“Smokey Joe” or “Cyclone Joe” Williams was an African-American/Native American baseball pitcher from Texas who spent his entire career in the Negro Leagues. He’s been called the “greatest pitcher of all time” known for his monumental fastball.
Williams stood 6 foot 4 inches tall and played over 20 years, well into his 40’s. In 1909, when a man named Rube Foster, who has been called “The Father of Black Baseball” put his Chicago Giants up against Smokey Joe, they were shut out 3-0.
When the Giants left town, they took Williams with them. He played ball during a time when baseball was segregated and big wins were what Negro teams needed to put them on the major radar. Joe’s coaches and even major league stars like Ty Cobb knew that if Williams had been given a chance in the major leagues, he would’ve been a star.
He excelled in areas other than just on the mound. He played outfield and had a respectable batting average. Williams was a captain and player/manager for the Lincoln Giants for few seasons as well. In 1924, Williams set a record for a single day game of 27 strikeouts in twelve innings against the Kansas City Monarchs.
The players of the Negro Leagues would play major league white teams in post-season brainstorming exhibition games. In twenty-six postseason games against the best white big-league clubs between 1913 and 1932, Williams held an average pitching record of 19 wins and 6 losses.
Once he retired, it was believed he worked as a bartender until his death at age 64 in New York City. His legacy of a dominating fastball that could only be matched by fellow Negro Leagues legend Satchel Paige, will be kept alive in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Williams was inducted in the Hall in 1999.