Robert Lee Turley (September 19, 1930 – March 30, 2013), known as “Bullet Bob”, played in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a pitcher from 1951 through 1963. He was raised in East St. Louis, Illinois. He attended East St. Louis Senior High School in East St. Louis, and played for the school’s baseball squad for three years. He was used as both a starter and reliever, becoming the staff’s ace pitcher by the end of his senior season, in 1948. Turley won the team’s sportsmanship award that year.
Turley made his MLB debut with the St. Louis Browns in 1951, and stayed with the team through their first season in Baltimore, when he appeared in his first MLB All-Star Game. After the 1954 season, he was traded to the New York Yankees. With the Yankees, Turley appeared in two more All-Star Games. He led the American League in wins in 1958, and won the Cy Young Award, World Series Most Valuable Player Award, and Hickok Belt that year. He finished his playing career with the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox in 1963, and then coached the Red Sox in 1964.
Bill DeWitt, the general manager of the St. Louis Browns, brought Turley to Sportsman’s Park for a tryout. Turley also attended a workout camp for the New York Yankees, held in Maryville, Illinois. The day after he graduated from high school in 1948, Turley signed with the Browns as an amateur free agent. He received a $600 signing bonus ($5,909 in current dollar terms).
He played his first game in the major leagues on September 29, 1951. He lost to the Chicago White Sox. He did not pitch again in 1951, and after the season ended, he enlisted with the United States Army for two years. H returned to the Browns in August 1953, and caught attention for his high strikeout rate. He remaeined with the team after they moved to Baltimore, Maryland, to become the Baltimore Orioles in 1954. He earned $9,000 ($79,305 in current dollar terms) for the 1954 season. He pitched the first game at Memorial Stadium, striking out nine in a complete game. A power pitcher, Turley recorded many strikeouts, but did not have great control.For the 1954 season, he led the American League in strikeouts with 185, but also led the league with 181 walks. That year, he earned comparisons to fellow fireballer Bob Feller,and finished in third place in balloting for the Hickok Belt, given to the professional athlete of the year.
While playing for the Orioles, Turley obtained the nickname “Bullet Bob”. The magazine Look wrote a story about Turley, and wanted to measure the velocity of his fastball. They used a bullet timer from the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, which recorded a speed of 98 miles per hour (158 km/h) by the time it reached home plate.
Turley made an appearance on It’s News to Me, a current events-based game show hosted by Walter Cronkite.He was mentioned in a song called “St. Louis Browns” by Skip Battin, who was the bass guitarist of The Byrds and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. In the lyrics, Battin describes Turley as a “no-hit pitcher” who “got too surly” and who was “traded…too early”.