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Billy Williams

Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and former Chicago Cubs outfielder, Billy Williams was born Billy Leo Williams to Jesse Moseley Williams and Frank Levert Williams on June 15, 1938, in Whistler, Alabama. Williams’s father was from Dolphin Island, had ties with the Faustina community, and was a teammate of Bill Robinson, who later became a member of the Negro League’s Chicago American Giants. The Mobile area produced Major League Baseball Hall of Famers such as all time home run king, Hank Aaron, and pitching legend, Satchell Paige; other greats from Mobile include Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, Tommy Aaron, Cleon Jones and Tommy Agee. Most of the aforementioned stars had played for Ed Tucker’s Mobile Black Bears. Williams attended Whistler Elementary School where he excelled in sports; he graduated from Mobile County Training School in 1956; that same year Williams, following his brother Franklin Williams, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs.

Playing initially with the minor league Ponca City, Oklahoma, Cubs of the Sooner State League, Williams improved his game. Other black members of the Cubs organization included Gene Baker, future Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks, Sam “Toothpick” Jones, Sollie Drake and Negro League great, Buck O’Neal who served as a scout. Despite Jackie Robinson’s 1948 integration of Major League Baseball, Williams faced segregated accommodations on the road and at home games. In 1957, Williams hit a walk off home run to beat the Cardinals minor league team; this play angered the players on the all-white Cardinal team so much that they beat up the black elevator operator at their hotel as a stand-in for Williams. The next day with the game in progress, the elevator operator emptied his gun at the Cardinal players as Williams watched from left field.

Called up first in 1959, Williams was named National League Rookie of the Year in 1961. In his career, Williams hit twenty or more home runs in fourteen different seasons, and batted .300 five times. Williams was hero of the legendary 1969 Cubs along with Ernie Banks and Ferguson Jenkins. In 1970, Williams led the National League in runs scored (137) and tied for the lead in hits (205), while batting .322 with forty-five home runs. Williams was the Sporting News National League Player of the Year in 1972. Selected as an All-Star six times, he was the second most durable player in National League history (as of 2007) playing 1,117 consecutive games. Traded to the Oakland A’s in 1974, Williams played in the American League Championship Series in 1975. After eighteen years with the organization, Williams began his post player years as a coach for the A’s. Williams joined the Cubs staff in 1986, becoming an assistant to Cubs president Andy McPhail. Williams was elected to the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1981, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987 in Cooperstown, New York. In 1999, Williams was named as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Accession Number

A2007.010

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/16/2007

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Mobile County Training School

Martha Thomas Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Billy

Birth City, State, Country

Whistler

HM ID

WIL34

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Good, Better, Best. Never Let It Rest Until The Good Is Better, And The Better Is Best.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/15/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Beans (Pinto, Red)

Short Description

Baseball player Billy Williams (1938 - ) was an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs for over eighteen years, before ending his career with the Oakland A's. Williams was an inductee to the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in addition to being named as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Employment

Chicago Cubs

Oakland Athletics

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Billy Williams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Billy Williams lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Billy Williams describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Billy Williams describes his mother's ancestry in Whistler, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Billy Williams describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Billy Williams describes his father's community in Faustinas, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Billy Williams describes his parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Billy Williams recalls race relations during his youth in Whistler, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Billy Williams describes his father's work as a stevedore in Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Billy Williams describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Billy Williams recalls his introduction to baseball during childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Billy Williams recalls baseball players from Mobile, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Billy Williams describes Hank Aaron's early career in baseball

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Billy Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Billy Williams describes his experiences in grade school in Whistler, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Billy Williams describes his athletic talent as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Billy Williams remembers Bishop Joseph Howze

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Billy Williams describes his experiences at Mobile County Training School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Billy Williams recalls music from his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Billy Williams recalls signing his first contract with the Chicago Cubs

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Billy Williams recalls his teammates in the Chicago Cubs organization

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Billy Williams talks about changing his position to outfielder

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Billy Williams describes how he developed his baseball swing

