Bill Faul is “kind of a pitching prestidigitator who practices screwball sorcery by hypnotizing himself if not the batter,” a sportswriter said in 1965.1 Although Faul had a modest six-year major-league career with the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, and San Francisco Giants, he gave the country’s baseball scribes plenty to write about. “Since the midseason of 1965, Faul has packaged an incongruous collection of hypnotism, divinity, karate, and a little baseball into a feast of delightfully palatable newspaper copy for reporters who haven’t seen the Cubs finish in the first division since 1946,” the Chicago Tribune’s Richard Dozer wrote in March 1966.2
Faul, during his career, compiled a 12-16 record and 4.72 ERA in 71 games, including 33 starts. He completed eight games and tossed three shutouts. In 261 1/3 innings, he struck out 164 batters and walked 95.
William Alvan Faul was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 21, 1940, the son of William A. and Mildred (Jones) Faul Sr. His mother taught school in Pleasant Plain, Ohio, and was known as a hard-throwing softball pitcher around the Cincinnati area.3 The couple had another son, Gerald, born February 13, 1942. He played with Bill on the Ohio Class A baseball champion in 1958.
The Faul line of the family can be traced back to Henry Faul, who emigrated from Germany to Ohio and became a farmer before the Civil War.4 An Ohio roster of World War I servicemen shows that William A. Faul Sr. served as a private in a field artillery unit. The U.S. Census in 1920 shows him as a laborer on a family farm at that point. By the 1940 Census, he was a machinist in Cincinnati for a wholesale bread and cake company. Around 1948, the family lived in the Oakley part of Cincinnati; later they moved to Pleasant Plain.
His son Bill threw two no-hitters and batted over .500 for Goshen (Ohio) High School as a sophomore in 1956. He played shortstop when not pitching.
Faul pitched Goshen High to the Ohio Class A baseball title in 1958 and ended his senior season at 13-0. He allowed only three hits, struck out four, and walked three as Goshen beat Gnadenhutten, 3-1, in Columbus. Two days earlier, he threw a two-hit shutout against previously unbeaten Elida in the semifinals of the Class A state tournament. As an amateur, Faul pitched both ends of doubleheaders, throwing over the top in the first game and sidearm in the second game.5
Faul helped Goshen advance to the state tournament by striking out 22 and walking only four in an 11-inning performance against Jeffersonville in the Southwest Ohio Class A regional championship. His team broke a 1-1 tie with four runs in the 11th inning and won, 5-2.
He then went on to the University of Cincinnati. As a college sophomore in 1960, Faul broke the school’s single-game strikeout record held by Sandy Koufax, fanning 19 in an 11-0 victory over the University of Dayton. On April 21, 1961, he gave himself a special 21st birthday present. He struck out 24 Jacksonville Naval Station batters in nine innings to set a NCAA single-game record.
In 1961, Faul earned first-team All-American honors and led the country’s collegiate pitchers in strikeouts with 133. In 1962, he was a third team All-American, was one of two pitchers on the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team and was named to the NCAA all-district team. He compiled a 6-3 record with a 0.80 ERA, striking out 108 and walking 30 in 78 innings.
