New doc explores Billy Williams' life, career

December 25th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Each spring, as the Cubs prepped for their upcoming season, Fergie Jenkins marveled at how tended to his new batch of baseball bats.

"He'd weigh them," Jenkins said. "He'd varnish them down, sand them, get the right weight, everything. He'd get two or three dozen bats and then think things over, and he'd keep a dozen."

Then, Williams went out and hit.

"Sweet Swingin' Billy," Jenkins said.

The story of how a soft-spoken Williams let his bats do the talking for him -- all the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame -- is told in an hour-long documentary on Marquee Sports Network. "Billy Williams: The Sweet Swinger" premiered Friday and is scheduled to air numerous times on the network's broadcast schedule.

Like "Glory and Grief: The Ferguson Jenkins Story," which first aired in June, the documentary about Williams' life features extensive footage from the MLB archives and interviews with teammates, including Jenkins and Randy Hundley.

MLB Network and Marquee Sports Network Films previously teamed to produce documentaries on Ernie Banks and Harry Carary.

"Billy Williams left an indelible mark on Cubs fans through his on-field performance, always letting his actions speak louder than words," Mike Santini, Marquee Sports Network senior vice president of programming and production, said in a release.

"We're grateful to MLB Network for sharing his story so eloquently, connecting with past teammates for exclusive interviews and uncovering archival interviews with Ernie Banks, to show the full impact of Billy's legacy that carries to this day."

Williams -- a native of Whistler, Ala. -- played 16 of his 18 Major League seasons with the Cubs, rising to stardom on the beloved Chicago teams in the 1960s and hitting his stride in the early '70s. The outfielder was the National League's MVP runner-up twice (in '70 and '72, both times to Johnny Bench).

In 1970, Williams led the Majors in runs (137), hits (205) and total bases (373). Two years later, he was arguably even better, capturing the NL batting title with a .333 average and ending with a .398 on-base percentage and a .606 slugging percentage to go with his 37 homers, 34 doubles, 122 RBIs and more walks (62) than strikeouts (59) in 150 games.

Williams won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1961, was a six-time All-Star and finished his career with 426 home runs, 434 doubles, 2,711 hits and a .290 average. He earned a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

"Everybody talked about his swing," Jenkins said. "He was short and quick. He had quick hands -- really strong hands and forearms. And he didn't get fooled. He was, I think, a patient, diligent hitter. He'd watch the pitchers all the time."

Williams also set an NL record for consecutive games played with 1,117 across the 1963-70 seasons -- a mark later broken by Steve Garvey.

"Billy Williams is the best hitter, day-in and day-out, that I have ever seen," longtime teammate Don Kessinger is quoted as saying on the Hall of Fame's website. "He's unbelievable. He didn't hit for just one or two days, or one or two weeks. He hit all the time."