Thursday, November 12, 2020

Final Card: Ron Willis

Ron Willis was a relief pitcher for the Cardinals and others for 5 (essentially 4) seasons from 1966-70. Willis was signed by St. Louis in 1961, and was an outfielder/3rd baseman for their class-D team that season, playing 65 games but also making 3 appearances on the mound, totaling 5 innings. 

In 1962 he converted to full-time pitching, and worked his way up the organizational ladder as a starting pitcher until converting to relief in 1966. He made his major-league debut in September 1966. 


Ron made the Cardinals at the start of 1967, and was a key member of the bullpen for the next 2 seasons, pitching in 65 and 48 games as the Cardinals marched to the NL pennant in those seasons. He appeared in 3 games in each of the 2 World Series. 

In 1969 he fell out of favor, as rookies Mike Torrez and Chuck Taylor, as well as the newly-acquired Dave Giusti and Mudcat Grant received more playing time than Willis. He also spent some time in triple-A, and by early-August was sold to the Astros. 

He only pitched 2 innings for the ‘Stros in the final 2 months, and was returned to the Cardinals in November. 

Ron began the 1970 season with the Cards’ double-A team, then was purchased by the Padres in mid-June. He pitched 56 innings over 42 games in the second half, his last appearance coming on September 29th. 

That was it for his pro career – not even minor-league ball after 1970. I wonder if he was injured in 1971’s spring training. After two (‘67, ‘68) and a half (‘70) good seasons, it seems odd that he would retire at age 26. 

Willis passed away in 1977 at age 34.


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