SABR

Jimmy Williams

This article was written by Dixie Tourangeau.

A cursory glance of Jimmy Williams' baseball life does not adequately illustrate the exciting path he strode through twenty years of minor and major league play. His final statistics reflect a slightly above average player but the reality behind those numbers is a marvelous career, speckled with historic participation and great achievements, including the posting of one possibly unbreakable record. Considering the teams he played for and when, if anyone had written of Williams' diamond life, the author could have used the title statesman Dean Acheson's chose for his wonderful 1969 memoir, "Present at the Creation."

James Thomas Williams was born on December 20, 1876, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Wales-born parents David L. and Mary A. Williams. Within three years the family--including children Maggie, Dave Jr., James, Lizzie and Victoria (born in 1881) had located in Denver, Colorado, with father David first running a coffee and spice shop according to the 1880 US Census. After a childhood spent playing sandlot ball in the Mile High City, teenager Jimmy made his way 110 miles south to Pueblo and as early as 1892. He joined a semi-pro club there called the Rovers, an offshoot of the town's Rover Wheel and Athletic Club. Outside of Denver, bustling Pueblo, along the Arkansas River, was a high plains baseball hotbed in the Centennial State, a state not five months older than Williams himself. Growing mining and ranching communities made recreation a priority, with baseball part of the mix with horse racing, cycling and boxing. By 1895 he was the Rovers' regular third baseman. It was a paid squad that played on weekends and featured the keystone duo of Zack and Bill Dean, African-American brothers who had been playing for the Pueblo Blues, a black team. They were Rover Park fixtures. Colorado was an oasis of integrated play at the time.

In the May 25 opener, Williams banged a triple off Denver Highlands AC left-handed star, "Cowboy" Albert Jones of Golden, Colorado, in a 17-11 whipping of northern Colorado's supposed best team. Pueblo Captain Richard Lamkin then persuaded Jones to switch teams. Albert lost his first Rover outing, 5-3 to Sanden Electric of Denver when rain washed out a late rally. It would be Pueblo's last league defeat. Pueblo's seven league opponents took repeated pastings as Williams' bat improved and his handling of balls at third base brought him local adoration. With brothers Charlie and Myrve Roe in the outfield, the Deans, catcher Lamkin, strikeout-ace Jones, slugger "Dad" Grier at first base and Williams, the Rover nine emerged as a run-scoring machine. Jimmy's grand slam during the 20-2 crushing of the Central City Gilpins, inspired praise in the Pueblo Daily Chieftain game notes: "Jimmy soaks it harder than anyone when he hits it on the nose. If he would wait a little better and not go after so many bad ones, he would be as reliable a hitter as anyone on the team." Williams was still only 18. He also played for the Streetcar Employees team, which might be a clue as to his weekday job. In September it was noted, "Jimmy gets more solid with the crowd every game. Batting, fielding and base running, Jim is strong in all departments." But after a mid-September game the Rovers won 11-10, Williams, it was noted, "failed to get a hit mostly because he was too anxious to kill the ball." Without Jones on the mound a week later in post-league competition, Pueblo lost 18-11 to a crack team from Aspen. The Mountainmen paid dearly the next day, as Jones four-hit them, 29-0 on Grier's two home runs and Williams' four hits including a circuit clout, netting him "Ed Crail's shaving cup and a few silver dollars from the grandstand." The Rovers ended 19 and 2, with Grier the top hitter. Jimmy ranked third in average and extra-base hits.

Then 19, Williams was back with Pueblo in 1896 in a six-team league that slowly dissolved. Pueblo won its share thanks to Jimmy's numerous homeruns and good pitching but by early August only Leadville survived. Jimmy traveled there and joined the Blues in the mineral-rich high country. Walt Kinlock, Jim's 1895 adversary from Sanden Electric was then a Blues star. In August Leadville journeyed 400 miles south to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to play its "Browns." Third sacker Williams was hitless, but "had a whip that sent the ball across the diamond like lightning," said the Daily Citizen. Leadville won 14-4. Albuquerque took the next four games but Williams impressed the crowd with his bat and fielding. In mid October Albuquerque residents got ready to celebrate the city's "Carnival of Sports," several days of activities including a seven-game baseball series with a Texas League all-star squad from El Paso. Williams was invited to join the host Browns and settled in at the hot corner. He was only 8 for 30 but played steady ball in the field (only four errors) helping the Browns triumph four games to three, the exciting finale going twelve innings.

