Cieradkowski: Cyclone Joe Williams, blackball’s best

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski Jr. at The Infinite Baseball Card Set on March 12, 2014:

Where do you begin when writing about the greatest pitcher from the days before integration? Perhaps the first place to start would be to qualify my first statement. Was Cyclone Joe Williams better than Satchel Paige? In a word, yes.

While Satchel Paige is usually referenced as the finest pitcher Blackball produced, fans and sportswriters alike who witnessed both Paige and the man known as Cyclone Joe Williams pick the latter as the best. The two have much in common, both possessed blinding speed coupled with pinpoint control and excelled when pitching against white big leaguers. Both men had careers spanning in excess of over 30 years around which Paul Bunyan-esque legends have been spun. Looking at Cyclone Williams the astonishing part is that much of it is true.

The Cyclone blew out of Texas in the early years of the 20th century, first by word of mouth spread by traveling Blackball teams that encountered him. In 1910 he moved north to Chicago where he received real news coverage pitching on quality ball clubs. From the start he was a combination of mystery and awe. He was a giant of a man, about 6’-4” just under 200lbs, lean like you’d picture a Texas cowboy, his half Black-half Comanche Indian heritage giving him a strikingly exotic appearance. He was quiet, didn’t talk much, but exuded a confidence that his fastball backed up.

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Originally published: March 27, 2014. Last Updated: March 27, 2014.