“He would throw the ball like it was BB’s,” Faul’s former college baseball coach, Glenn Sample, said. “Guys loved him. We knew when he pitched, we had a good chance to win.”6
Faul averaged 13.9 strikeouts a game as a sophomore, a nation-leading 14.6 a game as a junior, and 12.5 a game as a senior. He finished his collegiate career with an 18-5 record, a 1.43 ERA, and 295 strikeouts in nearly 196 innings. Not only did he set school records for career winning percentage, strikeouts in a career, and single-season ERA (0.80 in 1962), but also, he was featured on the cover of the 1962 NCAA Baseball Guide. That summer, the Detroit Tigers signed him to a $25,000 bonus and sent him to their Class AA club in Knoxville, Tennessee.7
“I took a cut to sign here,” he told the Detroit Free Press in June 1962. “Cleveland offered me more money, but you know how the newspapers are there. The Yankees would have given me a shot with the big club. Probably as a reliever. I have a crossfire [delivery], and they’re worried about Luis] Arroyo, I guess.”8
Asked why he did not consider his hometown Reds, he said, “They don’t have the money to give out now while the owners are in a court fight and might lose the club.”9
The stocky right-hander had an auspicious start to his professional baseball career. On July 5, 1962, Faul allowed four hits, struck out 11, and walked Gary Rushing three times to lead the Knoxville Smokies to a 2-1 win over the visiting Asheville Tourists. Detroit scout and pitching coach Max Macon said, “I don’t want to say too much on a first look. But I certainly would hate to be a right-handed hitter against him.”10
Five days later, he tossed another four-hitter against Asheville, helping snap the Tourists’ 15-game home winning streak. This time, he struck out 10 and walked six. “He throws with a fast almost sidearm delivery, sweeping the ball in from third on right-handed hitters,” sportswriter Bob Terrell said. “His crossfires kept the hitters on their heels.”11
Faul finished his first season of pro ball with a 6-2 record and 2.10 ERA. He completed five of 13 starts, tossed two shutouts, struck out 77, and walked 53 in 90 innings. Knoxville finished second in the South Atlantic League at 86-54, 6 1/2 games behind first-place Savannah/Lynchburg.
Faul’s impressive showing earned him a call-up to the big club. A violent storm on September 13, 1962, prevented the right-hander’s first major league-appearance from becoming official. After Detroit banged out four home runs en route to a 14-6 win in the first game of a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox, Faul started the second game, which was called after 2½ scoreless innings because of the storm.12 Six days later, Faul relieved Tiger starter Hank Aguirre in the fifth inning of the Minnesota Twins’ 12-5 victory over Detroit. He had little success, however, giving up six earned runs, four hits, three walks, and one home run in 1 2/3 innings.
In March 1963, Faul pitched eight scoreless innings against the Kansas City A’s during spring training after using hypnosis for the first time. Although the Tigers eventually lost, 3-2, the A’s filed a protest with American League president Joe Cronin on grounds that the use of hypnosis by players such as Faul was “a very dangerous hazard to opposing batters. Also, the Athletics have a rough enough time beating normal pitchers without going to the extreme of facing pitchers who have been put in a trance through the use of hypnosis.”13
Sportswriter Joe Falls explained that Dr. Julius Tapert of Wayne State University in Detroit put the pitcher into a hypnotic trance the night before the game against the A’s. Tapert told Faul to have confidence in his pitches, Falls said. Faul “went out and for eight innings looked like a combination Dizzy Dean — Walter Johnson — Christy Mathewson, with a little Bo Belinsky on the side,” Falls added.14
“He [Tapert] told me to relax out on the mound. He told me that I could get my breaking pitches over the plate when I was behind the batter even by a 3-and-0 count,” Faul told the press after the game. “I tried it and it worked. I even got my letup pitches over when I was behind. He told me I would feel calm and loose out there and that’s how I felt.”15
Although Dr. David Tracy used hypnosis on the old St. Louis Browns, and Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe tried hypnosis to get over the fear of flying, “it is definitely unprecedented when a young pitcher is hypnotized and goes out and pitches shutout ball for eight innings,” Falls concluded.16
Faul earned his first major-league victory on May 19, 1963, with a three-hit complete game, 5-1 victory against the Washington Senators. He struck out six, walked four, and earned the praise of Detroit manager Bob Scheffing afterwards. “His fast ball is pretty good, and he doesn’t get many of his curves in bad spots,” Scheffing said. “The big thing about the kid is that he listens and retains what he hears.”17
Faul had a 3-0 record under Scheffing, but the situation got worse when Chuck Dressen replaced the former Cubs skipper. Faul told The Sporting News two years later that he knew his days were numbered in Detroit “because Dressen didn’t like me, and I didn’t like him. It’s absolutely sickening the way that man uses the personal pronoun ‘I’ every time he opens his mouth.”18 The 23-year-old righthander compiled a 5-6 record with a 4.64 ERA in his first full big-league season. He appeared in 28 games including 10 starts, (completing two), had one save, struck out 64, and walked 48 in 97 innings.