In late March of 1897 Williams found himself on the professional roster of the St. Joseph, Missouri, Saints of the unstable Western Association which was then comprised of four Iowa teams, three from Illinois as well as St. Joseph, the western-most member. The Saints had disbanded the previous July while in last place for a second season. Fred G. Palmer took over the team and had captain/first baseman Bill Klusman run it on the field. St. Joe's reputation was being a farm club for Kansas City Blues, managed by ex-major leaguer Jim Manning in the higher-grade Western League ex-major leaguer. Williams played third base in pre-season games, and started the year in right field, but after the first series with rival Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he became the Saints' shortstop. Jimmy's old mate Kinlock was in center, and southpaw pitcher Al Pardee, who learned his ball in Pueblo, was also a Saint. In their new gray, maroon-trimmed uniforms the Saints became a solid financial draw at their Sixth Street Grounds. Williams drilled a dozen home runs in his first twenty May games and added ten more by July 1. He was simply "Home Run" Williams to Saints rooters. In July Jimmy slumped and also suffered an ankle injury but St. Joe stayed in first place despite also losing Kinlock to a broken leg in August. But when Pardee went to Kansas City and the Saints hit a batting slump in September, pesky Cedar Rapids overtook them for the pennant.

At season's end there was a three-game playoff for $500 and Saints' southpaw Earl Meredith shutout the Iowa boys two-out-of-three for the cash prize. St. Joe boasted four league leaders: Irv Waldron hit .353, second sacker Roony Viox scored 130 runs, Klusman made 175 hits and Williams belted 31 home runs and made more than 60 extra base hits overall. Talent-hunter Manning secured Jimmy's bat for 1898 and it powered the Blues from seventh place to the Western League pennant (88–51). Pardee, Meredith and Viox also joined the Blues, though Viox's bat chilled to .238. Williams' Kansas City pasture mate Jimmy Slagle took the batting title with a .378 mark ahead of Jimmy's .343. By 1899 the easy-going, heartland-raised Williams was a stocky five-foot, nine-inch, 175-pound commodity who could hit, run and field. Pittsburgh manager Bill Watkins was looking for new blood for his becalmed Pirate crew. For the 1899 season he found five buried treasures. Williams came aboard with Wisconsin flychaser Clarence Beaumont (who finished between Slagle and Williams in Western League hitting, but played only 24 games), and hurlers Sam Leever, Jack Chesbro and Tom "Tully" Sparks. William Gray, an ex-catcher and Indianapolis star in 1897 had covered third base for Pittsburgh in 1898 but hit only .232 and fielded a poor .882. With Jimmy's arrival Gray moved back to the minors with Milwaukee. Watkins himself was promoted "upstairs" after 22 games and outfielder Patsy Donovan became manager. Though he guided his Bucs to only four additional wins from 1898 (76-72), he saw Beaumont and Williams put on one of the greatest rookie hitting displays in baseball history.

"Ginger" hit .352 and Jimmy .355 (fifth in the NL, behind four future Hall of Famers). Williams was also third in slugging, homers (9), hits and total bases. Only veteran slugger Ed Delahanty (.410, 137 RBI) and near-rookie Buck Freeman (25 home runs) hit with more consistent power than Williams, who topped the league with 28 triples. Though most record books credit him with 27 (nine were against Philadelphia), he was not given a triple for his first major league hit in Cincinnati in his second game. After Jimmy was collared in the season opener by Emerson "Pink" Hawley, Bill "Wee Willie" Dammann gave up the overlooked hit when Cincy outfielder Elmer Smith, a Pittsburgh native and a former Pirate for several years, "made a very bad mess of handling Jimmy's fly to left." No hometown news outlet charged Elmer with an error for his misjudged "awkward path" yet some box scores neglected to give Williams a triple, but "the ball fell safe, Williams taking three bases." In personal reparation, Smith later homered for three runs and threw out one of three Pirates runners at home plate in Cincinnati's thrilling 8-7 victory. The next day Jimmy's second NL hit was another triple, that off rookie Frank "Noodles" Hahn, whom Jimmy claimed "I killed just about every time up" the year before in the minors. Soon after, in his first visit to his technical "home town" of St. Louis, he went three for nine as the Cardinals swept the Pirates. He got two hits off old friend "Cowboy" Al Jones in the third loss. Williams' incredible rookie journey was just warming up.

