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Bill North

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Billy North

A photo of Billy North.

William Alex "Bill" North (born May 15, 1948 in Seattle, Washington) is a former center fielder in Major League Baseball. From 1971 to 1981, he played for the Chicago Cubs (1971-72), Oakland Athletics (1973-78), Los Angeles Dodgers (1978) and San Francisco Giants (1979-81). He was a switch hitter and threw right-handed.

In an 11-year career, North compiled a career batting average of .261 with 20 home runs and 230 runs batted in. One of the fastest men in the game, he also recorded 395 stolen bases.

In 1969 North was drafted by the Cubs in the 12th round of the amateur draft. The speedy outfielder was traded to the Athletics after the 1972 season and started in center field on Oakland’s 1973 World Series champions. Batting leadoff, he posted career highs in batting average (.285) and runs scored (98). However, on September 20, in a loss to the Minnesota Twins, North tripped over first base; the resulting ankle sprain not only cost him the American League stolen base title (his 53 steals placed him second, only one behind Tommy Harper), it also sidelined him for the remainder of the season and cost him the chance to play in the post-season.

In 1974 North did lead the league in steals, with 54, on an Athletics team that won its third consecutive World Series title. He was also involved in a not-so-memorable moment on June 5 of that season. He and Reggie Jackson engaged in a clubhouse fight at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium that resulted in Jackson injuring his shoulder. Ray Fosse, attempting to separate the combatants, suffered a crushed disk in his neck, costing him the next three months on the disabled list.

North also led the American League in steals in 1976 with 75, the most for an Oakland Athletic until Rickey Henderson stole 100 in 1980. Injuries hampered him in 1977, however, and after a slow start, the Athletics traded him to the Dodgers in 1978. His Dodgers won the National League pennant, but lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series. After the season, the San Francisco Giants signed him as a free agent; in 1979 he returned to form with 58 stolen bases, a San Francisco Giant record. Injuries, however, kept him out of 20 games and prevented him from breaking the overall franchise record of 62. After a similar season in 1980, he tailed off in 1981.

In addition to stealing bases, North also utilized his speed in the field to lead American League outfielders three times in total chances per game, twice in putouts, and once each in assists and double plays. In the second game of a July 28, 1974 doubleheader, he accomplished an unassisted double play against the Chicago White Sox. North caught Brian Downing's fly ball and continued to the second-base bag to double up Dick Allen, who had been running on the play.

North was the first player in Oakland Athletic history to serve as a designated hitter. He went 2-for-5 in the Athletics's 1973 season opener, an 8-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins at the Oakland Coliseum.

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Preceded by:
Tommy Harper
Mickey Rivers
American League Stolen Base Champion
1974
1976
Succeeded by:
Mickey Rivers
Freddie Patek

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