Position: Outfielder
Teams: Chicago Cubs, 1959-1974; Oakland Athletics,1975-1976

Billy Williams -- who is best remembered for his flawless swing -- was a model of the quiet, consistent star. He established a National League record by playing in 1,117 consecutive games. He had more than 20 homers and more than 80 RBI in 13 consecutive seasons.

Billy Leo Williams was born in 1938 in Whistler, Alabama, which is near Mobile. His high school didn't have a baseball team, so when he was young he played with the semipro Mobile Black Bears, a farm team for the Negro Leagues that had prepared Hank Aaron in 1950.

Billy Williams is widely considered to be the most valuable all-around offensive performer in the club's history.
Billy Williams is widely considered to be the most valuable
all-around offensive performer in the club's history.

Williams was signed by the Cubs in 1956, and from 1957 to 1960 he rose steadily through the Cubs system, batting over .300 in four different minor leagues. In Houston of the American Association in 1960, Billy batted 323 with 26 home runs and 80 RBI. Rogers Hornsby, who was the batting instructor for the Chicago farm system, was so enamored of Billy's swing that he exhorted the Cubs to promote Williams.

The Cubs complied, installing Williams in the outfield in 1961, and his 25 homers and .278 average earned him NL Rookie of the Year honors. In his first seven seasons he struck out more than he walked, but over the final seven, the reverse was true. He never struck out more than 84 times in a season, and he drove in or scored more than 100 runs eight times.

Advice and inspiration from Hornsby made Billy a more disciplined hitter. Willie Stargell called Williams's swing "poetry in motion," with its short arc and snapping wrists. From 1962 to 1969, he had from a .276 to .315 batting average, with 21 to 34 homers, 84 to 108 RBI, and 87 to 115 runs scored.

Although the Cubs had Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Ferguson Jenkins during much of Williams's career, the team never made it to postseason play. In 1970, Billy hit a career-high 42 homers and led the NL with 205 base hits and 137 runs scored. He also had 129 RBI, a .322 batting average, and a .586 slugging percentage. In 1972, he led the league with a .333 average and a .606 slugging average. He also had 37 homers, 95 runs scored, and 122 RBI. Both years he finished second to Johnny Bench in MVP voting, although Billy was named Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

Williams batted over the .300 mark five times and topped 200 hits in a season three times. Traded to Oakland after the 1974 season, he was a designated hitter for the next two years. He popped 23 homers in 1975 to help the A's win their fifth straight divisional title. After the 1976 season, he retired to become a hitting instructor for the Cubs. Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987.

Here are Billy William's major league totals:

BAG
AB

H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
.290
2,488
9,350
1,410
2,711
434
88
426
1,475
90

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