William Leonard Pierro
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 155 lb.
- High School Chelsea Vocational High School
- Debut July 17, 1950
- Final Game September 19, 1950
- Born April 15, 1926 in Brooklyn, NY USA
- Died April 1, 2006 in Brooklyn, NY USA
Hard throwing Bill Pierro , a Brooklyn, NY-born right-hander, got the call to the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 1950 season. "Wild Bill" lost both of his decisions in a dozen games, but was considered to be one of the Pirates' top young pitching prospects. The curve balls of life kept Bill from ever returning to the big leagues again. Pierro was just 16 when he lied about his age and joined the Marines during World War II in 1942.
Five years later he was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent before the 1947 season. Bill went 8-9 with a 4.30 ERA as a 21-year-old with the Bartlesville Oilers of the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League. In 1948 Pierro was still with Bartlesville and the right-hander won 17 times and lost only 8 while compiling a 2.15 ERA, pitching 230 innings and leading the KOM League in strikeouts with an almost unbelievable 300 K's. He also made the All-Star team.
IN 1949 Pierro was with the Waco Pirates of the class B Big State League, where three pitchers won 20 games and none of them was Bill. He did win 18 and lose 11 with a 2.96 ERA and again went well over 200 innings pitched with 255. Bill made the All-Star team again and had the big heat going also, fanning 275 batters that season. It's easy to see why he was one of the Pirates' showcase minor leaguers. In an interview with Oldtyme Baseball News Bill had this to say: "I threw hard. I struck out 21 batters in a game against a Yankees team in Independence, Missouri. I had eight one-hitters in the minor leagues."
Pierro was 8-3 with a 2.60 ERA when the Pirates brought him up from Indianapolis on July 17, 1950. Pierro was a skinny ex-marine who threw a wicked side-arm curve, he'd as soon as hit you as not. No one dug in on the guy. He immediately got into it with Branch Rickey when the Pirates brought him up from Indy. Rickey told him he couldn't throw that pitch in the big leagues. He also told him that if he didn't change his delivery he'd send him back to the minors. Pierro, all 6' 1" and 155 lbs of him told Rickey that was the pitch that got him to where he was and if he sent him down he would be bringing him back again, soon, and he'd be throwing that same pitch. These were Pierro's own words. He told that story and he had the greatest voice you've ever heard.
The Pirates were at the end of spring training on April 15, 1951. It was Bill's 25th birthday and he came down with encephalitis, an inflammatory disease which affects the brain. He was in a coma for several weeks. Death seemed inevitable, but Bill eventually came out of it, but his pitching days were over. His four-season minor league run shows that he won 51 times with 31 losses and had a 2.60 ERA.
Bill went home to Brooklyn and his health improved enough that he could live a normal life. He drove a cab for awhile and did carpentry work. He was with the New York City Department of Public Works until 1975 when he had to go on disability because of a spinal cord injury. Pierro lived in his native Brooklyn until his death on April 1, 2006.
Baseball Players of the 1950s
Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball: Third Edition