September 9, 2013
Former Astro catcher Bill Heath
was a solid line drive hitter on Monday, September
9, as the main speaker at the monthly meeting
of the SABR Houston/Larry Dierker Chapter inside
the always beautiful Inn at the Ballpark, catty-cornered
across the street from Minute Maid Park
on the SW corner of Texas at Crawford.
Mixing a crisp brand of his own
talent for expressing clarity, self-deprecation,
humility, wisdom, and the point-of-view that
only comes full-blown to those who make it in
the big leagues on a marginal very limited playing
time basis, Heath gave us a great thumbnail
on how important it is to maintain a winning
attitude if one hopes to stick for any time
in the big leagues.
74-year old catcher Bill Heath
(58", 175 lb.) (BL/TR) (DOB: 03/09/39)
had a 4-year MLB career (1965-67, 1969) as bench
guy with the White Sox, Astros, Tigers, and
Cubs. He hit .236 for his 227 times at bat,
garnering only 7 extra base hits (six doubles
and one triple.)
Heath says he was proud of his
stolen base record of having never been caught
stealing as a baserunner. He stole one base
successfully and never tried again.
Heath blames the Astros for ruining
his MLB chances by destroying his confidence.
After one unsuccessful time at bat for the 1965
White Sox, Heath was traded to the Astros that
winter and promptly followed up by hitting .301
in 55 games for the 1966 Astros, and getting
hits of some of the greats of the game
greats like Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson. It
didnt matter who I faced that year,
Heath says, my belief in my ability to
hit was unshakeable.
That changed in 1967. Heath says
he came to camp that year, expecting to play
more, based on his previous good year, but instead,
he found himself riding the pines and coming
up only rarely as a pinch hitter. I started
putting pressure on myself. but that just made
it worse. I just lost confidence in my ability
to hit and never got it back. By the time the
Astros traded me to Detroit that same 67
season, my bad confidence just came in the bag
with me. By 1968, I was back in the minors,
missing out on the Tigers World Series
title run in 1968.
The Cubs signed Heath for 1969
and the little catcher got to be a member of
the great Cubs team that just ran out of gas
in September 1969 to make way for the Miracle
Mets. Heath blames Durocher for the Cubs'
swoon. Leo just wore the starters out.
By September, they were gasping for air, but
Durocher wouldnt rest anyone. As a result,
I got to miss out on another World Series opportunity.
I was about done after 1969,
Heath says. I played another year in the
minors with Tacoma in 1970, but that was my
swan song in organized baseball. I was offered
a coaching job in the minors with Cubs, but
I had no interest in doing any more of those
long bus rides in the country. I was ready to
go home and build on my new career in accounting.
By 1970, the USC graduate Heath
was working on completing a correspondence course
in accounting through the University of Chicago.
By 1972 he had become a CPA and had established
his new practice in his new hometown of Houston.
And, he says, he and the business are still
Bill Heath nodded a personal hello
to the man who had been the Astros' travel secretary
during his brief stay with the Astros. SABR
member Tal Smith was in the audience for Heaths
Other speakers last night included
Chris Chestnut, who presented a new sabermetric
formula for evaluating the relative value of
pinch hitters. You will have to attend the next
article or lecture that Chestnut plans to do
to get the lowdown on this subject.
Mike Vance stressed the importance
of everyone getting out the vote on November
5 in favor of Referendum Proposition #2. According
to Vance, the outcome of this referendum vote
will determine the final fate of the Astrodome.
For time-critcal news and endorsements, please
check out the following website for further
Joe Thompson provided a brief
survey of his masters thesis work on Marvin
Miller, the attorney whose strategies brought
the MLB Players Union into position for becoming
the powerful force it is today.
Chapter leader Bob Dorrill reported
on SABR 43 in Philadelphia; gave a brief positive
report on our almost completed Early Houston
Baseball book; and, he began the general outline
of things we need to be considering now in our
plans for SABR 44 in Houston next summer.
And finally, Herb Whalley administered
the monthly baseball trivia quiz.
A good time was had by all.