In May-June he had a 26-game hitting streak, which was finally stopped by fellow-rookie Charles Phillippe of Louisville. On May 30 Jimmy's five-hit/three-run game beat Washington 4-3 in ten frames. Later Williams slashed out a 27-game streak, ironically halted once again by Phillippe on September 8. (Phillippe had also no-hit the New York Giants in late May 1899.) Jimmy had hit better than .400 off the gentlemanly "Deacon" in six 1898 Western League games when the Blues played Minneapolis. In fact Phillippe opened the 1898 campaign versus Kansas City. With all the great Pirate hitters in the last 106 years, Williams' 27-game mark is still tops, now in its third century, as is his rookie triples mark, a number that may never be surpassed. He may have also set another record in late July in a five-game series sweep versus the cross-state rival Phillies. Jimmy was 13 for 20, scoring 10 times and knocking in 18 runs with five triples and two homers. Williams and Beaumont each ended one game of a doubleheader with game-winning, ninth-inning home runs. When the season ended Jimmy also led NL third basemen in putouts and errors. He is listed in some record books as having 671 total chances in 1899, the top mark for "hot corner" men in history. Baltimore's tireless Joe McGinnity (28-17) might have taken Rookie of the Year honors had the award existed in 1899, but Williams, Freeman and Cincinnati's Hahn (23-8) had solid portfolios. Pirate fans saw Williams as a clone of Jake Stenzel, a free-swinging outfielder who hit wicked line drives to all fields for them during the mid-1890s. Jake closed out a short career as Jimmy began his. Williams' final .355 was certainly excellent but it is a bit misleading. He began slowly at .213 after a dozen games and ended in a slight slump. For the greater portion of his rookie year he hit above .380.

Fearing National League contraction, Louisville's Barney Dreyfuss first bought into and then bought out Pittsburgh owners William Kerr and Phillip Auten in 1900, merging his best players with those already in the Smoky City as part of the "buy in" deal. Most of the 1900 Pirate lineup were former Colonels, including Honus Wagner, Williams' streak-stopper Phillippe and new hard-nosed manager-outfielder Fred Clarke. During his first "off-season" Jimmy worked in Denver as a collector for minor league friend Charley Reilly, who had bought the American Filter Company. Noting Jimmy's quick start in 1900, The Sporting News proclaimed Williams "king of third baseman" by early May, saying he had surpassed Boston's magnificent Jimmy Collins because of his improved fielding. On July 13 Philly pounded the host Bucs 23-8. Williams suffered a sprained ankle after a first-inning single. It took him out of the lineup for nearly a month. He struggled for the rest of the year, hitting only .264. But his clutch safeties plated 68 RBI, second on the team behind batting champ Wagner (.381, 100 RBI), and he led Pittsburgh with five home runs as the Pirates finished second (79-60) to Brooklyn's 82-54. It was a pennant race for most of the season but Brooklyn never replayed several tie games. Pittsburgh actually held an 11-8-1 margin over the Bridegrooms with Jimmy going 15 for 27 (.555) over a ten-game stretch versus the champs (6-3-1). He hit nearly .500 off Brooklyn ace Joe McGinnity. In the end each club's record against Cincinnati proved to be the pennant difference as the Reds were 12-8 with Pittsburgh and 4-15-2 with Brooklyn. Jimmy celebrated the coming turn of the century by marrying his Pittsburgh sweetheart, Nannie May Smith, on December 5 in Allegheny.

In late March 1901 Williams boarded a train in Denver bound for Hot Springs, Arkansas, the Pirates spring training camp. He never made it because the shrewd and persuasive John McGraw, manager of the Baltimore Orioles of the American League, staking its claim at major league status for the first time, was on a talent safari. He "kidnapped" the amiable Williams (and soon Cardinal Mike Donlin) and talked him into "jumping" his Pittsburgh contract to sign with the Orioles. Smoke City native Mrs. Williams was astounded when the telegram reached her that said her husband was in Baltimore. Lawsuits were planned and shortstop-friend Fred "Bones" Ely wanted to spend his own money to go retrieve Williams. Dreyfuss and Williams finally did get together for one "last chance" contract discussion before his league change became official. Some fans thought Jimmy had backstabbed Dreyfuss since Williams received all of his 1900 salary despite his injury and some Mt. Clemens rehab time, which was suggested by Ely.

