I was reading a very technical and very detailed statistical treatise, which required much more intense concentration than I was able to muster at the time. I decided to set that book aside, temporarily, and lighten things up a bit. This one was on the shelf and it fit the bill.
The complete title of this book is “Billy Williams – My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime With The Cubs”, although a more accurate title might be: “Billy Williams – My Sweet-Swinging Lifetime (a small part of which was spent with the Chicago Cubs, who really didn’t appreciate me)”. The book was written by Billy Williams with Fred Mitchell.
I actually enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about Billy Williams, and about professional baseball, and about the world of professional athletes.
Some of the opinions stated here struck me as a little dated. I asked myself if this book was published back in the ‘60s or the ‘70s. But, no, it is a new book, published in 2008.
The single largest chapter in the book contains inside info about folks Billy has known who played for the Cubs at one time or another. This was the chapter which interested me the most. Here are some of the highlights:
- Ernie said things in the clubhouse or the dugout like “Do you have change for three cents?” or “The weather will be cold, the weather will be hot. There will be weather, whether or not.”
- “On the second strike to Martin, his bat slipped out of his hands and landed near the pitching mound. Brewer reached down to give Martin the bat. That’s when Martin sucker punched Brewer and broke his jaw. Someone held Brewer back after the punch, but I think if he had gotten to Martin, he would have killed him. That’s the kind of individual he was.”
- “When Lou would come to the plate, most of the Cubs coaching staff would tell him – because he had such great speed and he was a left-handed hitter – ‘Try to hit the ball to the shortstop and run like hell. Either do that, or bunt.’ That’s what he heard all of the time from our coaches.
Lou would tell me that he couldn’t play that way. When he went to St. Louis, their manager, Johnny Keane, told Lou to just play baseball and have fun. Lou told me later that piece of advice was the thing that really turned his career as a baseball player around.”
- “When I am at bat, I am in scoring position.”
- “Baseball is easy. Life is hard.”
- “But Adolfo’s temperament seemed to work against him. He thought everybody was picking on him all of the time. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Speaking about himself, Billy says:
- “But I found that if I waited long enough and made them throw me a lot of pitches, at some point I would get a pitch that looked like it was sitting on a tee.”
- “I remember that after I had the outstanding 1970 season, I wanted $100,000. I wanted to be the first Cubs player to make that much money.” “Later in my career with the Cubs I had to go to the office of Mr. Wrigley on Michigan Avenue.” “In one of our conversations he said, ‘Ernie Banks never made $100,000 with the Cubs’.” “It appeared evident that Mr. Wrigley had a particular problem paying a black man that kind of money.”
As I said, I enjoyed reading this book and I’m glad I read it. All Cubs fans should read this book. They will become more familiar with Billy Williams and with his view of things. However, I must tell you that Mr. Williams comes off a little less likable in this book than other former Cubs have in theirs.