Our interview with the former big league catcher. Plus an update from 2023!
Pro Perspective: Billy Bryan
- Kansas City Athletics, 1961 - 1966; New York Yankees, 1966 - 1967; Washington Senators, 1968.
A Georgia Boy Makes the Pro’s
Billy Bryan was born on December 4, 1938 in Morgan, GA. Morgan is a small town in the southwestern part of the state.
He was signed by the Kansas City Athletics as undrafted free agent in 1960. Billy began his pro baseball career that same year with the Sanford Greyhounds in the Florida State League, before spending time with Albuquerque Dukes.
Interestingly, Bryan made his MLB debut only one year later! He stepped in for Gordon MacKenzie as a pinch hitter in a game against the Tigers at Tiger Stadium, on September 12, 1961. Unfortunately for Bryan, he struck out to Frank Lary of the Tigers.
Bryan’s Time as a Big League Catcher
Between 1962 and 1964, he played for the Kansas City Athletics and split time behind the plate with catchers such as Doc Edwards, Charlie Lau and Joe Azcue.
Bryan’s most productive season in Major League Baseball came in 1965, where he was the opening day starting catcher and he appeared in 108 games for the Athletics. That season he collected a career-high 14 home runs, 51 RBIs and owned a .252 batting average.
He began the 1966 season with the Athletics but was traded in June with pitcher Fred Talbot to the New York Yankees for Roger Repoz, Gil Blanco and Bill Stafford.
Prior to the 1968 season, Billy was picked up by the Washington Senators in the rule 5 draft. He appeared in 40 games with the Senators in 1968, 28 behind the plate and 12 as a pinch hitter.
Unfortunately, 1968 would be his last season in the majors.
Billy spent all of the 1969 campaign with the Senators AAA club, the Buffalo Bisons. He then joined the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 1970, playing for the Spartanburg Phillies in the Western Carolina League. Bryan would retire after that 1970 season in Spartanburg.
In total, Billy Bryan appeared in 273 major league games behind the plate, he collected 209 hits and compiled a .216/.284/.395 slash line. On the defensive side of the house, Bryan threw out 47 would-be base runners and he maintained a .984 fielding percentage as a catcher.
Q&A with Billy Bryan
Billy Bryan is a pro baseball catcher with 8 years of MLB experience who has been a teammate to legendary baseball players – names like Mickey Mantle, Catfish Hunter, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford.
I was really interested in his perspective on the questions I usually ask MLB catchers. So, I wrote him a letter and he took the time to write me back, sign my card, and answer my questions. Check out his responses below.
Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the major leagues?
Answer: Just getting to the major leagues, first hit in Washington, Sept. 1961 was a home run, my best single game in 1964, Detroit, hit two home runs, had five RBIs.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: Communication with the pitcher, blocking balls in the dirt and accurate throwing.
Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to play at the next level, what would it be?
Answer: Work hard, put your best into the game and always keep everything in perspective.
Billy’s feedback is what I consider to be solid, fundamental advice from a man that has experience playing at the highest level of our game. He provides players with actionable guidance on what to work on (see question 2) and admonishes young catchers to work hard and be their best.
Simple, sound advice. Thanks Mr. Bryan!
I contacted Billy once again in February 2023 and asked him to sign his 1968 Topps for me, which he graciously did. I also took the opportunity to ask him an additional question, this one focused more on his career in baseball.
See below for the question and his response.
Question: I do have a question I was hoping you would answer. In your opinion, what was the best pitcher you ever had the chance to catch? What made them the best?
Answer: Catfish Hunter, control of all pitches.
Thanks for Reading
We sincerely hope these Pro Perspectives are not only interesting but helpful to you. We will keep posting more as we receive them.
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- Baseball Reference
- Retrosheet (see Billy Bryan baseball stats)