13 Dec 1929 1
15 Jul 2010 1

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Full Name:
William Loes 1
13 Dec 1929 1
15 Jul 2010 1
Last Residence: Tucson, AZ 1
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Anecdotes abound of late, eccentric Brooklyn Dodgers righty Billy Loes, who passed away in July

                          Print DAILY NEWS Former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Billy Loes plays with his dog, Cookie, in his Jackson Heights home in Feb. 1955 before heading to pre-spring training workouts in Florida. BERNIUS/NEWS Bill Loes

Came the news last week that Billy Loes, the kooky '50s Brooklyn Dodgers righty who really should've been a lefty, passed away at a hospice in TucsonAriz., July 15, at age 80.

That news of Loes' death didn't surface until nearly two weeks after the fact came as no surprise to his friends, who regarded him as a delightful eccentric, self-estranged from society.

"I was about the only guy who had a phone number for him," said Tom Villante, the former BBDO advertizing executive who handled the Dodgers' Schaefer Beer account back in the '50s and has since served as an unofficial Dodger alumni director. "But Billy was constantly on the move. The last time I talked to him, about a year ago, he'd been in that same hospice but supposedly wasn't answering any calls there. He told me: 'That wasn't true. I wasn't there. I escaped!'"

In four seasons with the Dodgers, in which he went 13-8 in 1952, 14-8 in '53, 13-5 in '54 and 10-4 in '55, Loes proved to be as talented as he was exasperating. He once said: "Never win 20 because they'll expect you to do it every year." That was in response to an incentive-filled $12,000 contract Dodger GM Buzzie Bavasi gave him in 1954, for which Bavasi said he'd get $1,000 a victory. But after winning his 13th game and being told by Bavasi that he couldn't give him any more than the $12,000, Loes walked out on the team. He was replaced in the rotation by rookie Karl Spooner, who, on Sept. 22, set a record by striking out 15batters in his major league debut.

Dodgers Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella once said of Loes: "How can I say why he doesn't win 20 when I can't even tell what he's going to do from pitch to pitch."

That was never more evident than in Game 2 of the 1955 World Series against the Yankees when Loes hurled three innings of shutout ball, striking out five and inducing three double play balls - only to suddenly get kayoed on five hits and four runs in the fourth. Said Campy: "He started thinking. He had 'em going on fastballs and curves for three innings when he suddenly decided to throw changeups."

Before the 1952 Series, Loes reportedly predicted the Yankees would beat the Dodgers in six games. Years later, however, he said he was misquoted. "I never said that," he insisted. "What I said was they'd beat us in seven games." Which they did.

But perhaps the most infamous Loes episode occurred in Game 6 of the '52 Series at Ebbets Field when he claimed to have lost a ground ball in the sun. What happened was Yankee starting pitcher Vic Raschi hit a ball off Loes' leg that caromed into right field, scoring Gene Woodling from second and sending the Yanks to a 3-2 victory that tied the Series 3-3. They won it the next day. Everyone laughed when Loes insisted he'd lost Raschi's grounder in the sun, but as Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine later explained: "That's exactly what happened. At that time of the afternoon in Ebbets Field, the sun came through a space in the grandstand behind the plate and could blind you."

Though seemingly indifferent about his career - he once said he'd give up his $16,000 big league salary for a 9-to-5 job paying $75 a week - Loes nevertheless compiled an 80-63 record and 3.89 ERA over 10 seasons in the big leagues. Bavasi finally ran out of patience with him and sold him to the Baltimore Orioles for $20,000 on May 14, 1956. Loes lasted 3-1/2 years with the Orioles before finishing his career as a reliever for the Giants in '60 and '61. According to Villante, Loes, a native of Astoria, Queens, could've come full circle in his career as a member of the original '62 Mets, who selected him from the Giants in the expansion draft.

"But when (Mets GM) George Weiss called him at home, he woke him up and Billy said to him: 'There's no way I'm gonna play for your garbage can team' and hung up," Villante recalled with a laugh.

According to Villante, Loes hosted weekly card games at his home in Jackson Heights that became notorious for the amount of money that exchanged hands - so notorious that one time the game got canceled but Loes was visited by a couple of mob guys who were toting sawed-off shotguns and looking for an easy heist.

