All American League relief pitchers -- except those on the Yankees -- rode
into games at Metropolitan Stadium in a convertible owned by groundskeeper Dick
Erickson in 1965.
Bill Pleis was considered to be one of the calmest during the ride.
He had a reputation for being an iceman, but rather than call him that, at
5-foot-10 he was nicknamed "Shorty." This was despite the fact he was
a lefty and the Twins had no one nicknamed "Lefty." On top of that,
star starter Camilo Pascual stood only
an inch taller.
Pleis was one of those pitchers that many folks think didn't exist back in
the 1960s. When bygone eras are recalled, the chat is always about nine-inning
starters and closers who pitched three or four innings. There were no
left-handed specialists who came in to pitch to a couple batters, you will be
The sinker-balling Pleis was pretty close.
He appeared in 190 games and threw only 280 innings, despite being given 10
career starts -- although he didn't exactly pile up the innings there, either.
Pleis had one career complete game. He lasted just under 33 innings in his
other nine starts -- or less than four innings each.
Won more than he lost
He was pitching for Twins' ballclubs that could hit, which helps to account
for his 21-16 career record. A player tossing 50-some innings a year with a
4-plus ERA back then could be considered fortunate to end his career with a
record over .500.
In Pleis' defense -- or the defense of anyone in his situation -- the
expectation in his era was to get the ball, and in fact Pleis did mention it
was difficult to pitch so little and do well. He threw 192 innings in his first
year of pro ball in Orlando, but that was the most he ever threw in a single
Pleis was the winning pitcher in the first game the Twins won at
Metropolitan Stadium. He relieved starter Pedro Ramos to start the
ninth, and the Twins won when Zoilo
Versalles' sacrifice fly scored Earl Battey in a 5-4 win over the
Pleis can also claim to have been on the field for the 1964 All-Star Game at
Shea Stadium. He was chosen to be the American League's batting practice
pitcher, back when that kind of thing was done.