An original American League Oriole, Jimmy started his next career at newly built American League Park on April 26, 1901. Third baseman McGraw was not shy about telling Williams he would be moved to second base. In the opener, Jimmy went hitless against Boston's rookie Canadian lefty, Winford Kellum, but came within a great "Buttermilk Tommy" Dowd catch of smacking the first Orioles' homer in the 10-6 win for his new teammate, McGinnity. Williams' first two AL hits and runs came the next day as Baltimore whipped Cy Young, 12-6. When his roster was first assembled McGraw predicted boldly that most of his choices would hit .300. Nine of them did, including Williams (.317). Jimmy led his club in doubles (26), home runs (7, seventh in AL), RBI (96, fifth), runs (113, third) and total bases (fifth). He tied shortstop mate "Wagon Tongue" Bill Keister (.328) with 21 triples to lead the majors. Despite its .294 top team average and 207 steals, mediocre pitching and poor defense held Baltimore to a 68-65 record. Before sixty games in 1902, McGraw bolted to manage the NL's New York Giants, leaving catcher Wilbert Robinson to take over the Oriole reins. Five .300 hitters couldn't offset lousy pitching and worse fielding, so the poor Orioles sunk to the cellar (50-88). Second with 83 runs scored, Williams (.313) repeated as team leader in doubles (27, tie with Kip Selbach), home runs (8, AL sixth), RBI (83) and again topped the AL with 21 triples. He became the first of only three players ever to hit 80-plus triples over four consecutive seasons (Sam Crawford, twice, and Earle Combs later achieved this distinction).

The Baltimore franchise was soon sold to New York gaming boss Frank Farrell and his partner, ex-police chief Big Bill Devery. AL President Ban Johnson desperately wanted an AL franchise in New York, and craftily sacrificed the Baltimore interests in order to compete in the country's biggest city. Venerable Chicago White Sox manager-pitcher Clark Griffith signed on for the same two jobs for the "Highlanders" and Farrell and Devery quickly built "Hilltop Park" up on Washington Heights (168th and Broadway), Manhattan's highest point. Williams, Herm McFarland, Harry Howell and Lewis "Snake" Wiltse were the only Orioles to make the 160-mile northerly switch as Jimmy joined yet another "new" club. (Howell, who stayed one season, and Williams are the only two original Oriole-Highlanders, Jimmy being the sole player to be in each franchise's opening day lineup.) Meanwhile Pittsburgh gathered the talent to win three consecutive NL pennants, pulverizing the NL for 103 wins in 1902 for its second pennant and then achieving an historic spot in the first World Series against Boston in 1903. It has been long claimed that American League bosses purposely shied away from Pittsburgh in 1901 so that the intact Pirates would easily win NL pennant and diminish fans interest in the older circuit.

Williams had "jumped" his chance to share this glory but he did get into a few pennant fights with his new clubs. Jimmy's misguided 1901 departure gave tiny Tommy Leach (.293) a chance to become a star Pirate third-sacker. Tommy even led the NL with six homers in 1902. There were five 1902 champion Pirates on New York's (72-62) original AL "Invaders" roster including, shortstop William Wid Conroy (.244), Jack Chesbro (21-15) and Jesse Tannehill (15-15). Despite a low .267 average Williams led the original Yankees in doubles (30), triples (12, tied with Conroy) and RBI (82). He was 0-3 in the first game in Washington off 3-1 winner Al Orth on April 22. In the first inning Wee Willie Keeler (over from Brooklyn) walked, was singled to third and scored on Jimmy's RBI-ground out for New York's first franchise run. A week later Williams pocketed another club milestone by knocking in the first Highlander on Manhattan soil as well. On April 30, Jimmy's RBI double scored Keeler (again) in the first inning off Washington's "Happy Jack" Townsend in a 6-2 Chesbro victory.

