Despite his blazing fastball, Bill Faul only won 5 games for the 1963 Detroit Tigers. That year they finished fifth in the American League.
Detroit Tigers manager Chuck Dressen once said: “You watch him for a while, watch how he acts, talk to him, spend some time with him, and you figure either he’s the dumbest guy in the world or the smartest one you’ve ever met.”
Throughout the season there were certainly other players on the team that reporters could have written about. Players such as future Hall of Famer’s Al Kaline and Jim Bunning and fan-favorite sluggers Rocky Colavito and Norm Cash who each hit over 20 home runs.
Yet, after the game it was always Faul’s locker that could be found surrounded by dozens of reporters just hoping he would say something worth publishing.
To say Faul was entertaining would be an understatement.
Baseball has always had it’s eccentrics but in the 1950’s and 60’s, it was widely considered to be a wise move for professional ballplayers to approach the game from a more conformist standpoint. Faul was weird and this is likely why Faul was popular with reporters, (but probably not so much with his teammates.)
In the 1960’s Faul was what many considered a “flake”. In 1985 Baseball Digest named Faul to their “All Time Flake Team”.
Of the many things Faul would be remembered for, he was extremely gullible and believed nearly anything that his teammates told him. In 1961, while playing for the University of Cincinnati, one of his teammates told him that as a part of a promotion for the fans the next night, he would have to parachute down onto the field before the game. Faul didn’t sleep a wink before that start because he was so afraid of heights. He then went out to strike out 24 batters; a school record.
Another time, his teammates told him that an opposing batter was 8 for 8 in the game and batted .678 the year before. He paced up and down the dugout in between innings and really worried about facing that batter. He went out to strike him out 3 times in the game.
After complaining to the team trainer that his arm was sore, the trainer pulled Faul into the training room and told him to roll up his sleeve and put his arm under a table lamp for 15 minutes. Faul did so and afterwards told the trainer, “Gee doc, you were right! I feel like a new man!”
On one occasion, Faul fell asleep in his locker and had be awakened 30 minutes before the game. This was his first major league start.
A popular topic for reporters to ask about was Faul’s fascination with hypnosis. Not of other people though – but rather of himself. It wasn’t something that he particularly liked to talk about for fear of being branded as a “kook”. Faul said that hypnosis helped him relax and keep his curveball low.
In a 1963 exhibition game against the Kansas City Athletics, Faul pitched eight shutout innings and was even good enough to gather two hits for himself. After the game, A’s owner Charlie Finley publicly protested against Faul’s novel strategy saying that hitters facing an opposing pitcher who was in a “trance” was a “very dangerous hazard” and that his club “has a hard enough time getting hits off of pitchers that aren’t hypnotized!”
As the rumor spread through the league that Faul was pitching under a trance, he would sometimes walk off of the mound, take off his glove, stare at the opposing team and then violently wiggle his fingers from both hands in front of his face. This would send the opposing team into a panic as hitters set foot in the batter’s box.
When not under self-hypnosis, Faul was widely considered to be a pretty easy going
teammate. Oddly enough, there was one man that Faul absolutely despised.
McKeon managed the Omaha Royals in 1969 where Faul was a starting pitcher. McKeon already knew that Faul was a strange bird – for instance, he didn’t like to shower thinking that the water would wash away his body’s natural oils, he carried loaded weapons in his carry-on travel bags, and then of course, there was the whole “self-hypnosis” thing – McKeon really had no problem with the fireballing right hander. Despite being beloved by nearly every player he ever managed, McKeon ended up on the bad side of Faul.
Faul loathed McKeon.
While McKeon knew he wasn’t exactly at the top of Faul’s list; he was shocked when he learned from his players just how much Faul hated him. During one game where the Royals were batting and McKeon was coaching third base, the opposing team’s third baseman slapped a rough tag on the runner that McKeon objected to. While voicing his displeasure to the third baseman, the third baseman handed it right back to McKeon. Both team’s benches cleared within seconds. As the opposing team swarmed around McKeon, Faul rushed over, knocked the opposing players out of the way, threw McKeon over his shoulder and carried him into the clubhouse. After Faul slammed the clubhouse door shut, McKeon, who was out of breath and visibly shaken, said to Faul, “Thank you Bill – you saved my life out there!”
Faul slowly walked up to Jack, stared him dead in the face and quietly said, “I already told you Jack, if anyone is going to kill you – it’s going to be me.”
Then, Faul quietly walked away.
And then there was the time Bill Faul bit the head off of a live parakeet… I’ll save that for another post though.