DICK WILLIAMS – The Hall of Fame welcomes another Oriole
When Dick Williams got voted into the baseball Hall of Fame last week by the Veterans Committee, he was lauded for managing “The Swingin’ A’s” to World Series titles in 1972 & 1973. There were fond recollections of his “Impossible Dream” Red Sox, who won the American League pennant in 1967, and flashbacks to his surprising San Diego Padres club that won the NL flag in 1984.
Considering Williams skippered more than 3,000 major league games for half-a-dozen clubs, those milestones are his rightful claim to fame. However, he also batted .260 in a 13-year as a player, starting in 1951 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. By the time Williams career came to an end in 1964, he spent three separate stints with the Baltimore Orioles.
He was a hustling jack-of-all-trades, hampered for most of his career by a bum throwing shoulder after injuring it diving for a line drive in 1952. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of seeing him play (born too late), but here’s what the 1974 Orioles yearbook had to say about him.
He joined the Orioles for the first time in 1956 when the Birds bought his contract from the Dodgers, though Dick was playing in Montreal at the time. Dick batted .286 while playing the outfield and three infield positions that year.
He remained in Baltimore long enough in 1957 to hit one of the most memorable home runs in Memorial Stadium history. The date was May 18 and the Birds were hosting the Chicago White Sox. A pre-arranged curfew of 10:20 p.m. had been agreed upon to enable the Sox to catch a train. This meant that all play would stop at that time and the score would revert to the last completed inning unless the home team had tied or gone ahead. The Sox held a 4-3 lead in the 9th, and with just seconds to go before the curfew was to take effect, pitcher Paul LaPalme had only to hold the ball, throw it in the dirt or throw it on the screen to assure a Chicago victory. Instead he served up a strike which Dick hit out of the park, and the Birds wound up with a tie and -later on in the season- won the replay.
Nevertheless, Baltimore traded him to the Indians a month later, but Cleveland traded him back to the Orioles just two weeks before opening day in 1958. Williams hit .276 in 128 games that season, playing all three outfield spots plus first, second and third. At the end of the year, Baltimore traded him again, this time to Kansas City.
Williams logged his two best power seasons in KC, then returned to the Orioles a third time via trade just a day into the 1961 season. He spent two more years in Baltimore, and finished his 447 games in an Orioles uniform with a .255 batting average and 25 home runs. The Houston Colt 45’s purchased him after the 1962 season, then shipped him to the Red Sox where he finished his career.
I wrote to Williams -now 78- last year to ask about his days in Baltimore. He was especially grateful to Paul Richards, who traded for three separate times, and fondly recalled the city’s fine restaurants and passionate fans.
Congratulations Dick! We’re happy to have another Baltimore Oriole in the Hall of Fame.
by MALCOLM ALLEN