In the spring of 1964, Faul disputed the notion that he pitched in a trance and butted heads again with Dressen. He explained that he had a long talk with his inner self the night before he pitched, and he threw under the influence of hypnosis. “This isn’t witch craft or anything like that,” he said. “It’s simply a way to give yourself confidence.”19 Meanwhile, Dressen said, “I told that kid that this [hypnosis] is ridiculous and that I want him to stop it right now. It ain’t going to strike anybody out … the ball has to do that.”20
After appearing only once during the exhibition season, Faul was cut on April 7 and sent to Triple-A Syracuse in the International League. “A lot of criticism [about using hypnotism in 1963] was unwarranted and although it was unwarranted, it reflected badly on the ball club,” he said. “People thought it was some kind of witchcraft — a supernatural power.”21 Nevertheless, Faul helped Syracuse finish second that year, compiling a 11-1 record with a 4.05 ERA in 111 innings as a starter for manager Frank Carswell.
Faul married Deems Catherine Faul some time around 1965 and they had a daughter, Deems, two years later. Faul’s wife was described as “an attractive brunette who has done some modeling in her hometown of Detroit.”22 The couple divorced around 1971 as Faul’s career was coming to an end.23
Detroit obliged Faul’s wish to be traded by sending him to the Chicago Cubs on March 27, 1965. He made the Cubs roster but wasn’t used in the regular season until April 21 when he surrendered three runs and three hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief.24 During his subsequent two-month stint at Triple-A Salt Lake City, Faul received his Doctor of Divinity degree and started preaching for the Universal Christian Church. That spring, he also qualified for a master hypnotist degree from the Scientific Suggestion Institute. Recalled on July 2, he lost twice before he shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-0, on a three-hitter in one hour and 37 minutes. Sportswriter Edgar Munzel called Faul’s first National League victory on July 25 “one of the masterpieces of the season.”25
“As for hypnotism, I took several courses in it and am licensed to practice the art,” he told Munzel. “However, I’m primarily concerned with self-hypnotism. I use it all the time when I’m pitching.”26 He added, “When I’m out on the mound I close my eyes and count down and tell myself, ‘Keep the ball low.’ That implants the idea in my sub-conscious. Self-hypnosis helps me relax and enables me to concentrate.”27 As a result of the 76-pitch gem, the restrictions on talking about hypnosis that were placed on him when he was acquired were lifted.
That day (July 25), for the second time in 11 days, the Cubs pulled off a triple play with Faul on the mound.28 Previously, in a 6-3 loss to the Milwaukee Braves on July 14, Faul was the middle man in a triple play that started when Cubs catcher Ed Bailey caught Woody Woodward’s popup near the screen behind home plate.29
On August 3, 1965, Faul gave up only two hits — Wes Covington’s double in the second inning and Tony Gonzalez’s single in the third — and retired the final 19 Philadelphia Phillies in a row as the Cubs won, 2-0. He also drove in the Cubs’ second run with a single. “He doesn’t like to be talked to. He likes to work fast. He gets excited if he works slow,” catcher Vic Roznovsky said afterwards. “He’s got tremendous confidence. But he doesn’t just rare back and throw the ball. He hits the corners.”30
Faul collected his third shutout when he beat the Houston Astros, 2-0, on August 20 at Wrigley Field. The 5-10, 190-pound hurler allowed eight singles and struck out nine in the second game of the doubleheader. His walk in the eighth inning was his first in 40 innings.31
Faul became part of major-league history on October 3, 1965, when the Cubs completed their third triple play of the season with him on the mound in the fifth inning of a 6-3 loss to the Pirates at Forbes Field.32 In 17 games for the Cubs that season, Faul went 6-6 with a 3.54 ERA. He gave up 83 hits, struck out 59, and walked 18 in 98 innings.
