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September 2009

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COMMENTS

Billy Williams

Written by , Posted in Reviews

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.

  • Mastrick

    PK Wrigley was a !@#$tard, I have little to no respect for anybody in that family. People want to know why the Cubs haven’t won a championship in over 100 years? The Wrigleys were 75% of the problem.

  • It was Wrigley’s idea to market “Beautiful Wrigley Field” over marketing a quality baseball team. Pretty smart as far as the bottom line goes, give people a nice day off at a beautiful ballpark vs a winning team. Of course today we now expect both.

    I had the pleasure of having Billy Williams and Glen Beckert as my coach at Randy’s fantasy camp. He was easy going and likeable. I wish I read this book prior to meeting him. We chatted about hitting and where he started his hands in his swing. Curiously, he started his hands at his chest near the label on his shirt, not high at his ear like most of todays players. In the Saturday game he effortlessly ripped a single into right field at age sixty something, maybe 70.

    The Cubs signed Soriano while we where at camp at it was fascinating how all the Cubs people had the same line when we would talk about wanting Soriano to be in an RBI spot in the line up vs leading off. Billy said, “He can give your team the lead right off the bat to start the game.” I remember saying to him I would rather have a 3 run homer later in the game than a solo lead off homer in the 1st inning.
    Santo and all the other former Cubs were saying the same thing so I came to believe that was the talking point of the organization and everyone fell in line as good soldiers do.

    Billy also had a swagger to him. He walked like a Hall of Famer, chest out, chin up. He was at the top of the player food chain and he knew it but not in an arrogant way. The first day of camp Glen Beckert was organizing us and he said, “Billy will do the line up, he’s a hall of famer.” As in, I know my place and it isn’t telling the hall of famer what to do. The dynamics of how the players treated eachother was very interesting. The lower end players would never sign a ball on the sweet spot assuming a hall of famer might sign the ball later.

    When we had a team dinner at Don and Charlies in Scottsdale which is a baseball museum in itself with a mural of the 69 Cubs painted on the bar wall Billy walked through the restaurant with a smile on his face happily greeting anyone who would recognize him. His wife was very nice and we had a nice chat. Beckert’s ‘lady friend’ was nice also, she was very outgoing and loved to party. When people asked Beckert if that was his wife he would get upset and say, ‘she’s not my wife, she’s my lady friend.’ All in fun. By the end of the week everyone was calling her Beck’s wife just to get a rise out of him.

    The best part of camp was not meeting the former players but other Cub fans like Seymour and Sherm. It was nice to chat and get to know the former players as people and I got a better understanding of baseball players as people from camp. That was more interesting than hearing the old war stories although some stories were pretty funny.

  • cubbiedude

    Mastrick,

    Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. You do realize that the Wrigley family sold the Chicago Cubs to the Chicago Tribune Company in 1981, don’t you. That’s 28 years ago.

  • You do realize that the Wrigley family sold the Chicago Cubs to the Chicago Tribune Company in 1981, don’t you. That’s 28 years ago.

    Well… that would be close to 75% of the 100 years. 🙂

  • cubbiedude

    dave,

    Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. I did do the math before I posted the comment. I was expecting Mark to point that out to me, but you beat him to it. You are so right.

    Doc Raker,

    Thanks also for reading and for sharing your comments. Hope you enjoy the book. Give my regards to Billy.

  • cubbiedude… what “statistical treatise” are you reading?

  • cubbiedude

    dave,

    Don’t touch that dial. The review will be posted here very soon.

  • sherm

    Thanks, Raker…you brought back some fantastic memories with your comment. That Billy was a terrific judge of talent, too. (He batted me third and Raker fourth, if memory serves.)

    I have several favorite Billy stories from camp — here’s one, apologizing in advance for the F-bomb.

    I hit a double. Line drive over the third baseman’s head into the left field corner and cruise into second. Go to third on a grounder to the right side and score on a sac fly. Our first run of the camp! I’m pretty jazzed, and here comes Billy — I figure to congratulate me on the frozen rope. He says “What the fuck was that? That ball had triple written all over it. You shoulda been standing on third.”

    I said “A triple? Have you seen me run?” He says, “Apparently not yet.” And walks back to the dugout. Classic Billy.

    BTW — part of the charm of camp is that they bust your eggs all week. But he was fantastic to talk to and to get to know. More stories later. Maybe.

  • Mr. David M. Beyer

    “When I am at bat, I am in scoring position.” Awesome.

  • Seymour Butts

    I have to give Sherm props, he did a lot of catching that camp. I have been fortunate to have had Billy as a coach 3 times including that year with Sherm, Smitty, Raker and Raker’s somewhat famous brother who has mostly disappeared from our chat circles. Billy has many places in my memory banks but above all as a gentleman. A lot of the players are rough around the edges but Billy (and Shirley, his wife, you notice her by the diamond encrusted “26” on her necklace) are class acts. I came up with 2 outs and a runner on 2nd and Billy proclaims loudly “lets see what kind of RBI man (Butts) is! I wouldn’t be telling the story if I had not delivered, and I have a picture on my office wall of Billy bumping fists with me at first base after that hit. I wear the number 13, and told Billy that’s because I would be proud to be half the man he is.
    That’s my Billy story.