Bill Prior

Bill Prior uniform

William W. Prior
Born: January 18, 1923 (Victoria, British Columbia)
Died: April 14, 2015 (Victoria, British Columbia)

Member: Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame (2002)

Bill Prior was a tall, lean, right-handed pitcher who played four seasons of minor-league professional baseball in his hometown.

Bill Prior (mug)The 6-foot-2, 185-pound hurler pitched only home games for the Victoria Athletics and Tyees, so as not to jeopardize his job as a pressman with the Queen’s Printers in the British Columbia capital, a post he held for 38 years.

Prior went 6-7 for the Tyees in 1952, the season in which he returned to pro ball after a four-year absence. The Tyees went 94-55 in the campaign, winning the Western International League pennant.

He retired as a pro at age 29 in 1954 after three seasons with the Tyees, compiling a 25-31 record and an earned-run average of 4.55.

The lanky pitcher began his career as a 16-year-old phenom with Pitzer & Nex, a local senior amateur team. He enlisted in the war effort and served overseas.

He was a key pitcher with the baseball team formed by 2 C.G.R.U. (Canadian General Reinforcement Unit), which went 12-0 to win both halves of the Canadian Army (England) Baseball League in 1945, according to research by historian Gary Bedingfield. Prior’s team faced 10 Repat Depot in a best-of-five demo. Prior won Game 4 to tie the series, limiting his opponents to a single run in a do-or-die, 2-1 victory. The rivals won the championship in Game 5 before 3,500 spectators at Aldershot.

Prior turned pro with the Victoria Athletics in 1947, appearing in 12 games.

He spent the 1953 spring training with the Portland Beavers, but the Pacific Coast League team returned him to Victoria just before the start of the season. The workhorse won 15 games for the Tyees that season, against 16 losses. In a game against the Edmonton Eskimos in June, Prior noticed the umpire had called play to resume as an announced pinch-hitter dawdled to the plate. Prior “tossed over a strike with the batter still several feet away,” according to a report in The Sporting News.

Not surprisingly, Prior was a fan favourite in his hometown. He became a well-known and well-regarded baseball coach in the Victoria, training hundreds of young players over the years.

When pro ball returned to Victoria in 2003 after a 48-year hiatus, the (short-lived, as it turned out) Victoria Capitals named Prior a community ambassador.

Prior was inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. He was described as “one of the greatest baseball players to come out of Victoria.”

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