Hamilton, Billy (1987)
Bob Uecker, who turns out hit after hit in baseball commercials, couldn’t buy one while Billy Hamilton’s catcher (or anyone else’s), but the former Westbrook High athlete prized Uecker’s appearance behind the plate.
was a great catcher, with good baseball sense,’’ said Hamilton, who will be among 12 entering the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday evening, October 25 at South Portland’s Hall, Peary Terrace.
Uecker handled Hamilton’s southpaw slants in 1959 at Jacksonville, Fla, of the Sally League, Former Boston Braves infielder Sibby Sisti was the manager.
‘“Bob’s exactly the way he comes across on television,’’ added Hamilton, ‘‘outgoing, talkative, a fun guy.’’
Uecker must have his serious side. He’s shrewdly exploited is minuscule batting average in the manner of Joe Garagiola. In poking fun at their futility, they’ve earned big bucks.
Making it to the big leagues was tough in those days.
After five years, four children and maintaining two homes, Hamilton gave up his dream. He returned to Westbrook, and has been employed at S.D. Warren 27 years in the Specialty Department.
Ironically, league expansion came soon after Billy decided to turn his back on baseball.
“‘I have few regrets, though,’’ said Hamilton. ‘‘*The experience was nice, the memories great, and I enjoyed most of the five seasons.’”’
Highlight of Hamilton’s minor league career as a Milwaukee Braves farmhand was the 1958 season. He hurled for Cedar Rapids, Iowa of the Three Eye League.
‘“The league was listed as Class B, but I’d rank it as good as Triple A ball now.’’ Hamilton posted a 14-5 record as Cedar Rapids captured half of a split season, then won the playoff. Hamilton twice defeated Gray Peters, later to star with the Chicago White Sox as both a pitcher and pinch hitter.
Other talent in that league included recent Hall of Famer Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs; powerful Frank Howard, then with Green Bay, Wisc., managed by Pistol Pete Reiser; pitcher Tony Cloninger, whose major league career featured two grand slam homers, and first baseman Don Miuncher.
Upon graduation, Hamilton was signed by the Braves and sent to McCook, Nev. It was the first year of the Rookie League. His manager was Bill Steinecke. The former House of David team member regaled players with his stories of barnstorming with the famed bearded club.
A stint with Eau Claire, Wisc., of the Northern League preceded Hamilton’s shuttle to Cedar Rapids.
His roommate was Bobby Knopp, later to become a valued second baseman with the original California Angels. He’s still with Gene Autry’s club as first base coach. Hamilton visited him a couple of times.