Dave Williams batted right-handed but threw left-handed. He appeared in three major-league games, all for the 1902 Boston Americans, on July 2, July 18, and August 3.
In the first of the three games, Doc Adkins pitched the top of the first inning for Boston but he didn’t fare well, and Washington scored three runs. Manager Jimmy Collins had Williams take over starting in the second inning. Four runs scored in the third, but the Boston Globe correspondent suggested that a bad umpiring call cost three of those runs. (The Globe also suggested that “fatty Adkins” needed to lose about 30 pounds.) Williams finished the game, giving up seven hits in eight innings and walking one batter. At the plate, he singled, 1-for-4. Washington won, 8-3. The game story in the Washington Post noted that “Connolly’s umpiring was extremely unsatisfactory to the home club and the rooters and he was hissed and hooted unstintedly.”i
The rookie was 21 years old. He was born as David Owen Williams in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on February 7, 1881, the youngest of four children born to Thomas and MaryAnne Williams, both of whom had immigrated to the United States from Wales. The first two children – both girls – were Welsh natives, but older brother Thomas and David were both born in Pennsylvania. Thomas Williams, the father, worked as a stationary engineer.
After going through the public schools, Williams went on to study at the Bloomsburg State Normal School and graduated in June 1900. He stayed on one more year, taking additional courses, and also getting in another year of baseball. Williams went on to further study at State College and pitched there, but was beginning to get some work as a professional. He’d played some semipro baseball for the Springville, New York, team in 1899, which resulted in his signing a contract with Buffalo.ii And pitched a couple of games for the Lestershire (Pennsylvania) team in 1900, recording 15 strikeouts in one of them.iii
Williams is also listed as playing in 1900 for an Atlantic League team, the Philadelphia Athletics/Harrisburg Ponies (the Philadelphia team transferred to Harrisburg, with its first game in the state capital on June 4. And in 1901 he played for the Albany Senators in the New York State League. In neither case do we have statistics for Williams’s performance, but we do know that Albany won the league championship in 1901 under manager Thomas O’Brien.
His signing with Jimmy Collins’s Boston Americans was reported in the April 5, 1902, issue of Sporting Life. Though he didn’t debut until July 2, he’d actually been with the club into June, and then was released and sent home, only to be called back after a couple of weeks. After his July 2 debut, Williams next pitched on July 18. Tom Hughes, who hadn’t pitched in months, got the start against visiting Cleveland. Hughes wasn’t ready, and “he suffered intense pain with every ball he tried to work toward the plate.”iv Williams came on but got roasted, too, by the fans and by the Globe: “He has lots to learn about pitching and should be in a primary league.” He walked five, struck out five, and hit a batter, and by the time the game was over, it was 14-4 Cleveland. The game story said Williams singled in the second and fourth innings, both times apparently driving in a run, but the Globe box score shows him as 0-for-4, mistakenly having attributed his two hits to Hughes.
On August 3 Williams made his third appearance, in relief of Bill Dinneen. Detroit had an 8-3 lead after five. Williams took over in the sixth and let in one run each inning in the sixth, seventh, and eighth. He allowed three hits, five walks, and a wild pitch, which overshadowed his two strikeouts. He was taken out for a pinch-hitter when he was due up to bat in the top of the ninth.
The August 5 Globe provided a bit of an unkind advance obituary for Dave Williams’s hopes of sticking with the club: “Kid Williams is proving a costly experiment for the Boston Americans. The chances are that he could not win a game in the American league with the support of 16 men instead of eight.” Neither Adkins, Hughes, nor Dinneen had pitched any better in the games in question. Williams’s release wasn’t immediate, but it was memorialized in the September 6 issue of Sporting Life.
Williams went back to school. In March 1903 he was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. He signed with Kansas City, to join them on June 1. We find no indication that he joined the team, while records indicate that he was instead 3-6 in 19 games for the American Association’s Columbus Senators.
The Bloomsburg School’s archives tell more of Williams’s story, reporting that he pitched for Altoona in the Tri-State League in 1904, and that he suffered an arm injury with Altoona.v In 1906 and 1907, after he had left Pennsylvania for good and headed west, Williams is found playing first base in the Western League for the Sioux City Packers in 1906, batting .297 in 37 games. In 1907 he pitched in 29 games, playing other positions when not pitching (64 games in all, batting .210), and, according to a Sioux City newspaper, was reportedly captain of the team.vi In 1908 he played in 71 games for the Duluth White Sox in the Northern League and hit for a .262 batting average; he’s not listed among the pitchers, perhaps reflecting his arm injury, but is said to have been the club’s manager.
The newspaper added: “His final stop as a ballplayer was in Hibbing, Minnesota, where he pitched and played first base. Following his baseball career, Williams went to work in the ore mines at Duluth and in 1915 joined the state militia (Company M of the 3rd Minnesota). By 1918 he had become a captain in the infantry (151st Field Artillery, Battery B), but in April of that year contracted pneumonia at Camp Cody in Deming, New Mexico, and died on April 25 at the Army and Navy hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His wife and two sisters were with him when he passed away.
“David Williams was brought back to his hometown of Scranton, and his funeral held at the home of his father, Thomas Williams, at 1137 Rock Street, on Tuesday, April 30, 1918. Following the service he was taken to Dunmore Cemetery, where he was laid to rest with full military and Masonic honors. It was a fitting tribute to a man held in high esteem for both his skills as an athlete and leadership as a soldier.”vii
Pneumonia was a contributory cause of death, but the primary cause was chronic nephritis, according to his death certificate as completed by the Army & Navy General Hospital. Williams had been hospitalized for nine days prior to his passing. The Sioux City Journal reported that his widow and son would make Sioux City their home.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Williams’s player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.
i Washington Post, July 3, 1902.
ii Sporting Life, September 16, 1899.
iii Sporting Life, November 17, 1900.
iv Boston Globe, July 19, 1902.
v http://www.bloomu.edu/library/Archives/MemorialPinery/williams.htm. Some of the data in this profile is incorrect; among other things it lists Williams with the Boston Americans in 1903 and Altoona in 1905. The January 14, 1905, Sporting Life reports his work for Altoona being in 1904.
vi Sioux City Journal, May 9, 1918.