Williams was one of the best Cubs players. He was the 1961 National League (NL) Rookie of the Year and was an NL All-Star for six seasons with the Cubs. In 1970, he had a .322 batting average with 42 home runs and 129 runs batted in (RBIs), led the NL with 205 hits, and was the NL Most Valuable Player runner-up. In 1972, he won the NL batting title, hitting .333. Williams hit over 400 home runs in his career, including 30 or more in five seasons. He also hit over .300 in five seasons and had over 100 RBIs in three seasons.In each season from 1961 to 1973, Williams hit at least 20 home runs and drove in 84 or more runs. His batting swing was smooth and efficient, with quick wrist action that allowed him to hit for both average and power despite his slender frame. Early in his career, this earned him the nickname “Sweet-Swinging Billy Williams”, sometimes shortened to “Sweet Williams” or “Sweet Billy” (perhaps suggested by the flowers known as sweet williams). His nickname was later referenced in the subtitle of his autobiography. He was also nicknamed “Sweet-Swinging Billy from Whistler”, suggesting his birthplace in Alabama. His home run feats included 3 homers in one game and 5 homers in two consecutive games. Twice in one season, Williams belted 4 extra-base hits in a game.
Williams was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. On August 13, 1987, Williams’ uniform number 26 was retired at Wrigley Field. His was the second number to be retired by the Cubs, the first being Ernie Banks‘ number 14. Following his departure from the Cubs, the number was reassigned to other players from time to time, most notably Larry Biittner, although Williams reclaimed it during several intervals of coaching with the Cubs after his playing days had ended.
Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday spotlights…Billy Williams.