As one of the two toughs held Loes down on the sofa with a shotgun to his head, the other one ransacked the house looking for money. They wound up making off with Loes' 1955 World Series ring among other valuables, but before departing, Loes asked them: "Do me a favor? Would you mind setting fire to the place on your way out so I can collect the insurance money?"

Indeed when it came to the "Daffiness Dodgers of Brooklyn," nobody was daffier than Billy Loes.

Billy Loes, Quirky Pitcher for Dodgers, Dies at 80

  Billy Loes, a leading pitcher for three pennant-winning Brooklyn Dodgers teams of the 1950s with an image as an eccentric that seemed a perfect fit for a franchise long known for its colorful characters, died July 15 at a hospice in Tucson. He was 80.

Enlarge This Image Ed Ford/Associated Press

Billy Loes, right, with his catcher Roy Campanella in 1955. Loes pitched for three pennant-winning Brooklyn Dodgers teams.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Irene, who said he had diabetes for many years.

In his four best years with theDodgers, from 1952 through their World Series championship season of 1955, Loes, a right-hander from Queens, won 50 games and lost 25. His best season was 1952, when he was 13-8 with four shutouts and a 2.69 earned run average.

When the Dodgers faced the Yankees in the 1952 World Series, Loes became a modern-day incarnation of the Dodgers’ Daffiness Boys of the 1920s, when they once had three men on third base at the same time.

On the eve of the 1952 Series, Loes was asked how the Dodgers would fare. He picked the Yankees to win in six games.

Then came Loes’s misadventures in Game 6, at Ebbets Field.

Pitching in the seventh inning with a 1-0 lead, Loes gave up a home run by Yogi Berra and a single by Gene Woodling. Then he balked by letting the baseball slip from his hand while he was on the pitching rubber, sending Woodling to second base. With two out, Vic Raschi, the Yankees’ starting pitcher, hit a ball off Loes’s leg, and it caromed into right field for a single, scoring Woodling. The Yankees went on to a 3-2 victory, tying the Series at three games apiece.

Afterward, Loes had an explanation for failing to snare Raschi’s comebacker: he said he had lost the ground ball in the sun.

The Yankees won the World Series the next day.

The aura of Loes the loopy Brooklyn Dodger gained national exposure with an August 1953 article by Jimmy Breslin in The Saturday Evening Post titled “The Dodgers’ New Daffiness Boy.” But the article pointed out that Loes was possessed of a basic shrewdness, having talked the Dodgers’ famously penurious general manager, Branch Rickey, into signing him to a $21,000 bonus in 1948 when he was just out of high school.

As for that World Series prediction, Loes was quoted in the article as saying the news media did not get it exactly right: “I never told that guy the Yanks would win it in six. I said they’d win it in seven.” (Which they did.)

As for losing the grounder in the sun, Loes’s explanation was backed up by his fellow Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine, who told Peter Golenbock in his 2000 oral history “Bums” that the sun peeked through from between the two decks behind home plate for a few minutes on October afternoons at Ebbets Field.

“When Loes said he lost it in the sun everybody laughed, and the fact is, if you ever pitched in Ebbets Field, you know that’s possible in October with a ball that’s hit with a little bounce on it,” Erskine said.

William Loes was born on Dec. 13, 1929, in Queens and became a star pitcher there for Bryant High School. He made his debut with the Dodgers in 1950, then rejoined them in 1952 after serving in the Army.

He was sold to the Baltimore Orioles during the 1956 season and pitched for the American League in the 1957 All-Star Game. He pitched for the San Francisco Giants in his last two major league seasons and retired after 11 seasons with an 80-63 record.

His wife, Irene, of Chapel Hill, N.C., from whom he was separated, is his only survivor.

Over the years, Loes’s reputation for making strange comments grew. He was said to have expressed little ambition to be a 20-game winner, figuring management would always expect him to reach that milestone.

Asked about his flaky aura in the sports pages, Loes told The New York Times in 1957, “When they asked me a question, I answered them honestly.

“But most of them turned it around because they knew it would make better copy that way. It got to the point where I told a few writers, ‘Go ahead, write what you want about me and say I said it. You’ve been doing it right along anyway.’ ”


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