In 13 years as a professional baseball player, outfielder Dallas Williams appeared in 20 big-league games for the 1981 Orioles (two games) and 1983 Reds (18 games). The former first-round draft pick starred for three American Association championship teams in Triple-A before commencing a long coaching career, including four seasons in the majors with the Rockies and Red Sox.
Dallas McKinley Williams, Jr. was born on February 28, 1958, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the sixth of 10 children — six girls and four boys — raised by Dallas, Sr. and Louetta (Butler) Williams, both South Carolinians. Dallas, Sr. worked for Prince Macaroni before beginning a long career driving a bus for New York City school services. The family lived in the Gowanus projects, near the Bethel Baptist church, which was a big part of their lives. In 1963, the Dauntless record label released The Irresistible Gospel Chords LP with Louetta singing lead, Dallas, Sr. playing piano, and their children harmonizing. Later, the family moved to Brooklyn’s Flatbush section, then to Coney Island.
As a kid, Dallas, Jr.’s favorite ballplayers were Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, and he attended lots of games at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium. He batted and threw left-handed and played his first organized baseball with the Our Lady of Refuge club sponsored by the Catholic Youth Organization, and the Martin Luther King and Raiders teams in the Parade Ground League. When he was 12, playing for a team called the Sparks, he experienced what he once described as his “greatest thrill in baseball.” “I hit three homers to tie a record for a single game,” wrote Williams on an early-career questionnaire. “The last homer came in the bottom of the seventh to win the championship.”1
At the end of Williams’s first year at Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, the institution’s baseball star, Lee Mazzilli, was drafted in the first round by the Mets. By the time of his 1976 graduation, Williams –a three-year starter in baseball and basketball, good enough to captain each squad and earn all-city honors in both sports– would be a top pick as well.2
During summers, Williams played American Legion baseball, first for the Regina Youth Organization, then for Parkville. In 1974, he was selected as the MVP in the annual Greater New York Sandlot Alliance All-Star game. In 1975, his Legion team was the runner up for the New York state title, his Federation League club won the championship, and Williams was named MVP of the All-Star Game. When the Major League Scouting Bureau sponsored a tryout camp at Thomas Jefferson High School that summer for 17- and 18-year-olds, he was one of the three most impressive players according to New York’s Daily News.3
In 1976, Williams won the Iron Horse Award as New York City’s top high school player.4 He hurled a 12-strikeout two-hitter to beat Canarsie for the Public Schools Athletic League championship.5 Overall, he won five of six starts for Lincoln and batted .492.6 During his lunch period on the day of baseball’s June amateur draft, the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder nicknamed ‘Stickball’ checked in with his coach. “When I got to coach [Joe] Malone’s office, he was on the phone with the Orioles,” Williams recalled.7 He called his mother to share the good news that he’d been drafted by Baltimore in the first round, with the 20th overall pick. The following night, he batted third and played center field at Yankee Stadium to help Lincoln win the city championship, an experience he described as ‘the most exciting game of my amateur career.’8
On June 12, Williams signed his first professional contract with scout John Stokoe, a former minor league southpaw who’d followed him through high school and summer ball. Williams recalled his bonus as $50,000. “Should have got more, but I rushed to sign,” he said. In the pros, he became a full-time outfielder. He finished 1976 with the Bluefield (WV) Orioles, batting .270 with three homers and 12 steals in 69 games to help them to the best record in the Rookie-level Appalachian League’s North Division.
Between stints in the Florida Instructional League, he advanced to the full-season Florida State League and hit .272 in 125 games for the Miami Orioles in 1977. Promoted to the Double-A Southern League in 1978, he batted .264 in 139 games and led the Charlotte O’s with 24 stolen bases. Back at Charlotte in 1979 after a winter of weight work, Dallas hit a career-high 12 home runs and sliced his strikeout total by 30.9 He would remain a skilled contact hitter for the rest of his career. “He’s a good-looking center fielder,” remarked his manager, Jimmy Williams. “Every now and then he’ll do some dumb thing, but he has the tools. It’s a matter of discipline.”10
In the Triple-A International League in 1980, Dallas got off to a slow start with the Rochester (NY) Red Wings and responded by pouting, cursing, throwing helmets and arguing with umpires. “I was a very intense player and I let failure get the best of me as a young player,” he reflected.11 More than once, he was summoned to manager Doc Edwards’s office. “I was the only guy he was calling in,” Williams recalled. “It embarrassed me.”12
By season’s end, Williams ranked second on the club in runs (63), RBIs (54), homers (11) and steals (16). Though his team-leading batting average was a modest .270, he moved into the leadoff spot in May and hit .300 over his last 90 games. He played in the Puerto Rican League that off-season, where his Caguas Criollos manager was Orioles coach Ray Miller.13
When Williams returned to the U.S., he worked at Milt & Ron’s Transmission in Rochester and did a lot of thinking. His girlfriend had given birth to their daughter, Shandaria Massey. Prior to his second season with the Red Wings in 1981, he promised a Rochester newspaper, “I’m gonna be the leader…What I did last year was immature, but I’ve grown up. The new Dallas means hustling and setting an example.”14 Williams recalled, “I told Doc, who was a great man, that I had to learn how to become more of a man on the field.”
