Tuesday, March 08, 2011

#186 Billy Cowan

#186 Billy Cowan
Billy Cowan looks perplexed, like maybe he's troubled by the fact that his pinstripes don't match up at the shoulder seam.

Fun facts about Billy Cowan:

-A native of Calhoun City, MS, Billy briefly attended the University of Utah before signing with the Cubs in 1961.

-A year after totaling 35 homers, 122 RBI, and 27 steals and putting up a .307/.351/.612 line between Class B Wenatchee and AA San Antonio, he earned the 1963 Pacific Coast League MVP award with a .315 average, 40 doubles, 25 home runs, 120 RBI, and 31 steals at Salt Lake City.

-Cowan debuted with Chicago on September 9, 1963, delivering a pinch single against Curt Simmons in his first at-bat.

-The Cubs made him their starting center fielder in 1964. He flashed his power with 19 home runs and drove in 50, and led the club with a dozen steals. However, the rookie’s plate discipline was lacking; he walked 18 times and struck out 128 and batted .241 with a .268 on-base percentage.

-Billy was traded twice in 1965: a January swap sent him to the Mets for George Altman, and in August New York dealt him to the Braves. His performance was dismal: .180/.202/.301 with 3 homers and 9 RBI in 189 plate appearances. He was still swinging at everything, as evidenced by totals of 4 walks and 54 strikeouts.

-He spent the entirety of both the 1966 and 1968 seasons in the minors, as well as a portion of 1967. In between, he continued to scuffle in a 34-game stint with the Phillies.

-Cowan finally found his role as a part-timer with the Angels in 1969. After beginning the season with a disastrous tenure for the Yankees, he was sold to the Halos and batted .304 (17-for-56) with 4 home runs, 10 RBI, and 10 runs scored.

-His 12th-inning home run against Wilbur Wood on September 6, 1969 gave California a 2-1 walkoff win against the White Sox.

-Billy remained productive in 1970-1971, batting .276 in each season while getting most of his at-bats against left-handed pitchers (he was a righty).

-After appearing in three games, he was released by the Angels in May 1972, bringing his career to a close. In parts of eight seasons he hit .236 with 40 home runs and 125 RBI.
#186 Billy Cowan (back)


  1. I think he looks perplexed because he is envisioning the Cubs going over a century without winning a WS--it was less than half a century at the time of the card. He seems to be thinking "how can any team be this bad for this long?" Or perhaps he was flummoxed by the Cubs' rotatating College of Coaches arrangement at the time--who is my manager?

  2. Cowan was called up to Philly in late June 1967 (into Dick Groat's roster spot, after he was sold to the Giants) where he functioned mainly as a right-handed pinch hitter for the remainder of the season.

    Strange that he wasn't given a shot in '68, as the Phillies went with only 5 outfielders that season (Callison, Gonzalez, Briggs, Lock, and Clemens).

  3. The look is the realization that he gave his mistress his home phone number...

  4. Marc - Coming up later in the set is Bob Kennedy's "Head Coach" card. How did Topps decide that he should have that honor?

    Jim - Thanks for the added detail!

    Anon - Whoops!

  5. Well, at least there weren't cell phones in those days to trip people up.

  6. Maybe Kennedy had more wins in the previous season than the other guys.

  7. Jim - Baseball-reference credits Kennedy as the manager, so I suspect you're right.