Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Bill Ayers


Date and Place of Birth: September 27, 1919 in Newnan, Georgia

Died: September 24, 1980 Newnan, Georgia

Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit:
65th Infantry Division US Army

Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Major League Stats: Bill Ayers on Baseball-Almanac


William O “Bill” Ayers was born on September 27, 1919 in Newnan, Georgia. He pitched for Gastonia of the North Carolina State League in 1938 and was 9-1. Working his way through the minors, the 6-foot-3 right-hander was 19-9 with Savannah in the South Atlantic League in 1942 and joined the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association in 1943. He was 15-8 that year with a 3.10 ERA before entering military service with the Army at Fort McPherson, Georgia on July 10.


Pitching for the Atlanta Army Ordnance Depot in September 1943, Ayers helped the team win the National Amateur Baseball Federation title at Youngstown, Ohio in September. He pitched a two-hitter in opening game.


Ayers was with the 65th Infantry Division in Europe in 1945, and pitched for the division baseball team following the German surrender. Ayers perfected his forkball during this time and the 65th Infantry Division were II Corps champions. He was then selected to play for the 71st Infantry Division – Third Army representatives – in the 1945 ETO World Series in September 1945.


Pitching in Game Four of the ETO World Series against Negro League sensation, Leon Day of the OISE All-Stars, on September 7, Ayers hurled a five-hit 5-0 shutout to tie the series at two games apiece (the OISE All-Stars clinched the series in the next game).


Returning to the Atlanta Crackers in 1946, Ayers had an outstanding season with a 21-10 record and untouchable 1.95 ERA. On August 8, he demonstrated iron man qualities going the distance for Atlanta in a 21-inning 4-4 tie with Mobile.


Sold to the New York Giants along with Earl McGowan and Lloyd Gearhart, he was a spring training sensation for the Giants, allowing only two earned runs in 23 innings. He made his major league debut on April 17, 1947 as the team’s number two starter, but lasted only three and two-thirds innings against the Phillies, giving up seven hits.


Ayers made a further three starts and nine relief appearances for a 0-3 record and 8.15 ERA before joining Jersey City in the International League for the remainder of the season. The Giants assigned him to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association in 1948 and he remained with the club for three seasons with records of 11-12, 12-16 and 11-10.


The Giants traded Ayers to Oakland in the Pacific League at the end of 1950 where he flourished with a 20-13 season in 1951. He pitched for the Havana Reds in the Cuban League in 1952 and led the team to the Caribbean Series crown in Panama that year. After a slow start in 1953, the Oaks peddled Ayers to Wenatchee in the Western International League, but the 33-year-old refused to report and returned to his home in Newnan, Georgia. In 1954, he briefly reappeared in the minors with Montgomery in the South Atlantic League and again with Atlanta before calling it quits.


Bill Ayers passed away in Newnan, Georgia on September 24, 1980 – three days before his 61st birthday. He was inducted in the Coweta Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.


Created January 3, 2008.

Copyright © 2015 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.