VIDEO: Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer Billy Stein Among Best Pinch Hitters In MLB History
By Alan Zlotorzynski // April 7, 2017
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: Billy Stein, who played 14 seasons with four different clubs in MLB, played in all of the local leagues in Cocoa – Little League, Babe Ruth, Legion Ball and Connie Mack before going on to play for Cocoa High.
2016 PROFESSIONAL INDUCTEE
• Drafted In 1969 By St. Louis Cardinals
• Lifetime Batting Average of .267
• Among American League’s Best Pinch Hitters
COCOA HIGH GRAD
From the time he was a kid in little league until he was drafted for the second time in 1969, Billy Stein learned the game of baseball right here on the Space Coast of Florida.
Stein, who played 14 seasons with four different clubs in MLB, played in all of the local leagues in Cocoa – Little League, Babe Ruth, Legion Ball and Connie Mack before going on to play for Cocoa High.
After graduating in 1965 from Cocoa, Stein attended BCC where he would interrupt his studies and baseball career for one year to serve in the U.S. Army.
When he returned from serving his country, Stein was drafted in the 33rd round of the 1968 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, but elected to continue playing college ball for the Southern Illinois University Salukis.
SIU was a perennial Division I winning baseball team in those days, participating in college world series on a yearly basis. The decision to wait exactly 363 days paid off for Stein as the St. Louis Cardinals selected him 29 rounds higher in 1969 by drafting him in the fourth round.
This time Stein signed the contract, reported to minor league ball and a little over three years later on September 6, 1972 made his MLB debut. Batting leadoff, Stein had five at bats and collected his first hit, a home run off Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Ken Reynolds in the bottom of the ninth.
Stein’s last home run came on August 17, 1985 in the first inning of a 9-2 Rangers win. What happened in between those two long balls was a dream come true for Stein.
During those 13 years, Stein played for the St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and the Texas Rangers.
Sometimes numbers don’t always tell the story of a player’s value. Stein played double digit games at every position in the field except shortstop, pitcher and catcher and he converted 96.5 percent of the balls hit his way in the field into an out for his team.
His lifetime batting average was .267 but he batted .285 during the final five years of his career playing in Texas.
Clutch pinch-hitting is an art in baseball, and good pinch hitters are hard to find, but if Billy Stein could do anything in baseball, he could pinch hit. Asked to do it 179 times, he batted .282 with 36 pivotal RBI’s late in games in his career.
Stein coached and managed for a while in several independent leagues and later served as the manager for the New York Mets’ and San Francisco Giants’ Class A affiliates in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He also spent one season as manager of the Rockledge Raiders in 1987, leading them to a district title.
Stein moved to Palm Coast, Florida in 2013 after residing in Texas since his retirement from playing for the Rangers in 1985.
In Palm Coast, Stein is as versatile as ever, playing all over the infield and knocking around the pitching in the Flagler (County) Senior Softball League.
LOCAL BASEBALL LEGEND
From the fields of Provost Park in Cocoa to the old baseball fields at Brevard Community College to Arlington Stadium in Texas, Brevard County’s own Billy Stein is a big part of the successful baseball history that helps make up the lore of Space Coast sports.
THE 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Cocoa Beach Country Club on Friday, May 12.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2017 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME, call 321-615-8111 or e-mail SpaceCoastDaily@gmail.com
CLICK HERE to see all the members of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.