In the interest of all fans of perennial losing teams, we bring you the first recipient of the Texas Rangers/Washington Senators Shlabotnik Non-Star Award (named after Charlie Brown’s favorite baseball player in the Peanuts comic strip). The catcher for our team is Dick Billings (also known as Rich Billings, if memory serves).
For three years, from 1971 to 1973, the Detroit native and former Michigan State player was the Rangers/Senators main catcher and he was a true Shlabotnik. His best year was 1972, when he hit a robust .254 with 5 homers and 58 RBI in 133 games. Not just a catcher, Billings also managed to get into some games in the outfield, at third base and at first base. Mainly, though, he was the catcher.
Wearing the number 8 on his uniform, Billings wasn’t particularly stellar on defense either. In 1972, his biggest year as a starter, he committed 10 errors and added 12 passed balls in 92 games. By comparison, in 2009 Jarrod Saltalamacchia had seven errors and two passed balls in 81 games.
Billings‘ last full season with the Rangers was in 1973, when he batted an anemic .179 in 81 games. However, he did have the distinction that year of catching Jim Bibby’s no-hitter, the first no-no in Rangers history. His best day at the plate came on August 13, 1972, when he had the only four-hit game of his career, against the Royals, with two doubles and 5 RBI.
In 1974, Billings was sold, not traded, to the Cardinals, with whom he ended his major league career in 1975. His career batting line: Career average of .227 with 16 HR’s and 142 RBI over 400 major league games.