Legendary White Sox pitcher Billy Pierce dies

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Sox legend Billy Pierce at a 2004 game against the Twins. (John Lee / Chicago Tribune)

CHICAGO — Legendary southpaw Billy Pierce, who remains one of the most dominant pitchers in White Sox history, has passed away.

He was 88.

Pierce’s No. 19 was retired by the White Sox in 1987 and a statue of the pitcher was erected in U.S. Cellular Field in 2007. He debuted on the Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee ballot in 2015 as one of 10 finalists, but failed to get inducted.

“Generations of White Sox fans lost one of their heroes today,” said White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in a statement. “It was an absolute privilege to consider Billy a friend. He epitomized class, not just as a ballplayer on those great Go-Go White Sox teams of the 1950s, but as a gentleman and as a human being who devoted so much of his life to helping others.”

Pierce played 18 seasons in the MLB with the Detroit Tigers (1945-48), the White Sox (1949-61) and the San Francisco Giants (1962-64). He still holds the White Sox franchise record for strikeouts (1,796) and was one of only 13 pitchers to start three or more All-Star games.

The Detroit-native retired with a career record of 211-169, an ERA of 3.27 and 1,999 strikeouts. In 1955 he led the American League with a 1.97 ERA.

“Billy Pierce is a Hall of Famer in my mind,” said longtime friend, teammate and five-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder Jim Landis two years ago.  “He is the greatest pitcher I played behind in so many ways.”

Pierce’s contributions off the field were equally impressive. He served as a committee member of Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities for 46 years, and acted as president for 20 years. Under his watch, the group has raised over $16 million to help in the fight against cancer.

Pierce is survived by his wife of 65 years, Gloria, son Bill Jr., daughter Patty and son Bob, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities in Pierce’s name.

 

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