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Billy Williams

Left fielder
Born: June 15, 1938 (1938-06-15) (age 71)
Whistler, Alabama
Batted: Left Threw: Right 
MLB debut
August 6, 1959 for the Chicago Cubs
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 1976 for the Oakland Athletics
Career statistics
Batting average     .290
Home runs     426
Hits     2,711
Runs batted in     1,475
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction     1987
Vote     85.71%

Billy Leo Williams (born June 15, 1938) is a former outfielder in professional baseball. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed. A highly competitive player on talented Chicago Cubs teams that never reached the post-season, he finally realized his dream of playing in the post-season late in his career with the Oakland Athletics. Like his teammates Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, and Ron Santo, he never played in a World Series.

Williams was born in Whistler, Alabama. He began his career in 1959, a career which nearly stopped before it got under way. Growing up in an integrated neighborhood in the Mobile suburb, he had never experienced overt racial discrimination until he played for the Cubs minor league club in San Antonio, Texas. He was so discouraged that he left the team and went home. Buck O'Neil, the Cubs scout who had originally discovered Williams, was dispatched to Whistler and he persuaded Williams to try again. (Billy Williams: My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime with the Cubs, by Billy Williams and Fred Mitchell, Triumph Books, 2008, Chapter 1)

Williams then advanced quickly through the minor league ranks, joining a Cubs team that would feature stars like Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, and Ron Santo by the early 1960s. Williams was selected as the Rookie of the Year in 1961. Williams also set a National League record for consecutive games played with 1,117 between 1962-1971 (eclipsed by Steve Garvey 1975-1983 with 1,207). As his consecutive games streak began to accumulate, he was dubbed "Iron Man" by some writers,[1] and co-authored a 1970 book called Iron Man.[2] Cleo James replaced him in the lineup at the end of his streak. From 1961 to 1973, Williams annually hit at least twenty home runs and was responsible for eighty-four or more RBIs.

Williams' batting stroke was smooth and efficient, with quick wrist action that allowed him to hit for both average and power despite his slender frame. Early in his career he acquired the nickname, "Sweet-Swinging Billy Williams", sometimes shortened to "Sweet Williams" or "Sweet Billy" (perhaps suggested by the flowers known as sweet williams), which was referenced in the subtitle of his autobiography.

Williams was better known for hitting than for defense, but he made crucial catches in two different no-hitters by Cubs pitchers: Ken Holtzman in 1969, and Milt Pappas in 1972.

Williams enjoyed his finest season in 1972 at age 34, when he paced the league in batting average with a .333 mark, also posting a .606 slugging percentage while collecting 37 home runs and 122 runs batted in. He finished behind Johnny Bench in the MVP selection. 1972 was his last great season in the league. After the 1974 season, he was traded to the American League's Oakland Athletics for second baseman Manny Trillo and two pitchers. Williams helped lead Oakland to the 1975 American League West championship as a designated hitter, hitting 23 homers with 81 RBI. He retired a year later.

After accumulating a lifetime .290 BA with 426 homers and 1475 RBI, Billy Williams was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. Williams credited a grade school teacher with encouraging him to always try to improve, citing the old saying, "Good, better, best / Never let it rest / Until the good is better / And the better is best." (Billy Williams: My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime with the Cubs, by Billy Williams and Fred Mitchell, Triumph Books, 2008, p.210)

Billy Williams was honored alongside the retired numbers of the Chicago Cubs in 1987.

On 13 August of that same year Williams' number 26 was retired at Wrigley Field. His was the second number retired by the Cubs, the first being Ernie Banks' number 14. Following his departure from the Cubs, the number had been reassigned to other players from time to time, most notably Larry Biittner, although Williams reclaimed it during several intervals of coaching with the Cubs after his playing days had ended.

In 1999, he was named as a finalist to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

See also

retired number at Wrigley Field

External links

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