Buford Billy Champion Jr., a Major League pitcher with the Phillies (1969-72) and Milwaukee Brewers (1973-76), died on Saturday in his hometown of Shelby, N.C. He was 69.
Following an outstanding career at Shelby High School, Champion was selected by the Phillies in the third round of MLB's first summer Draft in 1965 (58th player overall). His Major League debut came four years later with the Phillies. His final game was in 1976 with the Brewers.
Champion's eight-season Major League record was 34-50 with a 4.69 ERA in 202 games (102 starts). His best season was in 1974 in Milwaukee, when he went 11-4. Champion also pitched eight seasons in the Minors, compiling a 59-44 record and a 3.69 ERA. Twice he had the lowest ERA in a league, 2.40 in the Northern League ('65) and 2.03 in the Carolina League ('68). Following a 7-1 start at Triple-A Eugene in '69, he was promoted to the Phillies.
• Phillies Alumni page
After the 1972 season, Champion was traded by the Phillies to Milwaukee as part of a seven-player deal for four pitchers, including Jim Lonborg and Ken Brett.
According to his Shelby Star obituary, following his playing career, Champion was a coach and scout for the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. In addition, he worked for Major League Baseball International Development in China for several years. He retired in 2015.
Champion is survived by wife Kimberly, son Travis, daughter Ashley Greene, a sister and brother, and four grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to: North Carolina Chapter of Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 401 Harrison Oaks Blvd, Suite 200, Cary, N.C., 27511.
Larry Shenk is the editor and writer of the Phillies Alumni page.