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Billy Williams recalls being mentored by Rogers Hornsby

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Billy Williams recalls an incident with a gunman at a game in Ponca City, Oklahoma

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Billy Williams recalls his experiences playing baseball in Ponca City

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Billy Williams recalls how he considered quitting minor league baseball

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Billy Williams recalls the baseball career of his brother, Franklin Williams

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Billy Williams recalls being called up to the Chicago Cubs

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Billy Williams describes changes in Major League Baseball since his rookie year

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Billy Williams describes the changing roles of pitchers in baseball

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Billy Williams talks about the difficulty of scouting in baseball

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Billy Williams recalls his rookie year with the Chicago Cubs

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Billy Williams remembers playing for the Chicago Cubs in the early 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Billy Williams recalls the personalities of his Oakland Athletics teammates

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Billy Williams reflects upon the Chicago Cubs' history of losing

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Billy Williams talks about how statistics affect baseball players

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Billy Williams describes the 1969 Chicago Cubs roster

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Billy Williams recalls competing with the New York Mets in the 1969 season

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Billy Williams talks about the 2007 Chicago Cubs

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Billy Williams recalls his best seasons for the Chicago Cubs in the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Billy Williams describes his experiences of racial discrimination in Major League Baseball

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Billy Williams talks about playing baseball for the Oakland Athletics

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Billy Williams talks about his record for consecutive games started

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Billy Williams remembers being named to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Billy Williams recalls returning to baseball as a hitting coach

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Billy Williams recalls living on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1960s

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Billy Williams describes his career as the Chicago Cubs' coach and advisor

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Billy Williams describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Billy Williams describes his views on baseball's steroid abuse scandal

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Billy Williams reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Billy Williams reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Billy Williams talks about his favorite Chicago Cubs players

