Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Birthday "Sweet Swingin'" Billy Williams

Billy Williams
Billy Williams, the sweet swinging hall of fame left fielder for the Chicago Cubs turned 73 today.

Happy birthday, Billy!

WGN read off a list of notable Chicagoans with birthdays today and omitted him, while mentioning the lackluster Dusty Baker who had only a brief stint as manager here.

So typical. Billy Williams was the one Chicago superstar who, like a baseball Rodney Dangerfield, never seemed to get any respect.

He was overshadowed most of his career by the home run hitting Ernie Banks and the more flamboyant Ron Santo. And of course, being a Cub, he never enjoyed the national spotlight of a World Series.
Williams' Statue
Outside Wrigley Field

But all the while he quietly and uncomplainingly amassed a record of accomplishment that is among the greatest in baseball history.

The "Iron Man" of his era, he amassed a long-standing NL record (since surpassed by Steve Garvey) of 1,117 consecutive games.

Rookie of the year in '61, over his fifteen year career he hit 426 round trippers and drove in 1,475 runs with a lifetime .290 batting average.

And always having a better than average glove, he memorably saved no-hitters for Cubs pitchers Kenny Holtzman and Milt Pappas with spectacular diving outfield catches.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

I'm glad the Cubs finally got around to retiring his number #26 and erecting a statue to him outside Wrigley Field.

All of us little leaguers from the boomer generation have nothing but great respect for his abilities and fond memories of the great moments he gave us in Cubs' lore.

And now, he's finally gotten the respect he deserves.

Happy Birthday, Billy Williams!