February 21, 1943 |
|April 11, 1968, for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 20, 1980, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Earned run average||3.83|
|Career highlights and awards|
John Eugene (Jack) Billingham (born February 21, 1943) is a former starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1968), Houston Astros (1969–1971), Cincinnati Reds (1972–1977), Detroit Tigers (1978–1980) and Boston Red Sox (1980). Nicknamed "Cactus Jack", the 6-foot-4 hurler won at least 10 games for 10 consecutive seasons, and he helped lead Cincinnati's legendary "Big Red Machine" to back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. He batted and threw right-handed. Billingham is the cousin of Christy Mathewson.
Billingham proved to be one of baseball's greatest World Series pitchers. In seven games (including three starts) for Cincinnati, he went 2–0 with a 0.36 earned run average (ERA), allowing just one earned run in 251⁄3 innings pitched. Billingham came to the Reds in one of baseball's biggest trades. The Reds sent Lee May, Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart to the Astros for Billingham, Joe Morgan, Denis Menke, César Gerónimo, and (then minor leaguer) Ed Armbrister prior to the 1972 season.
Originally signed as a free agent by the Dodgers in 1961, Billingham was groomed as a relief pitcher in the Los Angeles farm system, reaching the major leagues in 1968. Despite a good season (50 games, 3–0 record, eight saves, 2.14 ERA), the Dodgers left Billingham unprotected in the expansion draft and he was selected by the Montreal Expos, though he would never pitch for them. In January 1969, the Expos traded Donn Clendenon to the Houston Astros for Rusty Staub. Clendenon refused to report, and Billingham was later sent to Houston to complete the trade. In 1969, Billingham was again used as a reliever (52 games, 6–7 record, 4.25 ERA). In 1970 he was moved into the starting rotation (46 games, 24 starts), before becoming exclusively a starting pitcher in 1971.
1973 was Billingham's best season, going 19-10 with a career-best 3.04 ERA. He led the National League with 40 starts and seven shutouts and earned a berth on the National League All-Star team. He followed that with a 19-11 season in 1974.
For his career, Billingham went 145–113 with a 3.83 ERA and 1,141 strikeouts in 2,2302⁄3 innings.
- Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame inductee: 1984
- National League All-Star: 1973
- Johnny Vander Meer Award (Reds' Most Outstanding Pitcher): 1973