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Billy Williams describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Billy Williams narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Billy Williams recalls an incident with a gunman at a game in Ponca City, Oklahoma
Billy Williams recalls competing with the New York Mets in the 1969 season
Transcript
Is there any story from the minor leagues we need to tell before we get you to Chicago [Illinois]?$$I have a great story.$$Okay.$$Yeah, and it happened in 1957, I got a chance to play. And that night--we planned, we were playing the Cardinals [St. Louis Cardinals] farm team, we were playing the Ardmore Cardinals, okay. And in the ninth inning the game was tied and I was the only black person on the team [Ponca City Cubs], and I went the whole year just being the only black person on the ball club. In the ninth inning I got a base hit to win the baseball game. Beat the Cardinals at baseball game. They went away from the park pissed off, okay. They go to the hotel, and the one guy that runs the elevator--when three or four teammates got on the elevator, they got in an argument with the guy running the elevator. So they beat the guy up pretty good. You know they kicked him, they did all kinds of stuff with him, yeah. So at the end the guy said, "I'm gonna get you guys," okay? And we playing in--next night we were playing in Ponca City [Oklahoma] and I'm playing left field. So I saw this guy, you know all that used to come to games was whites and Osage Indians, that's a big Osage Indian [Native American] country. And I'm sitting--he sits in the stand for about, I guess about five minutes. And I'm watching him from left field. And then he ventured, you know the dugouts were right on the field, little low dugouts, you're sitting in there, you could--minor league D baseball. So the guy, the fence was right here and the dugout was right here. So the guy walks up to the dugout and he asked, "Say, where was Corey Smith?" He asked, "Where is Corey Smith?" That's one of the guys that beat him up, okay. So Corey Smith looks around and sees him. And their dugout on the first base line, our dugout is on the third base line. Corey Smith looks up and sees him and takes off and starts running. This guy pulls out a .38 right at the baseball field, pow, pow, pow. Empty it. You could see it hitting the ground, you could see the dust flying. And the, the manager jumped up, the manager got shot in the side. And he never did hit Corey Smith. But they came and got him, they arrested him, okay. They came out to left field, got me and took me in the clubhouse because they thought somebody would bother me. They took me in the clubhouse, sat me around in the clubhouse and they arrested this individual. They called the game.$$Now this was a white guy, the elevator guy was a white guy?$$No, he was a black guy.$$Okay. See this changes the whole--$$Yeah he was a black guy, yeah. And--$$And he was shooting at a white guy, wasn't he?$$Yeah, yeah. He was shooting at the, he was shooting at Corey Smith, the guy that beat him up, yeah. So they called the game about the second inning, you know. And this friend of mine, Bobby Walton, and they had a little team town or something that we used to go to and we went over there right after then. And somebody told his daughter that they arrested your father. And she went down to the police station and he got out. You know he was there about three or four days and he got out. Because he had bruises, lumps where they had beat him up on the elevator. And it's a strange thing. I guess about fifteen or twenty years ago, I went back to Ponca City, Oklahoma and I said, "You remember when I played here in 1957? There was a guy came out to the ballpark and he started shooting." So one of the guys in the area said, "Come here, I'll take you where he is." So I went over there and I could see this guy nailing nails, you know, and he was working on a church and he had become a preacher. And he turned around and I told him who I were and I just wanted to meet you and everything. And he said, "You know, you were the cause of that." And I say, "How was that?" He said, "They were mad because you got that base hit to beat them a ballgame."$So '69 [1969], you all [Chicago Cubs] won ninety-three games and you were like tearing up the league up until when the Mets [New York Mets] turned it on.$$Well the first day of the season, you know, it started the excitement for that whole '69 [1969] season. We were losing the ball game and Leo [Leo Durocher] called Willie Smith up there to hit. Willie Smith hit a home run and we won the ball game and I think we rolled off about eleven or twelve or thirteen in a row. You know we were winning, we playing great baseball. The excitement, you know when you go to the ballpark. There could be ten, fifteen thousand people waiting on the outside to get in the ballpark and this is like nine o'clock in the morning. You know we'd go out to the park and see all these people and that's the time we had to walk across the street to get to our car. We had to sign fifteen, twenty autographs before we get in the car, you know. But it was exciting, the whole year. You know we were, we were winning ball games. I mean if we had to have a shutout, Bill Hands would pitch it or Fergie [Ferguson Jenkins] would. If we need a home run, Ernie [HistoryMaker Ernie Banks] or myself or Santo [Ron Santo] hit it. Great plays when they--we were playing solid baseball. We were doing everything right. And we did everything practically right up until the last day. You know a couple of times we made mistakes on the field. But we still could have got through it and won. But during August, during August I think, we were like eleven games, I think leading by eleven games. And then you could see the thing start to tumble. We lost a few ball games, the guys weren't catching the ball. Couple of guys went in terrible slumps. But as I said, we still did enough to win, but the Mets kept on winning, the Mets kept on winning. Al Weis had about one or two home runs in his whole Major League [Major League Baseball] career. He hit a home run off of Phil Regan to win a ball game, you know? And in New York you see pictures of Agee [Tommie Agee] sliding into home plate, and Randy Hundley tagging him for an out, and the umpire called him safe. Randy jumped sky high and here's Leo coming off the bench. And we just, we just couldn't get it back. The Mets' pitching and the players, they overtaking us. You know the pitching. They came on and played great. As I say, we played good enough to win. The Mets--we didn't lose it, the Mets just beat us. But it was an exciting season that year. And I think from that time--this is when the crowds started coming to Wrigley Field [Chicago, Illinois] because there was always five, six hundred thousand. You know you go to the ballpark, they didn't open up the upper deck until weekends. But once that '69 [1969] season was finished, there was 1,600,000 people came to that ballpark, and that was unheard of. You know to Wrigley Field. And I thought, I think from that moment on, you know it's been people coming every day. You know it's been crowds every day.$$Yeah, it's probably the best attended ballpark in the Major Leagues, I mean people pack it (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) To not have won a pennant, to go through the seasons that we've had. But there's always hope, you know, for the people.