Behind Chesbro's league and team (still) record 41 wins in 1904, Williams almost grabbed his first pennant. In the finale showdown on October 10 with Boston, New York led 2-0 on three hits and a bases-loaded walk. Williams' own hard ground out ended that possible pennant-clinching rally. An earlier Chesbro triple was also wasted. With two Boston men on with one out in the seventh, Williams made a bad decision. He threw pitcher Bill Dinneen's grounder too low to home, and both runners (one was future teammate Hobe Ferris) scampered in. Chesbro's infamous ten-foot high wild spitball plated the winning run in the ninth, for a 3-2 Boston victory, giving them the pennant.

The Highlanders came into the final five-game series with Boston on a having won five of six, with Jimmy going 11-26 while scoring six runs. He won the first Boston game, 3-2 with a late RBI. In the Boston inning following Jimmy's go-ahead RBI, speedster Kip Selbach plowed into Williams as he tried to field a grounder, sending both players sprawling. Selbach was declared "out" but Williams never got another hit (0 for 15 in four games), though no injury was reported. During that frenzied Boston pennant series his career average slipped below .300, a level he would never reach again. New York lost the season's set 12-10 to champ Boston and 11-8 to Cleveland, finishing with 92 victories, three fewer than Boston. It was a victory mark, however, that was not topped by another Highlander/Yankee club until 1920.

Jimmy's .263 doesn't seem like much but he recorded a team-high 31 doubles (third in the league) and 74 RBI, placing him behind only teammate John Anderson's 82 and seventh in the entire circuit. He led league second basemen in assists and double plays.

In a dismal 1905, team-captain Williams (.228) again led the 71-78 Highlanders in doubles, home runs (third in AL with 6) and RBI (62). New York improved to second place in 1906 (90-61) as Jimmy's .277 included a team high 27 doubles and 77 RBI, fourth in the league. Again Williams was in a forgotten pennant race, this time battling Chicago's "Hitless Wonders." Guy "Doc" White (18-6/1.52) and Frank Owen (23-13) led White Sox over New York twelve wins to ten during the season, but it was their 19-game winning streak in August that tipped the flag scale for a three-win final edge. Williams played a key role in six of New York's wins over Chicago and his .370 average against young Ed Walsh was particularly harsh. On July 14 at American League ("Hilltop") Park his two-out, bases-loaded single beat reliever Walsh, 9-8. Jimmy managed a hit in 17 of 21 games he played against the White Sox. Hal Chase (.287, 68 RBI) led the "Yankees" in 1907, but Williams was also a large factor, hitting .270 with 63 RBI and tied for the team high with eleven triples.

Following the 1906 season Griffith decided to "get younger" and in November dealt Williams, Danny Hoffman and Hobe Ferris to the St. Louis Browns for Fred Glade and Charley Hemphill, with Harry Niles soon added to the deal. Browns manager Jimmy McAleer thought St. Louis-born Williams had some good cuts left that could energize his club. "Williams is a classy fellow and dangerous at the plate," said McAleer in March 1908, "he is a smart ballplayer and will report lighter than in five years." Jimmy was wintering in Pueblo and reported to Shreveport, Louisiana, a bit chunky and never really got in better shape. Nevertheless McAleer's faith looked good in the season opener when Williams' RBI and run beat Cleveland ace Addie Joss, 2-1 in ten frames for "Yiddish Curver" Barney Pelty. His two hits and run helped "Handsome Harry" Howell win the second game and Jimmy scored the only run at Chicago as Rube Waddell beat the Sox, 1-0 soon after.

When the Browns reached New York for their first 1908 visit in late May, the revamped Yankees were clutching first place. The former captain was warmly greeted with gifts and dollars. Adrenalin flowing, he then proceeded to destroy his old friends. In a three-game sweep Williams hit for a collective "cycle" (7 for 12) beating reliever Doc Newton, Chesbro and Al Orth. St. Louis continued to play great into early September before finally oozing to fourth. Yet the Browns reversed their 1907 record to 83-69. It remained the franchise-best until 1922. Though Williams' contribution was a mere .236 with 53 RBI (third on the Browns to Ferris' 74), his key hits won or helped win six tight games from Cleveland, denying Nap Lajoie's boys the pennant. The Naps were only 11-10-1 versus the Browns. Brownie hurlers Harry Howell (of the 1901 Orioles and 1903 Yanks), Waddell (1900 Pirates), Jack Powell, the gutsy Pelty and old vet Bill Dinneen were all on their last legs and possessed no final kicks for the pennant stretch. Superstar Nap's .964 fielding at second edged Williams' .963 for AL honors. It was also the year that White Sox ace Ed Walsh logged 40 wins. This time Williams had trouble touching "Big Ed" for anything, hitting just .156 off him. Jimmy's major league finale came in 1909. He played in just 110 games hitting a paltry .195. McAleer pulled him from a faultering lineup on August 28. His last games came in a season-closing doubleheader on October 3.

