Born: May 6, 1940
Town: Hackensack, New Jersey
William Alfred Hands Jr. was born May 6, 1940 in Hackensack. Bill grew up in Rutherford but spent summers with his family in the sleepy town of Orient, near the eastern end of Long Island. Bill was a fan of the New York Giants growing up. He attended games at the Polo Grounds with his grandfather. He was also a fine pitcher as a teenager, with a live arm and good control. He pitched for the Rutherford High Bulldogs.
Education was everything in the Hands household. Bill was a bright kid who could beat you at baseball or chess. After graduation, he respected his parents’ wishes and attended Ohio Wesleyan and then Fairleigh Dickinson. When the Boston Red Sox expressed mild interest in signing him, Bill started thinking about a career in baseball. When his beloved Giants came around, he signed on the dotted line.
The team had moved to San Francisco by this time, but Bill didn’t care. From 1959 to 1965, he worked his way through the farm system. The Giants tried him as a starter and reliever. Not until Bill turned 25 did he finally put it all together. He went 17–6 with a 2.19 ERA for Class-AAA Tacoma and pitched in four big-league games for the Giants during the season. It was during those June games that teammates noted how closely his no-nonsense delivery resembled that of veteran Don Larsen. Since they called Larsen Big Froggy, Bill became Little Froggy, and later in his career, just plain Froggy.
That winter, the Cubs made one of the best trades in their history when they acquired Bill and catcher Randy Hundley from the Giants for veteran pitcher Lindy McDaniel. Hundley became an All-Star and Bill hurled more than 1,500 innings for the Cubs over the next seven seasons. Bill was part of a rotation that included Fergie Jenkins and Ken Holtzman. In 1969, Bill won 20 games, Jenkins won 21 and Holtzman won 17.
Bill was a control pitcher. He gave up a lot of hits but did not walk many batters. In 1968, he issued a league-low 1.2 walks per nine innings. Bill was efficient on the mound, which is why the Cubs allowed him to pile up huge innings. One year he pitched 300 innings—an unheard-of total today. In 1972, Bill had a no-hitter going against the Expos with two out in the 9th inning. Ken Singleton hit a ball back to Bill, who deflected it with hand. The ball was ruled a hit; had he let it go, teammate Paul Popovich would have retired Singleton easily.
After the 1972 season, the Cubs traded Bill to the Twins for Dave LaRoche, a young reliever. Bill struggled in the American League; to some it looked like he just wore out. The Texas Rangers picked him up off waivers toward the end of the 1974 season but he failed to produce for them in 1975 thanks to a sore back. The Rangers traded him to the Mets, but he did not make the club in 1976. He decided to call it quits.
During his off-seasons, Bill had driven a fuel truck for a company in Lyndhurst, and later became a salesman for the oil company that owned the gas station near his summer home in Long Island. After leaving the game, Bill decided to buy the company, and he was still running it with his son Billy in his early 70s.