Thursday, November 3, 2011

#31 Bill Gullickson

Card: This is Bill Gullickson's third Topps card with his rookie card included in the '81 set.

Picture: Nice shot of Gullickson in his wind up.  The background is just a mess of green.  Is that Tom Hanks or Gullickson in the inset?

Player: Bill Gullickson was the second overall pick of the Montreal Expos in the '77 draft sandwiched between Harold Baines and Paul Molitor.  Starting at Single-A in '77 Gullickson moved up a level each year but struggled when he reached the thin air of AAA Denver in '79 but got a one inning cameo for the Expos in September.  After recording a 6.67 ERA in Denver in '79 Gullickson adjusted and posted a 1.91 ERA in nine starts and was called up for good in late May 1980.

Gullickson impressed in his rookie year with a 10-5 record and a 3.00 ERA.  Although not known as a strikeout pitcher, Gullickson K'd 18 Cubs on Sept. 10, a rookie record until Kerry Wood struck out 20 in '98.  Gullickson finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting to Steve Howe.  

Gullickson's sophomore season was stellar as he turned in a 2.80 ERA.  Despite having a potent offense, the Expos scored three or less runs in 12 of his 22 starts leading Gullickson to a 7-9 record.  The Expos won the NL East and Gullickson won game two of the NLDS against the Phillies, as the Expos advanced.  Gullickson pitched well in the NLCS giving up just two earned runs in both starts but the Expos were stymied by the Dodgers both times as Montreal bowed out in five games.

Gullickson settled in as a solid but not spectacular pitcher for the Expos.  Winning 41 games over the next three years the consistent Gullickson worked between 226 and 242 innings with ERA's between 3.57 - 3.75.  1985 was more of the same but an injury led him to miss several starts but Gullickson still won 14 games with a 3.52 ERA.

Gullickson was traded prior to the '86 season in a six player deal to the Cincinnati Reds.  The right handed Gullickson turned in a very good season for his new team winning 15 games and lowering his ERA to 3.38 while making a career high 37 starts.  Gullickson struggled in '87 and was traded to the New York Yankees in August for Dennis Rasmussen.  Gullickson's struggles followed him to New York as he finished with a combined 4.86 ERA. 

Looking for a change of scenery, Gullickson signed with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Nippon Pro Baseball league. Over the '88 and '89 seasons Gullickson went 22-14 with a 3.29 ERA for the Giants. 

Gullickson returned stateside in 1990 signing with the Houston Astros.  The portly Gullickson went 10-14 and started 32 games.  Although his 3.82 ERA was near league average the Astros released him anyway.

The Detroit Tigers badly needed pitching, so they signed the veteran to a two year $3.75 million deal.  Although not a dominant pitcher Gullickson won 20 games for the offensive minded Tigers despite a 3.90 ERA and striking out only 91 in 221 innings.  Gullickson's fellow pitchers weren't as successful as the Tigers finished seven games back of the Blue Jays.

Gullickson's ERA jumped up to 4.34 and his record dropped to 14-13 as he gave up a league leading 35 gopher balls in '92.  Gullickson labored over the next two years.  Unable to put hitters away, Gullickson saw his ERA soar to 5.37 in '93 and 5.93 in '94. 
Gullickson retired with a 162-136 career record and a 3.93 ERA.

Stuff: Early career- fastball low 90's, late career- 85-89 mph, sinker, and curve ball.

Flipside:  If you look at Gullickson's 3.57 ERA and his 12-14 record and think that he wasn't well supported, you are right.  It was all or nothing when Gullickson pitched with the Expos scoring 2 or less runs in 12 of his starts.  But they did score 11 runs three different times for him and twelve runs once.

Oddball:  I wasn't sure where to write this but it needed to be included here somewhere that Gullickson learned early in his career that he has type-1 Diabetes.  While in Japan, the media and fans there were more appreciative of Gullickson and his condition.  He was such an inspiration that the Japan Diabetes Mellitus Society now presents an annual "Gullickson Award" to recognize those people with diabetes who have made great contributions to society. (
Current major-leaguer and fellow diabetic Sam Fuld was inspired by Bill Gullickson after the two met when Fuld was 12 years old. 

History:  Gullickson was a workhorse who ate over 220 innings for his team six times in his career with ERA's near league average.  He held a rookie strikeout record for 17 years and was the Tigers last 20 game winner until Justin Verlander won 24 in 2011.  Gullickson only had one taste of the postseason and was never an all-star but was a valuable pitcher wherever he pitched.
Gullickson and his wife have six athletic children, among them a daughter who ran track at Notre Dame, two daughters on the pro tennis tour, and a son who pitches at the University of Georgia.

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