Billy Leo Williams (born June 15, 1938) is a former outfielder in professional baseball. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed. A highly competitive player on talented Chicago Cubs teams that never reached the post-season, he finally realized his dream of playing in the post-season late in his career with the Oakland Athletics. Like his teammates Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, and Ron Santo, he never played in a World Series.
Williams was born in Whistler, Alabama. He started his career in 1959, joining a Cubs team that would feature stars like Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, and Ron Santo by the early 1960s. Williams was selected as the Rookie of the Year in 1961. Williams also set a National League record for consecutive games played with 1,117 between 1962-1971 (eclipsed by Steve Garvey 1975-1983 with 1,207). Cleo James replaced him in the lineup at the end of his streak. From 1961 to 1973, Williams annually hit at least twenty home runs and was responsible for eighty-four or more RBIs.
Williams enjoyed his finest season in 1972 at age 34, when he paced the league in batting average with a .333 mark, also posting a .606 slugging percentage while collecting 37 home runs and 122 runs batted in. He finished behind Johnny Bench in the MVP selection. 1972 was his last great season in the league. After the 1974 season, he was traded to the American League's Oakland Athletics for second baseman Manny Trillo and two pitchers. Williams helped lead Oakland to the 1975 American League West championship as a designated hitter, hitting 23 homers with 81 RBI. He retired a year later.
After accumulating a lifetime .290 BA with 426 homers and 1475 RBI, Billy Williams was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. Williams credited a grade school teacher with encouraging him to always try to improve, citing the old saying, "Good, better, best / Never let it rest / Till the good is better / And the better is best."
On 13 August of that same year Williams' number 26 was retired at Wrigley Field. His was the second number retired by the Cubs, the first being Ernie Banks' number 14. Following his departure from the Cubs, the number had been 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.
In 1999, he was named as a finalist to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
- Height: 6'- 1"
- Weight: 175 lb
- Bats: Left
- Throws: Right
- Uniform number: 26
- Batting average: .290
- Hits: 2,711
- RBIs: 1,475
- Home runs: 426
- Doubles: 434
- Played 1,117 consecutive games (1962-1971)
- League Leader:
- 1972-Batting average (.333)
- 1972-Slugging average (.606)
- 1970-Runs (137)
- 1970-Hits (205)
- 3-time leader - total bases:
- 1968: 321
- 1970: 373
- 1972: 348
- 3-time leader in top-10 votes for league MVP:
- 5-time leader - games played (1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970)
- List of Major League Baseball Home Run Records
- Top 500 home run hitters of all time
- List of major league players with 2,000 hits
- List of Major League Baseball players with 400 doubles
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 runs
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBI
- List of Major League Baseball batting champions
- List of Major League Baseball runs scored champions
- MLB consecutive games played streaks
- Major League Baseball hitters with three home runs in one game
- baseballhalloffame.org – Hall of Fame biography page
- Baseball-Reference.com - Major league career statistics
- Baseball Almanac
- "Its all about R-e-s-p-e-c-t for 'Sweet Swingin' Billy Williams
- The Williams-Santo Cubs 1961-1965 @ The Hardball Times
|National League Rookie of the Year
|Major League Player of the Month
|National League Batting Champion