March 14, 1960 |
|April 11, 1984, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 19, 1994, for the Seattle Mariners|
|Runs batted in||114|
A 1978 graduate of Hueneme High School in Oxnard, California, Willard was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1979, Willard would make his Major League Baseball debut with the Cleveland Indians on April 11, 1984, and appeared in his final game on May 19, 1994.
Willard's career was spent mostly in obscurity, however he did experience one significant moment of fame. On October 23, 1991, playing for the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series against the Minnesota Twins, Willard would make his only series plate appearance in the bottom of the 9th of a 2–2 game, having been sent up to pinch-hit for Francisco Cabrera after a Minnesota pitching change with Mark Lemke on 3rd Base. Facing top reliever Steve Bedrosian with one out, Willard would loft a high fly out to Right Fielder Shane Mack, which proved to be just barely deep enough to score Lemke with the winning run that won the game for the Braves.
Willard's catching career came to an abrupt end on May 10, 1994, when, as a member of the Seattle Mariners versus the Chicago White Sox, a foul tip off the bat of Julio Franco struck his right shoulder, causing a fracture and damaged cartilage. Unable to complete a throw, he spent the rest of the season between the DL, the minors, and pinch hitting. He was forced to retire at the end of the 1994 season. Today, the piece of padding attached to a catcher's chest protector for extra coverage of his throwing-side's shoulder is called a 'Willard' due to this incident.
- 1987 Topps baseball card # 137