Back when I was a wee child I wished I had some sort of crazy connection to an MLB player. Was I the forgotten third cousin of Cal Ripken Jr? Mike Mussina’s son’s best friend?
In real life this wasn’t quite the case. But I do have one kinda cool almost-connection with a former Major Leaguer, Bill Miller.
My dad is a doctor and one of his co-workers asked my dad if he would like to go fishing with this guy named Bill Miller. Turns out Bill's wife was terrified that Bill would have a heart attack all alone in the boat and liked the idea of having a doctor with him. My dad, who always enjoyed fishing, decided to go for it and got to know Bill. Bill (who has since passed) wasn’t too exciting of a guy, just your average old man. Except that he played in the Majors. Bill’s career was far from extraordinary. He pitched 131.2 innings in 41 games over stretches of four seasons. He had a 1.633 WHIP and a -1.1 WAR. He was a ‘player to be named’ in the trade that took Don Larsen from the O’s to the Yankees. But he played. I remember as a kid my dad telling me about Bill and that he won a world series with the Yankees. Now I of course hate the Yankees, as any good American citizen would do, but even I thought this was cool. While he didn’t play in the WS, he did get a ring. He actually ended up his career as an Oriole, playing 5 games in 1955. He did his best Pedro Strop impression by walking 10 in 4 innings and that was it.
I consider myself lucky to currently have an autographed ball that Bill Miller passed along to me along with the signatures of some other former big leaguers such as Mickey Vernon. Bill may not have been a star, in fact he was far from it. But I still have that autographed ball sitting on my TV stand, and ever since I was a kid I will randomly try to find out more about him. To me Bill Miller was a hero. And that’s pretty cool.