In the Red Wings’ infamous 33-inning loss that began on April 18, Williams went 0-for-13. “That was the worst day of my baseball life,” he said. “If you check the stats, I struck out zero times and hit the ball extremely hard.”15 On Memorial Day weekend, he separated his right shoulder and stretched knee ligaments in an outfield collision.16 Williams missed 10 days but returned in time for the conclusion of the marathon on June 23. His alarm clock didn’t go off, however, and he missed Rochester’s early-morning flight to Pawtucket despite speeding to the airport at 80 mph.17 After catching a different plane, he popped up leading off the top of the 33rd. His two-run, ninth-inning single helped the Red Wings prevail in that night’s regularly scheduled contest.
Overall, 1981 was a successful year for Williams. His .283 BA was his best yet and he finished the season with a league-leading 51 stolen bases, still a Rochester record as of 2020.18 In September, the Orioles called him up to the big-leagues. He appeared in two games and batted twice, both times against Hall of Fame relief aces. Williams fouled out to the catcher pinch-hitting against Milwaukee’s Rollie Fingers at Memorial Stadium in his debut on September 19. On October 2, as his parents watched on TV, he caught the only ball hit his way in left field and stroked an opposite-field single off the Yankees’ Goose Gossage.
Williams played for the Tomateros de Culiacan in the Mexican Pacific League that winter, but the Orioles had no outfield openings in 1982. Baltimore did need another catcher so, 10 days before Opening Day, they sent him to Cincinnati with southpaw Brooks Carey for veteran backstop Joe Nolan. Williams returned to Triple-A for the third straight year, this time with the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association. He was involved in a strange play at Bush Stadium that season. “I caught a fly ball in deep center field and my momentum carried me right through the chain link fence.”19 He appeared in 132 games and hit .300 for the first time as Indianapolis won the league championship. When the Reds needed an outfielder in May, they brought up Duane Walker, however, and Gary Redus was the only one recalled in September.
With Williams seemingly destined to become a free agent after seven minor-league seasons, Orioles farm director Tom Giordano called him to express his interest in bringing him back to the Baltimore organization. The Reds scuttled that plan, however, by adding Williams to their 40-man roster.20 Back in Indianapolis in 1983, he improved his average to .328 with career highs in extra-base hits (49) and RBIs (75). Cincinnati called him up in September. He made his first major league start in St. Louis and singled off John Stuper to drive in Redus. Williams started at all three outfield positions and saw action in 18 contests but only managed to go 2-for-36 at the plate. He enjoyed his most successful day in the big leagues on October 1 at the Astrodome, reaching base three times on two walks and a single and scoring twice in the Reds’ 6-4 victory.
Two weeks later, he married Teal Rivers. “I met my beautiful wife at the stadium in Indianapolis,” Williams explained. “I sent my phone number to her via the batboy.” In the years that followed, they had two children and raised them in the Crossroads of America. Son Dallas III spent one season in the White Sox organization; daughter Dior played basketball at Occidental College.
Williams was back in the American Association again in 1984, but with Detroit’s Evansville (IN) Triplets affiliate following a spring training trade. After he batted only .190 in 54 games, he wound up back in the Orioles’ organization with Rochester. Despite improving to .242 there, his combined .218 mark was the worst of his career and Baltimore released him. To continue playing in 1985, Williams went back down to Double-A for the first time in six years after signing with Montreal. He performed well enough for the Jacksonville Expos of the Southern League, batting .281 in 39 games, to earn a promotion to a familiar place in June. The Indianapolis Indians had become Montreal’s Triple-A farm club. Back in the city where his family made their home, Williams batted .287 in 77 games.
