Bill Byrd started his professional playing career in 1932 with the Columbus Turfs. For the next two decades Byrd pitched for teams all over the US and Latin America.
A gifted pitcher, Byrd threw a variety of pitches including the spitball. Graced with outstanding control, Byrd also threw two types of knuckleballs, a slider, curve, fastball, and sinker.
From 1938 until he retired in 1950 Byrd spent all but one season with the Baltimore Elite Giants. He started two East West All Star games, pitched in three others, and appeared as a pinch hitter in a sixth. His five appearances in the Negro League Mid Summer Classic as a pitcher are exceeded only by Leon Day and Hilton Smith. Both men are in the Hall of Fame.
Byrd mentored Dodger Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella. The two men played together for Baltimore from 1939-1942. The Brooklyn great called Byrd “Daddy” and credited the catcher with how to receive spitballs and knucklers. Later while playing with the Dodgers, Campanella saw Byrd’s lessons as a key to his success in handling pitching staffs.
In 2005 Byrd was among 30 Negro League players on the final ballot for Cooperstown. Seventeen were elected to the Hall of Fame. If and when the Hall decides to include more Negro League players, it is likely the remaining men from the 2005 ballot would be considered first. Many believe Byrd is deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown.
Shown here is an autograph of the Negro League great.