Recently I did a trifecta of posts on left-handed pitchers of the 1940s and 1950s who were significant members of their own team but not remembered as great pitchers of the day. It’s time to do the same for the righties. So here’s the first of the three posts.
William “Ol’ 96” Voiselle was born in Greenwood, South Carolina in 1919 (Moving to Ninety-Six South Carolina later). By 1938 he was already getting the attention of Major League scouts. The Red Sox signed him that year and sent him to Moultrie. He spent 1938 through 1941 wandering through a series of C and D league teams until finally getting to Texas League Oklahoma City (an A league). The Giants saw him and signed him. He got into two games with the big league team that year, losing one of them. Draft ineligible because of a hearing loss, Voiselle started 1943 in the minors, but got into four games with the Giants that season.
He broke out in 1944 when he went 21-16 and led the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts. For the only time in his career he made the All Star team. He didn’t pitch in the game. As the war wound down and players returned from military service in 1945, Voiselle produced two more so-so seasons for the Giants, leading the NL in earned runs given up in 1945.
In 1947 he was traded to the Boston Braves. He was 8-7 in ’47, then went 13-13 in ’48. In the latter year, the Braves won the NL pennant for the first time since 1914 with part of their mantra being “Spahn (Warren) and Sain (Johnny) and Pray for Rain.” Voiselle was a part of the “pray for rain” group. But you need more than two pitchers in the World Series (unless you’re Connie Mack) so Voiselle relieved in game three going 3.2 innings giving up only one hit and walking none. With the Braves down three games to two, he was chosen to start game six. He gave up three runs in seven innings and left the game losing 3-1. The Braves eventually lost the game 4-3 and the Series in six games.
It turned out to be the apex of his career. He went 7-8 the next year and 0-4 in 1950, the latter year with the Cubs. That was the end. He hung on in the minors through 1957, but there were no more Major League games for him. For his big league career he went 74-84 with an ERA of 3.83 (ERA+ of 99) and 1370 hits given up in 1371 innings. He walked 588 and struck out 645. All of which gave him a WAR (Baseball Reference.com version) of 12.3.
In retirement he played for his local semi-pro team and died in 2005. Today he is mostly famous for wearing number 96 on his uniform. The number was in honor of his hometown Ninety-Six, South Carolina. For years it was the highest number used by a Major League players (99 has been used recently). And before any one asks, I checked a couple of places and there seem to be darned close to 96 reasons given why the town is called 96.