William Lee Gullickson (born February 20, 1959 in Marshall, Minnesota) is a former major league baseball pitcher who played for six different major-league teams, in Canada, the U.S. and Japan, during an 18-year professional career, of which 14 seasons were spent in MLB.
MLB career (1979–1987)
Gullickson was selected as the second player to be drafted in the first round of the June 1977 Major League Baseball draft by the Montreal Expos, out of Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet, Illinois. He finished second behind Steve Howe in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1980, after a season in which he went 10–5 with an earned run average (ERA) of 3.00, and set a major-league record for most strikeouts in a game by a rookie, with 18. Gullickson held that record for 18 years, until Kerry Wood broke it with 20 strikeouts in 1998. Gullickson held the Montreal Expos-Washington Nationals all-time strikeout record for a single game with 18 strikeouts until Max Scherzer broke the record in 2016.
In 1981, he helped the Expos to their only division title with a 7–9, 2.81 record. The Expos lost the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games. Except for the 1981 strike season, Gullickson was in double figures in wins for every year onward.
On December 12, 1985, Gullickson was acquired by the Reds, along with catcher Sal Butera; the Reds sent pitchers Andy McGaffigan and John Stuper and catcher Dann Bilardello to the Expos. The next year Gullickson was acquired by the New York Yankees for their 1987 pennant drive, but he was unhappy there, and in 1988 accepted a two-million-dollar offer to pitch in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants.
NPB career (1988–1989)
Gullickson stayed with the Giants for two seasons, with a record of 21–14. Kazushige Nagashima, the son of Japanese baseball legend Shigeo Nagashima, got the first hit in his professional career, a home run, off Gullickson. When asked about his time in Japan, Gullickson said it was strange; the only English words that he saw were "Sony and Mitsubishi."
Overcomes diabetes to excel
Although only in Japan for a short time, Gullickson left behind a positive legacy. When he was in Japan, it was considered a miracle that Gullickson, a patient with type 1 diabetes mellitus, played a professional sport. Since 1998, the Japan Diabetes Mellitus Society (JADMC) has awarded the "Gullickson Award" for the patient who is deemed a superior influence on society.
While in Japan, Gullickson also developed a close friendship with a young Japanese pitcher, Masumi Kuwata, and even named his son "Craig Kuwata Gullickson" in his honor. Kuwata learned many things from Gullickson and grew to be one of the best players in Japan. Meanwhile, Kuwata had always wished to play in MLB, and at last, this dream was realized in 2007, as he became a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nearly 20 years after meeting Gullickson, Kuwata became an MLB rookie, at the age of 39.
At the age of 12, Sam Fuld, an aspiring baseball player who also had diabetes, met Gullickson, and talked to him for two minutes. "That was enough to inspire me", Fuld said. "Any time I can talk to young diabetic kids, I look forward to that opportunity", said Gullickson. Fuld is now a major league outfielder with the Oakland Athletics.
Back to MLB (1990–1994)
Gullickson signed as a free agent with the Houston Astros after the 1989 season, and had a mediocre 1990 season before being released. He then signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Detroit Tigers, with whom he pitched for four seasons. While with the Tigers he met a young boy, who was then 12, who also had diabetes, and talked to him for two minutes. It was future major leaguer Sam Fuld, who battled to make the Cubs' 2008 team. "That was enough to inspire me", Fuld said. "Any time I can talk to young diabetic kids, I look forward to that opportunity."
In 1991 Gullickson led the American League in wins, with 20, his career high, but in 1994 was forced to retire due to injuries, at age 35.
Gullickson is married to Sandy Gullickson. Their six children are all involved in sports or other physically intensive endeavors:
- Cassie Gullickson was on the track and field team at the University of Notre Dame.
- Carly Gullickson was a professional tennis player, whose highest world ranking in singles was no. 123 and in doubles no. 52. She won the US Open Mixed Doubles in 2009. She is retired and is a stay-at-home mom.
- Chelsey Gullickson won the 2010 NCAA Division I women's singles tennis championship for the University of Georgia.
- Craig Gullickson was a standout pitcher at Cardinal Newman High School, where he was one of the best pitchers in the state of Florida. He received a scholarship to play for Clemson University after his performance in the High School All Star Game.
- Callie Gullickson is a dancer and model. She attended Pace University in New York City.
- Chloe Gullickson is a tennis player and was no. 2 in Florida and highly nationally ranked. She received a full scholarship to the University of Virginia.
- "Cassie Gullickson". The Official Athletic Site. The University of Notre Dame. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
- Carly Gullickson at the International Tennis Federation
- "Chelsey Gullickson: Junior Spotlight of the Week". United States Tennis Association. 2005-02-24. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
- "Craig Gullickson". Profile. Clemson Athletics. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
- ^ One-air comments by announcers on ESPN2 during live coverage of the US Open first-round match between Chelsey Gullickson and Caroline Wozniacki