I found out just recently that former Minnesota Twins pitcher Bill Whitby had passed away on March 12, 2016 in Huntersville, North Carolina at the age of 72 from heart disease.
William Edward Whitby was born in Crewe, Virginia on July 29, 1943. Bill was a star athlete at Victoria High School (Virginia) and after his high school graduation signed as a 17-year-old amateur free agent with the Minnesota Twins for $10,000, a substantial bonus back then.
Bill started his professional pitching career as a 17 year old in class D ball with the Wytheville Twins and played there with future Twins to be Jim Manning, Tony Oliva, Frank Quilici, and Ted Uhlaender. Whitby climbed the Twins minor league ladder quickly and found himself pitching for the AA Charlotte Hornets late in 1963. In 1964 Bill started the season in Charlotte again but got the call that all players wait for, the call to the big leagues. Bill Whitby made his big league debut at the age of 20 on June 17, 1964 at Cleveland Stadium in game 2 of a doubleheader in the 8th inning with two runners on and two out with the Twins trailing 4-0. He retired Indians second baseman Larry Brown for the final out but in the ninth inning he got the first batter out before giving up a home run (Pedro Ramos) and a single before retiring the final two batters. Whitby made three more relief appearances in a Twins uniform before being returned to Charlotte.
Sadly for Bill, it turned out that those four appearances for the Twins would be his only pitching opportunities in the big leagues. Bill started the 1965 season in Charlotte but after posting a 10-8 record with a 2.61 ERA (including pitching a no-hitter) he was promoted to AAA Denver where it turns out he spent the next four years. The Twins traded RHP Bill Whitby to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 1, 1969 and in return received 1B Bill Davis and RHP Mel Nelson. Bill pitched briefly in 1970 for AAA Denver which was then a Washington Senators affiliate before encountering some shoulder issues that prompted him to hang up his baseball spikes for good at the age of 26.
Bill and his wife Donelle were married for over 50 years and actually met when Donelle was selected as “Miss Hornet” in 1964 and Bill who was playing for Charlotte at the time served as her escort. As part of being selected “Miss Hornet”, Donelle Ranson was also given a trip to spring training in Melbourne, Florida where she and Bill started dating and on February 12, 1966 they were married and went on to have two children, son’s Brian and Kevin.
After baseball was in his rear view mirror Bill and Donelle returned to their farming roots and bought a farm near Huntersville, North Carolina where they raised beef cattle and some crops. When I talked with Donelle she was very grateful to the Minnesota Twins because they provided the opportunity for her and Bill to meet and share a wonderful life together.
Bill’s son put together this YouTube video about his Dad’s life
Our condolences to Bill Whitby’s family and friends and to Bill Whitby, thank you for the memories!