During the offseason in 1965-1966 in Pleasant Plain, Faul was a substitute teacher and helped coach the high school freshman basketball team.33 Entering the 1966 season, the Chicago Tribune’s Richard Dozer called him “a self-styled hypnotist with as many degrees as a thermometer and a heart as big as himself.”34 He described the former collegiate All-American as “a chunky muscleman whose stubby legs and thick torso coil amazingly to release a mass of flying limbs when he literally leaps off the mound. Out of the tangle bursts a baseball which he defies a batter to hit.”35
Faul didn’t make his first start of the 1966 season until May 1 against the Phillies. In a player meeting that he requested before the game, he told his teammates, “I planned to pitch high, hard, and away from them and let ’em see if they could hit the ball out against that wind.”36 Despite throwing 138 pitches, he tossed the Cubs’ first complete game win of the season — 6-1 over the Phillies. Bill White’s home run in the fourth inning accounted for the Phillies’ only tally.
Afterwards, Faul said he focused on endurance and speed during his pre-game preparation. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t get tired, and I didn’t,” he said. “I just told my arm to be loose and it may sound strange to you, but that’s what it was … abnormally loose.”37
Faul made two more starts after that (pitching ineffectively on May 5 and May 10), and he did not appear again until May 20. He relieved 20-year-old starter Ken Holtzman and gave up five runs, five hits, and two walks in a 12-2 loss to the Braves at the new Atlanta Stadium. Henry Aaron smacked a three-home home run on Faul’s first pitch to cap a six-run second inning. Banks hit two homers himself to account for the Cubs’ only runs, which put him only one behind Duke Snider’s 407 on the all-time home run list.38
Faul got into five more games out of the bullpen. After that, he made three straight starts, taking the loss in each. Then on July 7, the Cubs announced they were sending him to the minors to develop a changeup.39 However, the Chicago Tribune reported that Faul and manager Leo Durocher had exchanged words the preceding Tuesday, and that Faul was demoted for insubordination.40 The paper said the argument stemmed from a question Faul asked catcher John Boccabella after Faul gave up a home run to the Pirates’ Donn Clendenon and was taken out of the game in the sixth inning. Faul wondered aloud if Durocher had called for the curve ball that Faul had shaken off, but that Boccabella insisted on. A day later, Faul said he was only curious, but “that the manager must have thought he was second-guessing him or that Leo didn’t like his [Faul’s] tone.”41 At the time of his demotion to Triple-A Tacoma, Faul had appeared in 17 games and had a 1-4 record with a 5.12 ERA. He finished the 1966 season with a 5-5 record and 4.75 ERA for the PCL club.
When spring training arrived in 1967, the Tacoma News Tribune’s Ed Honeywell said Faul had a new personality.42 Honeywell cited two possible reasons for the transformation: the birth of Faul’s daughter six weeks earlier and the lack of interest in him by 19 teams during the annual draft. “At any rate, the ‘new’ Bill Faul who checked in here Sunday to sign his 1967 Tacoma contract … wasn’t the same high-strung, hard-to-handle righthander who toiled for the T-Cubs during the last half of the 1966 season following his exile from Wrigley Field,” Honeywell said.43 Faul sounded optimistic, too. “Thanks to the good slider I developed during the winter, I think I’m a better pitcher than I was last season,” he said, referring to his offseason stint in Puerto Rico.44
Faul got off to a good start on April 14 when he pitched the T-Cubs to a 2-1 win over the San Diego Padres in the season opener. He allowed only five hits and struck out seven in 7 2/3 innings of work. On May 28, he shut out the Oklahoma City 89ers in the seven-inning second game of a doubleheader, which Tacoma won, 4-0. He had just spent three weeks on the disabled list with a sore arm. That spring, the former karate instructor for the Air Force Special Forces lost interest in the martial art. “I didn’t like the idea of crippling people, hurting them to that effect,” he explained.45 By then, Faul had given up pork; sweets including chocolate and candy; alcohol; cigarettes; and coffee.
On June 8, 1967, Faul had a one-hit shutout for six innings until San Diego’s Marty Keough hit a home run. Still, the T-Cubs won, 5-1, as Faul fanned eight and walked one. After battling a sore arm for nearly a month, he lasted only 4 2/3 innings in Tacoma’s 14-2 victory over Vancouver. Despite missing three months of the season, Faul compiled a 4-3 record with a 2.52 ERA. He completed two of nine starts, struck out 43, and walked 10 in 50 innings.
