Billy Williams 1961 #141
by William Szczepanek
This 1961 card of Billy Williams is his rookie card and is also the year he won the Rookie of the Year Award in his first full year in the Majors. Williams had a Hall of Fame career playing for 18 years with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A's. Williams was quiet, consistent and determined, playing in the shadows of the jovial Banks, stylish Jenkins and passionate Santo.
Billy set a National League record for playing 1,117 in consecutive games between 1962-1971 (since eclipsed by Steve Garvey). He played in 150 games for 12 consecutive seasons. He had 13 straight seasons of 20 or more home runs and 84 or more RBIs, 1961 to 1973.
In 1970 Williams lead the NL in hits and in runs scored finishing a close second to Johnny Bench for MVP. In 1972, his best season, Williams led the league with a batting average of .333, and a .606 slugging percentage while accumulating 37 home runs and 122 runs batted in. On July 8th of that year he went 8 for 8 in a double header. Again, Billy finished second to Bench for MVP even though Williams out hit him .333 to 270 and had only 3 fewer home runs and RBIs.
He was an very good outfielder who covered his position well. On August 19, 1969 his fielding diligence came through on a play that saved a no-hitter for Ken Holtzman. On a ball that Hank Aaron appeared to drive out of the park, Williams persistently kept going back, his shoulders brushing the vines looking toward the bleachers as he moved laterally along the wall to the area of Wrigley field where the wall juts back. A Chicago gust of wind off of Lake Michigan blew the ball from the bleacher seats to this famous Wrigley Field indentation giving Williams the chance to make a lunging catch in the vines. This quite possibly was the only occasion where a ball passed through home run territory and back onto the playing field. It was almost as if Williams’ determination pulled the ball to him to save the no-hitter.
“In baseball a player knows just two things: today and yesterday. There’s never a tomorrow until it gets here.” — Billy Williams
It’s amazing when you can recollect how a player swung the bat after decades of not seeing him do it. Pictures of Ruth and Aaron are seen often in the media, but for someone to be called Sweet Swingin’ Billy it must be something special. From a very relaxed stance and careful stride, this slim, wiry athlete would whip the bat through the strike zone in a way that could take the ball out of the park to any field.
Billy had a lifetime batting average of .290, with 2711 hits and 426 home runs.
He was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987 with 85.71% of the vote.
You can check out William's statistics at Baseball Reference.com.