William “Billy” Williams, surrounded by his wife and other family members, passed away peacefully in Berkeley, CA, on June 11, 2013, two days before his 81st birthday. Born on June 13, 1932 in Newberry, South Carolina, Billy’s first love, which lasted a lifetime, was baseball. He spent his entire life in, around, and as close to the game as he could possibly be. Over the nearly 50 years he spent learning, playing, teaching and coaching, and loving the game, he saw hundreds of towns and met thousands of ball players. He taught them how to hit for power, bunt, run the bases, track a fly ball off the bat, get more velocity on their throws, and so many other lessons of the game. Most of all, Billy gave players the confidence to believe in themselves and their unlimited potential.
“On behalf of the entire Sioux City Explorers Professional baseball team, we would like to extend our sincere sympathy to Mr. Williams’ wife Christine and his entire family for their loss. For everyone that had the privilege of knowing Billy, we not only lost a great baseball legend, but we lost an even better individual and a great friend to so many,” stated Sioux City Explorers owner, John Roost.
Billy was not in baseball his whole life just for longevity or to break any record. He never left the game, and the game never left him, because anyone who felt his big warm smile, accompanied by that generous howling laugh, who wanted to take one more round of batting practice or take a few more fly balls, knew that Billy instilled in you that feeling that you were just one more swing away from getting to the show.
Billy’s professional baseball career started in 1952 when he signed with, and then played two seasons for, the independent Norton Braves of the Mountain State League. Billy pursued his dream to play in the majors when he signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1954. Billy spent most of the next 18 years in the Indians’ farm system. In 1969, at the age of 39, after enduring years of racial discrimination, setbacks and sacrifices, Billy briefly played for the Seattle Pilots, making 12 plate appearances, scoring a run and fulfilling a lifelong dream.
After his playing days ended, Billy spent 11 seasons coaching in the Cleveland Indians’ organization, including serving as a coach at the major league level in 1995 – 1997 under John McNamara. Billy then continued to impart his baseball knowledge as a hitting and third base coach for the Sioux Falls Canaries in the Northern League.
From 2005 through 2009, he coached hitting, base running and other aspects of the game for the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball (Sioux City played in the Northern League in 2005). He served as interim manager for the Explorers for the last month of the 2005 season.
Throughout his exceptional career, Billy was known as the ultimate hitting coach, able to instantly spot a hitter’s flaw. In addition to working with professional players during the season, Billy loved his major off-season activity of over 40 years – baseball. He worked with youngsters of all ages, as a paid and volunteer instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Billy is survived by his wife of 53 years, Gloria Christine Williams; his sons Derrick, Jerome, Billy Jr. and Michael; his daughters Vivian, Cheryl Tracy, and the late Belita; brothers Joseph, Curtis, and Lafayette; sisters Hester and Norma Jean; grandchildren Nile, Ian, Brandon, Nicole, Max, Phillip Jr., Gillianina, Reid, and others living outside of CA ; and great-grandchildren.
Billy lived a full and giving life, enjoying to the end his loves, in the following order: his family, baseball and fine clothes.
Donations may be made to: “Catch The Next Ball”, 14208 Doolittle Drive San Leandro CA 94577. Condolences to the family may be left with his wife in Oakland.
Article courtesy of the Sioux City Explorers