In mid-September, the Portland Beavers of the PCL (a Cleveland Indians affiliate) purchased Faul’s contract. He pitched for Portland and Waterbury (CT) (the Indians’ Class AA team) in 1968, as well as Indianapolis (the Cincinnati Reds’ top farm team). He spent 1969 with Omaha, the top farm club of the expansion Kansas City Royals.
Faul resurfaced in the majors as a reliever with the San Francisco Giants in 1970. By then aged 30, he was called up in May from the Giants’ Class AAA team in Phoenix when veteran hurler Don McMahon underwent surgery and was placed on the disabled list. Faul appeared in seven games for the Giants that month, picking up one save in 9 2/3 innings. He was then sent back to Phoenix, where he spent the rest of the 1970 season and all of 1971. He saved eight games for Phoenix in ’71.
After attending the American Leadership School in Osceola, Iowa, in 1972, Faul rejoined the Cubs organization. He attended the Wichita Aeros’ spring training camp in 1973 as a free agent. Although he pitched well for the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, he was sent to Double-A Midland in the Texas League. “We want him to go to Midland to stabilize the pitching staff,” Cubs farm director Vedie Himsl said. “Their biggest problem last season was the lack of a veteran pitcher.”46 Faul appeared in 11 games in relief and picked up one save for Midland before he was released in June. He also pitched for Poza Rica in the Mexican League in 1973, compiling a 1-1 record in five games. His teammates included former major-leaguers Mel Queen and George Brunet.
After his baseball career ended, Faul traveled throughout Ohio teaching self-awareness to groups. In 1987, Vineline author George Castle said Faul believed he had discovered a “super mind” beyond the normal subconscious in the chest close to the heart of each person.47 Faul compared the “super mind” to “a little sun, a sun of joy.”48 “It’s like a radiating force, another being in you,” he explained. “If you can take your mind down there, deeper than the subconscious, it has magnum force for good.”49
Despite all the publicity Faul received by using hypnosis, Cubs battery mate Randy Hundley felt Faul could have been a good pitcher. “He had a lot of ability; he threw hard and had good control,” Hundley said in the Vineline piece.50
Faul died on February 21, 2002, in Cincinnati. The Pleasant Plain resident was buried in Goshen Cemetery in Goshen. He was survived by his daughter, Deems; brother, Gerald; and five nieces and nephews.
The author is indebted to SABR member Paul Proia of the South Florida Chapter for his assistance with this biography, which was reviewed by Rory Costello and Bruce Harris and fact-checked by David Kritzler.
In addition to the sources listed in the notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, Findagrave.com, Ancestry.com, Paperofrecord.com, Newspapers.com, the 1966 Chicago Cubs Official Roster Book, and Faul’s player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
1 Tom Tiede, “Cubs’ Bill Faul — He’s Twirler in the Twilight Zone,” Decatur (Illinois) Herald and Review, August 17, 1965: 16.
2 Richard Dozer, “Mesmerist,” Chicago Tribune, March 27, 1966: 294.
3 Dozer, “Mesmerist.”
4 Bill Faul, findagrave.com/memorial/18626739.
5 Paul Zimmerman, “Hypnotism Hit by Angel Bats,” Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1963: III-2.
6 Gary Eastwick, “Bill Faul was a baseball classic,” Cincinnati Enquirer, via The DeadballEra.com, accessed October 25, 2021.
7 Associated Press, “Tigers Acquire UC’s Bill Faul,” Cincinnati Enquirer, September 9, 1962: 64. (Various accounts listed the bonus as high as an estimated $60,000).
8 Bob Pille, “Thinking Man’s Rookie,” Detroit Free Press, June 27, 1962: 33.
9 Pille, “Thinking Man’s Rookie.”
10 Ed Harris, “Bill Faul’s Four-Hitter Wins for Smokies, 2 To 1,” Knoxville (Tennessee) Journal, July 6, 1962: 6.
11 Bob Terrell, “Rookie Bill Faul Blanks Tourists On 4 Hits, 4-0,” Asheville (North Carolina) Citizen-Times, July 11, 1962: 16.
