Oh, What a Relief: Billy McCool
Billy McCool was a left-handed reliever who threw the ball hard and sometimes over the plate. The husky southpaw was at times impossible to hit … if you swung.
McCool was signed by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school in 1963. Dominating in his only season in the minors, he was 5-13 in A ball despite a 2.01 ERA. When promoted to AAA ball, he was 4-0 in four starts with a 1.04 ERA. He struck out 179 batters in 174 innings.
That was enough to bring him to spring training for 1964, and the 19-year-old McCool made the Reds’ roster as a relief pitcher. In his rookie season, he was 6-5 with a 2.42 ERA. In 40 appearances, he finished 21 games with seven saves. He struck out 87 batters in 89.1 innings.
McCool was even more dominating in his second season. He appeared in 62 games in 1965, going 9-10 with a 4.27 ERA and 21 saves. He struck out 120 batters in 105.1 innings. He had another strong year in 1966, going 8-8 with a 2.48 ERA and 18 saves (tied with Roy Face behind Phil Regan’s 21 saves). McCool struck out 104 batters in 105.1 innings.
Then National League batters started catching on and stopped swinging at unhittable fastballs outside the strike zone. McCool was 3-7 in 1967 with only two saves on a 3.42 ERA. However, he averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings in 1967 compared to 3.5 in his first three seasons. That average would climb to 7.3 in 1968, when he went 3-4 with a 4.97 ERA.
Following the 1968 season, McCool was selected by the San Diego Padres in the National League expansion draft. He pitched one season for San Diego, going 3-5 with a 4.30 ERA and seven saves, and then was acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals, going 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in 1970. He finished the 1970 season in the minors, and never made it back to the big leagues.
McCool’s seven-season career produced a 32-42 record with 58 saves and a 3.59 earned run average.