Billy was always outside the San Francisco Giant's ballpark. As the team's manager Bruce Bochy remembers it, on game days, Billy would be there before he arrived and would stay until he came out.
Sometimes that meant waiting until Bochy finished a meeting and emerged at one or two in the morning. Billy was always there — for years — so they became friends, Bochy told All Things Considered host Robert Siegel.
Not friends in the going out to dinner way, said Bochy. But Billy was a comfort. He was the fan who after a tough loss would offer encouragement say we'll get them next time, the fan who always believed the Giants would win the pennant.
But, now, the Giants are worried, because Billy hasn't been outside the clubhouse since July 31.
"It bothers us. We can't find him," said Bochy. "We're worried about him; we're hoping to get some good news. To be honest, I don't know where Billy grew up. I don't know if he went home or we have no idea.
"We are worried about him. It's not like Billy not to be there. I can see him missing a day, which I don't remember him ever missing, but to be gone this long — we're concerned."
The team has posted the only picture they had of Billy in important places around the ballpark. The picture shows Billy with pitcher Matt Cain. Billy looks happy, a cherubic man with blue eyes and a humble smile. The San Francisco Chronicle spoke to Orlando Green, a Giants' security guard who saw Billy living in the parking lot five years ago and for some reason offered him a place to live.
"You hate to see someone living on the street," Green told the Chronicle. "He could get mugged. He could get sick."
Green said he checked the jails, the hospitals and even the morgues, but came up empty.
Green gave the paper some of the only biographical details known about Billy. His last name is Chamberlain and he took medication and lived off disability checks from the government. Green thinks he has family members along the East Coast, but they did not keep in touch with him.
Bochy said the guys on the Giants would also chip in and help Billy get to games in Southern California. Others would leave tickets for him and Bochy remembers that he got him a Giants jacket. Through the seasons, through thick and thin, through the 5th place finish in 2007 and the World Series pennant in 2010, Billy was there.
"Billy became our go to guy when we wanted to feel better about ourselves," said Bochy.
And in a game of superstition, Billy has also become much more. Since Billy disappeared, the Giants went from dominating their division to falling to second place, six games behind the Diamondbacks.
Bochy said the team has talked about that. He said in baseball there are always fans who wait outside clubhouses, fans who grow attached to teams, but Billy was different.
"[Billy] was always by himself," said Bochy. "I didn't know any of his history, really didn't ask him. It was just Billy, our friend, and he was a guy we thought would be there everyday and now we look back and we took it for granted that he'd always be there."
More of Robert's interview with Bruce Bochy is on tonight's All Things Considered. Tune in to your local NPR member station to listen. We'll also post the as-aired interview, here, later today.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Here's a question that's bothering members of the San Francisco Giants family: What happened to Billy? Billy Chamberlain is not a starting pitcher who can't find the strike zone or a high-priced free agent slugger who's batting .230. He is a fan, a regular in the parking lot of AT&T Park. How close was he to the Giants? Well, joining us from San Diego where they play the Padres today is Giants manager Bruce Bochy. Mr. Bochy, welcome.
BRUCE BOCHY: Well, thank you, and I'm glad to be with you.
SIEGEL: Tell us about Billy and your team.
BOCHY: Well, I'll start with Billy. You know, when I came up to San Francisco five years ago, I got to know a fan that was there every day. He was every day - both before and after the game where he would wait outside, you know, the ballpark, and we became friends. And, yeah, it wasn't the case where we went out and had dinner or anything. We would - I just stop and talk to Billy and...
SIEGEL: What would he say to you when you came out?
BOCHY: And he - oh, he usually, you know, say something positive. If we lost, hey, we'll get them tomorrow. And, you know, we're going to win. We're going to win the championship. You know, he was always very positive and would come down and watch his boys play.
SIEGEL: Now, I've read about this in the San Francisco Chronicle, and I read that Billy was receiving disability benefits. He was taking some - or supposed to be taking some psychiatric meds and - but for the kindness of a security guard at AT&T Park, Orlando Green, he would be living on the streets. Green gave him some place to stay. And you haven't seen him for a while. You haven't seen him since the end of July, I guess.
BOCHY: Yeah. And that's correct. And ironically, that's when we really hit our struggles, you know, at the end of July and August. And about the same time, we couldn't or didn't know what happened to Billy. And he hasn't been around. And, you know, it's just - it's amazing how, you know, a person can just disappear. And we - I mean, they've checked everywhere, from hospitals and, he even say, even morgues. You know, I, to be honest, I don't know where Billy grew up. And, you know, I don't know if he went home or - we have no idea.
SIEGEL: Mr. Bochy, I, you know, I've never heard a story like this. And I just wonder, is it - are there other examples of this in Major League Baseball of, you know, people so attached to the team at the parking lot, at the gates of the ballpark that they become a part of the franchise family?
BOCHY: Well, there are - yes, there are fans that they wait outside the clubhouse or in the parking lot, but Billy was a little different. I mean, he was our friend and, you know, he was a guy we thought would be there every day. And now, we look back, we took it for granted that he'd always be there. And the guys thought a lot of him and, you know, they would chip in and help him take a train ride down to L.A. or San Diego. And I remember getting Billy a jacket, a Giant jacket. He was so proud of it. And Billy just kind of became our, you know, our go-to guy, I guess, when, you know, we want to feel a little better about ourselves.
SIEGEL: Just before you go, you mentioned that by coincidence, the last time Billy was at AT&T Park in San Francisco, July 31st, also marked a turn in the fortunes of the club. You're in second place in your division behind Arizona now. You're - was it six games back or so? It's going to be a tough shot at the postseason. Have the two things merged in your mind at some level that bad things began happening to the Giants at the end of July?
BOCHY: Well, we, you know, we did talk about it, how ironic it was that since Billy started, you know, was missing, that we had our struggles. And, you know, we're all superstitious in our own ways. But, you know, for us to have such a tough month is unusual, as good as we've been. I mean, we are the world champions.
SIEGEL: Well, good luck to you. And I hope that somebody turns up something about the whereabouts of Billy Chamberlain.
BOCHY: Well, thanks. And I appreciate your time, and let's find Billy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.