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Ken Williams shaped by father's indelible lesson

Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams watches his team's practice before a baseball game between the White Sox and the Minnesota Twins Thursday, July 7, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) (Nam Y. Huh/AP)
December 18, 2018

CHICAGO -- There was a specific moment during Ken Williams' high school time that still shapes him to this day.It involved him getting a D in biology and receiving crucial wisdom from his father, Jerry. The elder Williams asked at the time if his son thought everybody was smarter than

CHICAGO -- There was a specific moment during Ken Williams' high school time that still shapes him to this day.
It involved him getting a D in biology and receiving crucial wisdom from his father, Jerry. The elder Williams asked at the time if his son thought everybody was smarter than him in class and that's why he was getting the D.
Being kind of a self-professed "smart ass" at the time, Ken Williams' response was, "Well, it looks like the evidence shows that appears to be the case." Williams' father wasn't exactly satisfied with that answer.
"He said something that I used for the rest of my life," Williams said. "He said, 'Let's assume you are right, and they are smarter than you. So, are they two times smarter or three times smarter? If they are two times, then if you work doubly hard, you are even. If you work harder than that, then you are ahead of them. You are smarter.'
"That kind of created my work ethic, set the foundation of my work ethic for the rest of my life no matter what I embarked on. I told him, I said, 'I wouldn't be sitting in the position that I am without that one piece of advice because I still stand by it.'"
Jerry Williams passed away at 73 on Oct. 11 after a battle with squamous cell carcinoma. Ken Williams shared this story with his father as he sat at his bedside for six weeks in California before his passing.
The White Sox executive vice president and architect of the team's 2005 World Series championship was kind enough to share this story while sitting with his son, Ken Jr., at the recently completed Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. He brought up the best advice ever received despite not really being ready to talk about his father.
"Listen, it's still very raw to me, and it still has the ability to take me back to sitting by his bedside for six weeks and what cancer can do to someone," Williams said. "It's still hard to believe because this is Jerry Williams. Always kept in shape, fit, strong man, so it's hard for us to put our arms around it."
"I was blessed to have this man in my life for 32 years and as Senior was handling his responsibilities on the baseball field, he really took ownership of being a second father figure for me," said Ken Jr. of his grandfather. "He was a confidant to me. He was the backbone to this family and although he will be sorely missed, we were blessed to have that person in our family to support all of us through everything we've been through."
Ken Sr. has passed on Jerry's guidance to his son, the White Sox sixth-round selection in the 2008 Draft who is currently working as the organization's special assistant, baseball operations. Williams feels his son needs to be better than everyone else because of who his father is, but working through challenges has been a staple of the Williams family for generations.
"This is not foreign to him and he's going to have an excellent future whether it be here or somewhere else," said Williams of his son, who has been looking at scouting reports since he was 12 and was unofficially scouting even when he was playing at Double-A per his father. "My fear is someone is going to probably see the advantage of having him and we are not going to be able to keep him. But he's been an asset already."
"Work ethic has been a strong quality from our family that has been passed down through Jerry Williams," Ken Jr. said. "I've always been one who has never been afraid to work, whether it was on the field, off the field. I've decided to take the same work ethic as a player into this new career."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.