Cubs greats remember some of their favorite Billy Williams stories
There’s no other swing like that of Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams.
And, like a fine bottle of wine, it only gets better with age. Ryan Dempster saw that firsthand.
At a charity softball game, the bases were loaded, and former Cub Fred McGriff was up to bat. He called for time and asked for a pinch hitter. That’s when the coach of his softball team, Williams, took his spot in the batting order.
But he swung and missed at the first pitch.
“And then you just see him like kind of take a little break, looks up, looks at the ground, takes two steps forwards and then laces a line drive,” Dempster recalled on a recent episode of Icons of the Ivy. “It’s like this guy, still in his 80s still rakes.”
Beyond the swing, though, the Hall of Famer would liven up any room, or any conversation he was a part of.
“Oh, man, I just thought it was just kind of surreal to me that a Hall of Famer took that much interest in us,” former Cub Derrek Lee said. “But you know, he’s the biggest Cubs fan. And just a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word. Really enjoyed my time being around Billy without a doubt.”
Williams, who served as a coach for the Cubs in the 90s and early 2000s, would pass on his knowledge of the game to the Cubs and could always be found behind a batting cage talking shop.
“I think he didn’t realize how good he was,” Aramis Ramírez said. “Because if I struggled for two games, he’s like, ‘Look, son. When I was playing …’ I’m like, ‘Billy, your Hall of Famer. You probably never [went] 0-for-12. I have.’
“But it was fun, because he really, really tried to teach guys.”
He taught them how to be baseball players and how to be a member of the Chicago Cubs.
“I learned as a young player to listen to those guys, to listen to him, to Ron Santo — spent a ton of time with him,” Kerry Wood said. “Not only do you learn so much about being being a Cub, and what it means to be a Cub and the history of the organization, but you learned so much about the game that you’re actually playing yourself.”