Happy Birthday, Bill Campbell

Bill CampbellHappy Birthday to Bill Campbell, who for some of his fifteen years in the major leagues was one of the game’s dominant relief pitchers.   I remember he was the first closer to test the free agent market after the 1976 season and Bill had a huge role in determining how owners would value relief pitchers moving forward.  His stats the previous season in Minnesota were mind-boggling: he went 17-5 as a relief pitcher, plus 20 saves.  He pitched 167 innings, had an ERA of 3.08 with 115 strikeouts.  And by the way, in 1975 he was 4-5 with five 5 saves in 121 innings, so it is fair to say that Bill peaked at exactly the right moment in his career.  Free agency was in its infancy at that point, and Bill was with a small market team.  He signed a four-year deal with the Red Sox worth $1 million.  Now I understand that in today’s baseball economy, that’s less than the major league minimum salary, but back then, it was huge money.  Huge money.  And the Red Sox gave him the same amount of money they had offered Charlie Finley to buy Rollie Fingers’ contract just a few months earlier – the one Bowie Kuhn cancelled.  I once heard someone say that a year earlier, Bill was making $20,000 and asked Calvin Griffin for $30,000 and got turned down.  So I remember Bill not just for what he accomplished on the field, but for the precedent he set in contact negotiations.

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