern Long Island and started an oil business, which also has a retail gas station, and you can find him there most days even today. Earlier this year the website baseballsavvy.com located him there and he professed to still being a Cubs fan:

"I root for the Cubs, but they're hard to root for," he says. "First of all you don't get to see them that often [on television in Orient], and they never win. I mean, I'm a Cubs fan. I follow them, but I'm just a baseball fan in general. I like to watch a good ball game."

When asked if he thinks the Cubs will ever win another World Series, Hands replies: "They're due. I mean, the Red Sox won one, the White Sox won one; why not the Cubs?"

Bill Hands' career stats at baseball-reference.com