Fat Man Label Albatross Around Bilko’s Neck

Steve Bilko “had a lot more talent than people gave him credit for,” Gaylon White, author of The Bilko Athletic Club, said in an interview with Mark Myre, host of the Saturday Morning Sports Show on WJEZ FM in Pontiac, Illinois. “He was considered a fat man in a thin man’s game at that time.

Steve Bilko turns down a sandwich offered by the St. Louis Cardinals’ clubhouse boy. (Author’s collection)

Steve Bilko turns down a sandwich offered by the St. Louis Cardinals’ clubhouse boy. (Author’s collection)

“The fat man label was really an albatross around his neck,” White said, describing how the St. Louis Cardinals made Bilko wear a rubber suit during spring training in 1950 so he would lose 40 pounds. “From then on he was badgered by various managers for his weight.

“He only had one season where day-in and day-out he was the regular. That was 1953 with the Cardinals. He hit 21 home runs and drove in 84 runs. He also led the league in strike outs with 125. Not bad for most players today but in ’53 that wasn’t good enough and the Cardinals traded him to the Cubs in ’54.

Listen to White’s interview with Myre:

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The Bilko Athletic Club is a book published by Rowman & Littlefield about the 1956 Los Angeles Angels, a team of castoffs and kids built around a bulky, beer-loving basher of home runs named Steve Bilko. The book features a delightful foreword by John Schulian, former sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News and longtime contributor to Sports Illustrated and GQ.

The book can now be ordered by clicking on any of the website links below:

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