If Bill Heath's career in the brokerage industry mirrored his days as a major-league baseball player, he probably wouldn't be handling $300 million in assets at Barrington Financial Advisors in Houston.
Heath, an All-American catcher at the University of Southern California, languished in decaying, one-restaurant minor-league towns for five years. When he finally did make it to the major leagues in 1966, he wound up playing for four teams in a span of four years.
“My big-league career,” he says, “didn't go quite as I expected.”
After hitting .301 in 55 games as a rookie with the Houston Astros in 1966, Heath went to spring training the following year expecting to compete for the backup catchers job. “But I was completely ignored,” he says. “Like I didn't even exist. That's what happens when you're a small 5-foot-8 backup catcher with no power.”
That spring, when the Detroit Tigers wanted to acquire Heath as their backup catcher, the Astros refused to make the deal. The Tigers ended up trading for another catcher, Jim Price. When the Astros finally agreed to trade Heath to Detroit, Price had already established himself as an adequate backup catcher, so Heath was sent to the minors. That prevented Heath from competing in one of the most thrilling pennant races in baseball history in 1967 and a chance to play in the World Series with the Tigers in 1968.
Heath did get into a pennant race in 1969, but it was with the Chicago Cubs, who wound up blowing an eight-game, first-place lead late in the season, losing the division title to the New York Mets. Heath's career collapsed simultaneously. While in the process of catching a Ken Holtzman no-hitter, Heath broke a finger. As it turned out, that was the final game of his career.
“An imperfect ending to an imperfect career,” he says with a laugh.
When Heath was asked about his fondest major-league memory, he said, “I'm looking right at it — a picture of me catching when Willie Mays hit his 500th career home run.”
Wait a minute, Bill. Your dearest remembrance is of an opponent hitting a home run?
“Well, Mays only homered because our pitcher didn't throw the pitch that I wanted him to throw,” Heath says with a laugh.
Heath's wit is as quick as his bat used to be. In 1958, a year USC won the College World Series, Heath hit .396, the ninth best single-season average in team history — a figure that even tops Mark McGwire's .387 average.
Heath was considered a highly intelligent player who would call a masterful game, befuddling hitters while making his pitchers look like all-stars. When Randy Hundley, the Cubs' regular catcher, was out with an injury one week in 1969 and Heath filled in, Chicago's pitchers had their best stretch of the season as Ferguson Jenkins tossed a one-hitter and a shutout, and Holtzman threw a no-hitter.
When Heath takes clients to a game today, he provides an insider's insight to the pitcher-hitter-catcher battle, turning a routine game into an enlightening, educational experience. He also assists clients who have children with promising athletic futures. One of Heath's clients has a 6-foot-4, 16-year-old son who can throw a baseball over 90 mph.
“He has unbelievable potential and a chance to make a lot of money [in baseball],” Heath says. “I told him I'd help him, but that he had to get all A's through high school and learn about wealth management.”