Sep 29, 2012

Mid Sixties Mets Pitcher: Bill Hepler (1966)

William Lewis Helper was born September 25, 1945 in Covington, Virginia. Helper was a six foot lefty originally signed by the Washington Senators in 1960. He was a promising young pitcher whose career was cut short due to arm troubles. He was 11-0 averaging 19 strikeouts a game in American Legion ball, then was a New York Penn League All Star leading the league in wins & strikeouts. He was scooped up by the New York Mets at the 1965 Winter Meetings and immediately made the team at the young age of 20.

Hepler debuted on April 23rd 1966 against the Braves in Atlanta where he gave up two walks & a hit in one inning pitched. He made twelve other relief appearances in May & June before he got his first MLB win two months later. The win came against the Braves in Atlanta when Ted Abernathy botched a pick off attempt allowing Billy Murphy to score the tying run. Then Ken Boyer’s sac fly drove in what was the winning run. The Mets Jack Hamilton saved it for Hepler as he earned the win.

Overall he appeared in 37 games for the ’66 Mets, mostly in relief, starting three games. His longest & best outing came in a start in July at Shea Stadium vs. the Houston Astros, although he got no decision. Hepler went seven innings, allowing only one run on four hits, walking five. On the season Helper made 37 appearances going 3-3 with a 3.52 ERA, 25 strike outs, 51 walks in 69 innings pitched.

The next season he was in the minors pitching at both the A & AA levels. He won two games in the Carolina Championship Series for the Durham Bulls that season as they won the title. He went 4-4 for the Bulls during their regular season with a 4.25 ERA. Hepler was 9-6 at AA Memphis in 1968, tied for second on the team with Jerry Hinsley behind Rich Folkers (13 wins).

Arm trouble set him back and after the 1969 season he was traded to the Kansas City Royals. He was forced to retired, never recovering to top form or making the majors again.

1 comment:

Cliff said...

Good bio. He's a pretty obscure figure, but seemed to have some genuine talent. What I like about Bill is his card - the ears, the hat. Too much!

I've got him on one of my blog posts for guys with funny hats:

http://reallybadbaseballcards.blogspot.com/2013/01/haberdashery-horrors-of-1960s.html

Enjoy!