12 Jerry Green, “Bengals Crash 4 Homers in Routing Red Sox, 14-6,” Battle Creek (Michigan) Enquirer, September 14, 1962: 13.
13 Joe McGuff, “Finley Loses Numbers Hassle — A’s Can’t Wear Digit on Sleeve,” The Sporting News, April 6, 1963: 32.
14 Joe Falls, “Hypnotist, Twirler Weave Magic Spell,” The Sporting News, April 6, 1963: 35.
15 Falls, “Hypnotist, Twirler Weave Magic Spell.”
17 Watson Spoelstra, “Running Mate for Kaline — That’s Tigers’ Top Target,” The Sporting News, June 8, 1963: 17.
18 James Enright, “A Faul Guy? Not This Colorful Cub!” The Sporting News, August 21, 1965: 15.
19 Jerry Izenberg, “Rise and Faul of Hypnosis in Baseball,” Pittsburgh Weekly Sports, April 13, 1964: 7.
20 Izenberg, “Rise and Faul of Hypnosis in Baseball.”
21 Associated Press, “Bill Faul Falls Out of Trance,” Lansing (Michigan) State Journal, April 8, 1964: 49.
22 Earl Luebker, “Sports Log,” Tacoma (Washington) News Tribune, July 19, 1966: 14.
23 “Suits Filed,” Cincinnati Enquirer, August 18, 1971: 31.
24 Edgar Munzel, “Hypnotist Faul Places Batters in Deep Sleep,” The Sporting News, August 7, 1965: 18.
25 Munzel, “Hypnotist Faul Places Batters in Deep Sleep.”
28 In the fourth inning, the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente lined out to second baseman Glenn Beckert after Bob Bailey had singled and Manny Mota had reached base on Faul’s errant throw to first base. Beckert flipped the ball to shortstop Don Kessinger, doubling Bailey off second base. Kessinger’s throw to first baseman Ernie Banks retired Mota for the third out.
29 After the Braves’ Mack Jones faked going to second base, Bailey threw the ball to Kessinger in the middle of the infield. When the Braves’ Rico Carty headed home from third base, Kessinger threw to Faul at home plate for the second out. Finally, Faul threw to Beckert at second base to nab Jones, who had tried to advance from first base.
30 Stan Hochman, “Phillies Batters Sleep … Sleep … Sleep,” Philadelphia Daily News, August 4, 1965: 47.
31 Richard Dozer, “Sox Win 7th In Row, 3-1; Cubs Split,” Chicago Tribune, August 21, 1965: 47.
32 With the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski on second and Gene Alley on first, first baseman Banks snared Del Crandall’s liner, stepped on first to retire Alley and threw to Kessinger at second to nab Mazeroski before he could get back to the base.
33 Luebker, “Sports Log.”
34 Dozer, “Mesmerist.”
36 “Bill Faul Suggests Endurance,” Chicago Tribune, May 2, 1966: 75.
37 “Bill Faul Suggests Endurance.”
38 Banks finished with 512 homers, good for ninth all time when he retired in 1971.
39 “Faul Draws Leo’s Ire; Sent Down,” Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1966: 93.
40 “Faul Draws Leo’s Ire; Sent Down.”
41 “Faul Draws Leo’s Ire; Sent Down.”
42 Ed Honeywell, “’New’ Bill Faul Arrives at T-Cubs Spring Camp,” Tacoma News Tribune, March 14, 1967: 27.
43 Honeywell, “’New’ Bill Faul Arrives at T-Cubs Spring Camp.”
45 Frank Luksa, “Dabbing into Unknown Makes Faul Aggressive,” Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, April 6, 1967: 23.
46 John Swagerty, “Wichita Roster This Season Dotted with Many New Faces,” Wichita (Kansas) Beacon, April 4, 1973: 16.
47 George Castle, “Faul’s Passion for Hypnosis Leads to Possible Super Mind,” Vineline, February 1987.
48 Castle, “Faul’s Passion for Hypnosis Leads to Possible Super Mind.”