On a few occasions in 1909 the "old" Williams' bat came alive. Cy Morgan of Boston gave up four Williams hits on May 26 while losing 5-0 to Bill Grahame. Jimmy's three hits and two runs on July 3, beat Chicago 4-0 for Bill Dinneen (the Boston winner versus Chesbro in 1904 also spent his final two seasons with the Browns). Visiting Boston edged the Browns 3-2 on August 23, despite Williams' last two triples (and run) off Eddie Cicotte. On August 25 his double-run in the tenth inning beat his old Yankee squad 1-0 in St. Louis; he got two of the four hits off loser Lew Brockett and threw a runner out at home. On October 3, the season ended with a doubleheader versus Cleveland in which Jimmy made his final hit off 6-4 loser, Fred Winchell in game one. In the season's finale the Naps prevailed 3-11, as rookie Willie Mitchell hit Williams with a pitch.

As well as Jimmy had hit the great Walsh in 1906, he had no luck facing the Senators young fireballer, Walter Johnson. Rookie Johnson shut out New York in September 1907 for his second career blanking, 2-0, with Williams going 0 for 4, along with Keeler. Over the next two seasons as a Brownie, Jimmy faced Walter in nine games and hit safely just three times in 27 at bats. In those games he managed one triple, a sacrifice fly and two singles, one made in the 14th inning of a 16-frame game that Johnson won 2-1. St. Louis however held an 8-1 stranglehold over young Johnson in 1908-09, a mark that included five, one-run margins.

Other milestones during Jimmy's 11-year stint included his best and worst days, both against the White Sox. On August 25, 1902, his six hits and four RBI helped whip Chicago 21-6. Most of his hits were off starter (and future manager) Clark Griffith's tosses. The next June 25 in Chicago, Jimmy went 0-8 with eleven assists in a grueling 18-inning, 6-6 tie. His two grand slams were off Cub host Jack Taylor in September 1899 in a 12-0 Pirate drubbing and ex-mate Tully Sparks, then of Milwaukee, in an 11-4 Baltimore win in June 1901.

Of his 49 home runs, Williams clocked four off Bill Bernhard, two in consecutive July days in 1899. Sparks gave up three, all in 1901 including the grand slam. Williams also hit three off Jacks, Townsend and Powell. Jimmy's first blast (plus a double and three runs) destroyed Dodger Jack Dunn, 9-5 on June 29, 1899 and his last in 1908 helped whip the Athletics Jimmy Dygert, 6-0 for Waddell. Williams hit Hall of Famers Waddell, Chief Bender and McGinnity for round-trippers. It was not until 1930 that Lively Ball Era slugger Tony Lazzeri surpassed Williams' career RBI for a Yankee second baseman. As a fielder Jimmy was involved in three triple plays, all as an Oriole second baseman. In September 1901 his fantastic catch of a short fly and on-the-run throw started one versus Cleveland. The two others came against Philadelphia and Washington, both in 1902. During his durable major league career Jimmy played 91 percent of his four team's games over eleven seasons.

But "Button" Williams (a seldom used early nickname reflecting his height) was not yet done with on-the-diamond baseball as an old contact bought his services. Minneapolis Miller manager Joe "Pongo" Cantillon, who first saw Williams' batting prowess while serving as player-manager for Dubuque in 1897, acquired several former major leaguers for his 1910 American Association club. Among them were Dave Altizer, Ollie Pickering, Hobe Ferris (from the Browns), Otis Clymer, World Series Tiger Claude Rossman and youngster Gavvy Cravath, then a mere prospect. (Joe, a legendary Midwest builder of minor league teams whose brother Mike was president and part Miller owner, had also just finished piloting the Washington Senators from 1907-09.) Those Miller bats were bolstered by the arms of Nick Altrock, Roy Patterson and Tom Hughes, between his Yankee and Red Sox stints. It turned out to be a great six-year job for Jimmy as he stayed through 1915. After never being quite good enough for several years, the Millers new corps took the AA championship for three straight campaigns. Williams batted .316 for that stretch and his glove work (.964) was never worse than second best in the league. His averaged finally fell to .265 from 1913 to 1915 but the Millers won a fourth pennant, and for that span the chunky, 39 year-old was the best keystone fielder (.963) in the league. He played in more than 85 percent of the Millers' games over six seasons.