He remained with Indianapolis in 1986 and 1987, and the club won American Association championships both years. “Every championship team I’ve played on, dating back to high school, you had a certain quality from the team that everybody stuck together, worked together, stayed together off the field and cared for each other,” Williams said. “That ‘86 team epitomizes the word ‘champion’ because we were champions on and off the field. Razor Shines, a dear friend of mine, was a great leader himself.”21
Williams hit a solid .289 with 10 homers and 16 steals in 124 games with Indianapolis in 1986. He also returned to the mound for four relief appearances and, after one more the following year, his professional ERA was 3.60. In 1987, Williams batted a career-high .357 to win the American Association batting title, but it wasn’t enough to earn another call up to the majors. He finished his 13-year playing career in the Japan Pacific League in 1988, batting .242 for the Hankyu Braves in 100 games at age 30. In 1,469 minor league contests, Williams hit .285 with 83 homers and 221 steals. In the majors, he went 3-for-38 in 20 games. “I was a gritty player, not a lot of power, but I played with a lot of desire and passion,” he said.22 “I think I was one of those guys that got caught up in the numbers game. I have no regrets, I’m happy for the guys who made it and were successful. I just continued to do what I could to be the best player that I could be.”23
In 1989 Williams became a coach with the Kinston (NC) Indians in the Single-A Carolina League. He spent the next six seasons as a roving outfield/baserunning instructor, the last five in the White Sox organization. From 1996 to 1999, he coached base running for four different White Sox affiliates in the low minors. Based on his experience, he teaches players to work hard, respect the game and have fun.
Williams was a first base coach for three seasons beginning in 2000 with the Colorado Rockies under manager Buddy Bell, followed by one year with the Boston Red Sox under skipper Grady Little. He was a hitting instructor for a variety of minor league clubs, and has been an instructor at Legacy Baseball Indiana since 2009. Beginning in 2013 he served three years as the bench coach/hitting instructor for the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball team, including a brief managing stint for the club based in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
“I’m not too complicated,” he described himself. “You only live once. Racial prejudice is awful. I treat you as you treat me.” As of 2021, Williams lives in Indianapolis with his wife and is in his third year as the hitting coach of the Mexican League’s Acereros de Monclova. In 2019, the Acereros won their first championship. “I’ve learned that baseball is like life,” Williams said. “The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Don’t take anything for granted.”
Last revised: February 10, 2021
Special thanks to Dallas Williams (e-mail interview with Malcolm Allen, December 13, 2020).
This biography was reviewed by Gregory H. Wolf and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.
1 Dallas Williams, Publicity Questionnaire for William J. Weiss, October 14, 1976.
2 1980 Baltimore Orioles Media Guide: 161.
3 Jack Kelly, “Big League Scouts Set to Scour Brooklyn Sandlots,” Daily News (New York, New York), July 4, 1975: 209.
4 1980 Baltimore Orioles Media Guide: 161.
5 Les Matthews, “Brooklynite Inks Contract with Orioles,” New York Amsterdam News, June 19, 1976: D18.
6 Michael Katz, “Orioles Draft Local Player,” New York Times, June 9, 1976: 62.
7 Katz, “Orioles Draft Local Player.”
8 Williams, Publicity Questionnaire for William J. Weiss
9 1980 Baltimore Orioles Media Guide: 161.
10 Ken Nigro, “Birds Fallow Farm System Becomes Fertile Again,” Baltimore Sun, December 16, 1979: C1.
11 Unless otherwise cited, all Dallas Williams quotes are from E-mail correspondence with Malcolm Allen, December 13, 2020.
12 Greg Boeck, “‘New’ Dallas Ready to Be Wings’ Leader,” Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), March 13, 1981: 29.
13 1981 Baltimore Orioles Media Guide: 167.
14 Boeck, “‘New’ Dallas Ready to Be Wings’ Leader.”
15 Cheyne Reiter, “Remembering the 80’s With Two-Time Team MVP Dallas Williams,” https://www.milb.com/indianapolis/news/remembering-the-80s-with-two-time-team-mvp-dallas-williams-276248412 (last accessed December 18, 2020).
16 1982 Baltimore Orioles Media Guide: 164.
17 John Kolomic, “Williams Gets to Park on Time,” Democrat and Chronicle, June 24,1981: 46.
18 The article in the above endnote notes that Chub Collins stole 85 bases for International Association’s Rochester Jingoes in 1888.
19 Dallas Williams, 1983 Indianapolis Indians (team issue) Baseball Card.
20 John Kolomic, “Baseball Notes,” Democrat and Chronicle, October 31, 1982: B7.
21 Reiter, “Remembering the 80’s With Two-Time Team MVP Dallas Williams.”