Billy Consolo was born on August 18, 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child, and at the age of 8, he began playing baseball. He signed up at the local park, where it cost 50 cents to play baseball and met his life-long friend George "Sparky" Anderson. He began to attract attention from some West Coast scouts while playing on the sandlots. He first attracted notice at the Rancho Cienega Playground where his slingshot arm, base-running speed, and hitting power for a kid his age attracted attention.
At the age of 12 Billy donned his first uniform, with the Douglas Post American Legion. Scouts characterized him as that little scampering runt, playing with boys four and five years older and holding his own quite handily. At 13, he began playing semipro baseball in the California winter league. As a proficient cleanup hitter on the Dorsey High School team that won 42 consecutive games and the city championship, Billy advanced to the Crenshaw Legion Post 715 team that won the Junior American Legion National Championship in Detroit in 1951.
The scouts who paid attention to his progress considered him a prize for any team that won the race to sign him. He was called the best prospect Los Angeles had to offer, and everyone waited for him to finish high school in January 1953. Billy ultimately favored the Boston Red Sox who arrived with an offer of $60,000 in hand for a bonus contract, and Billy signed on February 2, 1953, the day he graduated from Dorsey High.
Once spring training was finished, he experienced only fleeting moments of an occasional private lesson from the coaches and a few of the regular players. He was stymied by the major-league curveballs that jumped around unlike anything he had experienced back on the Los Angeles playgrounds. Since he was a Red Sox bench warmer under the bonus baby rule, he was restricted to a half-hour of batting practice before games, and he rarely got more than his quota of six cuts. During his first year with the Red Sox, he appeared in 47 games and was at bat 65 times, mostly as a pinch-hitter or a fill-in for an injured or ailing everyday player. He made his debut in the second game of a doubleheader against Washington in April.
The team stayed with its fixtures at second, third, and shortstop, gave first base to Agganis, and Billy went back to the bench for the second year of his confinement. CHis sporadic appearances defined his 1954 season.
The Red Sox, relieved of the bonus-rule restriction in 1955, sent him to Oakland, where he played in 159 games, almost all at second base, and batted .276.
In 1956, Billy got all of two starts at second and played in 25 games behind Billy Goodman and Ted Lepcio. In 1956, Billy saw more action at shortstop than at second, and even put in a couple of games at third base. He was the third option at second, well behind new second sacker Pete Runnels, the third choice at shortstop behind new would-be infield sensation Don Buddin and Billy Klaus, and behind thirdbaseman Frank Malzone. Billy hit a dreadful .125.
In 1959, Pumpsie Green, and Ted Lepcio were ahead of Billy at second base and the Sox acquired Bobby Avila as the backup at shortstop. June 10, 1959, was the last game he played in a Red Sox uniform, as the Sox sent him to Washington. Billy finally received his chance to spend less time on a bench and more time out on the field, appearing in 79 games, nearly all at shortstop with a .213 average.
In 1960, his average was a dismal .207. In 1961, He made the team out of spring training, but appeared in just 11 games with only five at-bats. In June, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Braves who immediately sent him to Milwaukee’s Triple-A team, the Vancouver Mounties. The Braves brought him up just before the October deadline, but he never played a major-league game for the Braves.
During the Rule 5 major-league draft in November 1961, the Phillies picked him up. His career in a Phillies uniform was brief, as he appeared in just 13 games in 1962, only once in the field, and in May he was sold to his hometown Los Angeles Angels.
In June 26 the Angels traded him to the Kansas City Athletics, who afforded Billy more playing time than he’d seen in years. He appeared in 54 games, but when Kansas City tried to send him to the minors, he requested his unconditional release.
He got his release in November, and in 1963 he was signed by the Cleveland Indians and offered a trial at their spring-training camp and a minor-league contract with the Jacksonville Suns of the International League. With that decision made, heretired from baseball, having appeared in 603 big-league games over 10 years, for six teams.
He turned to his offseason career as a barber, an occupation he inherited from his father, and ran a 12-chair shop at the Los Angeles Statler Hilton Hotel, little realizing at the time, that the job would prepare him for his next career in baseball.
The haircut may have cost a buck or two, but the baseball talk came at no extra charge. His boyhood friend from the sandlots of Los Angeles, Sparky Anderson, hired him as a Detroit Tigers coach in 1979. His job was twofold. He was known for his ability to lighten up the mood of the clubhouse, his way of taking pressure off with his humor and supply of tall tales. His second role required him to provide a sane environment for his lifelong friend. He stayed with Sparky until 1992. Ten years (two of them consisting of fewer than a dozen games) playing major-league baseball, and 14 years on the coaching staff, left Billy with no regrets about his baseball career.
Billy Consolo died from a heart attack on March 27, 2008 in Westlake Village, California. He was 73 years old.