Pro Perspective: Dick Billings
A bio and interview with former big league catcher Dick Billings
- Washington Senators, 1968 - 1971; Texas Rangers, 1972 – 1974; St. Louis Cardinals, 1974 - 1975
Roots in Michigan
Dick Billings (who also went by Rich Billings or Rick Billings) was born on December 4, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in the local area.
He played high school ball in Troy, Michigan and college baseball at Michigan State University.
In 1965, Dick was drafted by the Washington Senators in the 25th round of the MLB draft.
He played in the minors for a few seasons until his call up to the majors late in the 1968 season.
Dick Billings made his big league debut on September 11, 1968 in a home game against the Baltimore Orioles, at D.C. Stadium in Washington.
He would go on to play 166 career games for the Washington Senators.
Of note, Billings started and batted in the cleanup spot for the Senators' final game ever, which came at the end of the 1971 season (a 7 – 5 win against the New York Yankees).
From DC to Texas
When the Washington Senators moved to Texas to become the Rangers in the 1972 season, Dick Billings went with the club.
In fact, the 1972 season was the busiest of his MLB career, as he appeared in 133 of the Rangers’ 154 games (86%) that season.
Billings also had the best statistical season of his career in '72, compiling 119 hits with a .254/.296/.322 slash line.
He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1974 season, and spent parts of that season and much of 1975 in the minors.
At the end of the 1975 season, Dick Billings retired from baseball as a player.
He finished his MLB career with 280 hits, 16 home runs, 142 RBIs and a career slash line of .227/.281/.304.
Defensively, he had a lifetime .984 fielding percentage behind the plate and a caught stealing percentage of 35%.
After his playing career ended, Dick coached in the minors for two seasons then worked in the front office for the Texas Rangers.
He eventually left the Rangers, and then went on to work as a Real Estate agent in Texas.
Q&A with Dick Billings
Dick Billings is a former big league catcher who has experience with multiple MLB teams.
He has played for or with multiple MLB legends - names like Ted Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Lou Brock, Whitey Herzog and Ted Simmons.
I wrote Dick a few months ago looking to get his feedback on my regular questions for pro catchers.
He kindly autographed his 1973 Topps card for me and responded to each of my questions, as shown below.
Like all of our features in the Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share Dick’s responses with our readers in the hope that his input will help catchers looking to improve their game.
Here are Dick’s responses to my questions, as you can also read in the image below.
Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the major leagues?
Answer: Playing for such great Baseball Managers like Ted Williams, Whitey Herzog and Billy Martin. Catching the no-hitter by Jim Bibby against the Oakland A’s was my favorite memory.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: Excellent foot work and arm release.
Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to catchers hoping to make it to the next level, what would it be?
Answer: Show your teammates and coaches how much you want to be in charge of the game. You are the “Quarterback” and have the best view of the game and can see what is developing right in front of you. Also, stay as low as possible to help your pitcher keep the ball low in most cases.
I appreciated Dick's combination of practical advice (stay low; work on arm release) and leadership advice (show others your desire to be in charge).
Playing this position well does not happen only with "hard skills" like throwing or blocking - you also must be a good leader and motivator.
Thank you for Reading
We have a number of additional Pro Perspectives to share with you, and we will continue to post them in the coming months. Stay on the lookout for more!