Bill Campbell, the ironman reliever for the Twins in the mid-1970s, died Friday because of cancer. He was 74 and had been in hospice care in the Chicago area.
Campbell was called up by the Twins at midseason 1973 and then became the anchor of the bullpen in 1974. He pitched 120⅓ innings as a reliever in 1974, and 121 innings in 1975.
Then Gene Mauch became the manager in 1976 and put no limits on his ace reliever. Campbell became the only pitcher in major league history to record 17 wins and at least 17 saves (he had 20) in a season. He pitched in 78 games and an astounding 167⅔ innings. He threw his featured pitch — the screwball as a changeup — so often that his right arm was no longer lined up normally.
"Gene was running him out there every day, and you never heard a complaint from 'Soup,' " said Roy Smalley, Mauch's nephew and the Twins shortstop in 1976 for the last four months of the season. "He was as good of a guy as you could meet.
"Soup made fun of himself and everybody else. Glenn Borgmann was the catcher, kind of the grumpy guy you need on a team. Soup and Borgy would get on each other and it was hilarious.
"Soup was a strong, wiry guy … not one ounce of fat on him. He was a great athlete, and so was Tom Burgmeier, his partner out there in the pen. They would have contests running down fly balls during batting practice that were amazing. They both could've played outfield in the big leagues."
Campbell became an early free agent after the 1976 season and signed a lucrative contract with Boston. He had an exceptional first season in Boston, leading the AL with 31 saves in 1977 and finishing fifth in Cy Young Award voting.
He had an arm problem in 1978, as the Red Sox collapsed and blew the pennant to the Yankees. He came back from that and would lead the NL in appearances with 82 for the Chicago Cubs in 1983. He last pitched in the big leagues for the Montreal Expos in 1987.