Williams was the subject of a lengthy John Gruber "where are they now" story in the Pittsburgh Sunday Post on February 20, 1927, that said he entered the insurance business after retiring from the Millers. He remained in friendly Minneapolis for the rest of his life and according to the city directory Jimmy really worked as a city health inspector for many years. In the early 1930s he was inked by the Cincinnati Reds as a area scout and coach for six seasons. In April 1934, a Reds-sponsored "baseball school" opened in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for about 300 students. It caught on and Williams was one of the instructors for several years. The annual week-long session lasted for two decades. The 1936 version had 550 enrollees at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis.

Through the 1940s Williams was an assembler and elevator operator for the Honeywell Company. His wife Nannie May died in August 1949. Reportedly Williams was one of the honored guests at a Minneapolis Sports Dinner in the winter of 1955. In May 1958 the Minneapolis Star profiled the Williams family of ballplayers. Son James played for Minneapolis Central High and MacAlester College in St. Paul while grandson Jimmy was then a senior ballplayer at St. Louis Park High School. By the 1960s Williams would winter in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he died after a short illness on January 16, 1965 (at Doctors Hospital). His last Minneapolis residence was at 3952 Xenwood (appropriately, considering his birthplace) in a section of Minneapolis called St. Louis Park. He is buried with Nannie at Lakewood Cemetery (Section 2, Lot 331, Grave 7) about three miles away. (Lakewood is located between Minneapolis Lakes Calhoun and Harriet at Kings Highway and 36th Street.) At his death he was survived by two sons, James S. and David R. of Minneapolis, two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Friendly James T. Williams, an original AL Oriole and Highlander, seemed to wander carefree throughout his baseball career, but his Minneapolis Tribune obituary made special note of one particular incident when his Welsh temper flared up. It claimed Jimmy was a "legend" in his baseball "hometown" of Pueblo, Colorado, because of his early diamond exploits and the fact that he flattened the only man ever to knock out future boxing super champ, Jack Dempsey. "Fireman" Jim Flynn, himself a fabulous ring character of the era, who fought all the big name boxers into the 1920s, was also a Pueblo resident. Sometime around 1908, he became abusive to Williams during a saloon altercation and Williams gave Flynn "the worst beating of his entire career," quoted the Tribune from the Pueblo press.

Sources

Albuquerque Morning Democrat, 1896

Albuquerque Daily Citizen, 1896

Minneapolis Tribune (obituary)

Pueblo Daily Chieftain for 1892, 1893, 1895 and 1896.

St. Joseph Daily News for 1897.

Sporting Life from 1896, 1897 and 1898

The Sporting News from 1897 to 1915

Baltimore Sun (boxes, 1901, 1902)

Boston Globe, Post and Herald (boxes)

Chicago Tribune (boxes)

Cincinnati Enquirer (boxes)

New York Times (boxes)

New York Daily Tribune (boxes)

Pittsburgh Sunday Post

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (boxes)

Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame Library files

www.baseball-almanac.com (Computer Website)

Johnson and Wolff, Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball

Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, (Tenth Edition)

American Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball (David L. Porter, 2000)

Reach Baseball Guide, various years

Spalding Baseball Guide, various years

www.ancestry.com (Website for 1880 and 1900 Census)

City Directory of Minneapolis (1920 to 1960)

Family Search (Website for Family Research)

Office of Vital Records, State of Florida

Office of Marriage Records for Pennsylvania, Allegheny County

Lakewood Cemetery Office, Minneapolis, MN

Fred Lieb, The Baltimore Orioles, Putnam

Fred Lieb, The Pittsburgh Pirates, Putnam

Frank Graham, The New York Yankees, Putnam

Pittsburgh Pirates Media Guide, 2002

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