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Billy Williams to get statue at Wrigley Field
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Williams came up with the Cubs in 1959 and starred with them through the 1974 season, after which he was traded to Oakland, where he played for two seasons.

 

Associated Press file

The Chicago Cubs today announced the organization will honor Hall of Famer Billy Williams with a statue of his likeness.

 

Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

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Published: 3/31/2010 11:29 AM | Updated: 3/31/2010 11:45 PM

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MESA, Ariz. - It's a sweet day for "sweet swinging" Billy Williams.

The Cubs announced Wednesday that they will erect a statue bearing the likeness of Hall of Famer Williams, with a ceremony to take place before the Sept. 7 game at Wrigley Field.

The exact location of the statue isn't known, but eventually it's likely to anchor a spot down the left-field line outside of the ballpark.

A statue of Ernie Banks is near the Clark and Addison Streets intersection, and a statue of broadcaster Harry Caray is down the right-field line outside the park. The Banks and Williams statues likely will be key anchors of the ballpark renovations just to the west of the stadium.

Team owner Tom Ricketts informed Williams and the Cubs of the plan Tuesday night during a dinner at HoHoKam Park.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was visibly emotional when he informed reporters Thursday morning.

"Besides being a great player for years, what a privilege for all of us to be around him- I've been here 15 years, and it couldn't happen to a better guy," Hendry said. "Not only one of the greatest Cubs ever, but one of the greatest influences on Cub players and employees."

Williams came up with the Cubs in 1959 and starred with them through the 1974 season, after which he was traded to Oakland, where he played for two seasons.

In 1987, Williams was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Cubs retired his uniform No. 26 later that year.

Today, he serves as a senior adviser, and he helps coach players during spring training.

"It's one of the greatest tributes to a player who performed with an organization," Williams said. "You don't expect that. When this happened, you're so elated because a statue that is erected upon Wrigley Field, where I performed for so many years, it's a great honor."

Williams batted .290 with 426 home runs and 1,475 RBI. From Sept. 22, 1963 to Sept. 2, 1970, he played in a then-National League record 1,117 consecutive games.

He possessed one of the smoothest swings from the left side of the plate, and he said the statue will have an inscription to the effect of "Sweet Swinging Billy Williams. On the Banks statue, it carries Banks' trademark saying of "Let's Play Two."

Each day at spring training, Williams can be seen on the field each morning working with players. Over the years, Williams has served as the Cubs' hitting coach, first-base coach and bench coach in addition to other roles.

"Two days after I finished high school, I was on my way to Parker City, Okla.," Williams said. "To be in baseball, I think it gets in your blood. To come out and be around baseball, to enjoy the players, to still get excited to see a good baseball game, I come out because I love the game. This is how I played it. If you don't love the game, you don't play in 1,117 straight games. I wanted to be there. I wanted to perform.

"It's the same way here. I come out, and I do whatever I can to help a player. If he wants to talk hitting, if he wants to talk outfield, this is what it's all about because I had that done for me when I first came to the big leagues."

Williams also thanked the Ricketts family for not only concentrating on the present-day Cubs but also for remembering past players.