Joe Williams was considered to be one of the best pitchers of his era, even though he never made it to the majors. The Negro Leagues star even edged out the great Satchel Paige in a vote of who was the greatest pitcher of the leagues of all time.
Joseph Williams was born on this day in 1886 in Seguin, Texas. Discovering the game as a boy, Williams grew to a towering 6-foot-4, allowing him to fling the ball with power. He began his career playing in small leagues in and around the San Antonio area before being discovered by the “Father of Black Baseball,” Rube Foster, during a game Foster’s Leland Giants had in the region.
Williams joined Foster’s team in 1910, and then went over to become a major star for the New York Lincoln Giants. It was there where he was given the nickname “Cyclone” due to the power in his right arm. Williams also played for lesser known teams during his time with the Giants before moving on to the Homestead Grays in 1925.
Even though Williams lost some of the “Cyclone” power, with his nickname switching over to “Smokey,” he still has good stuff. At the age of 44 in 1930, Williams fanned 27 Kansas City Monarchs, and then went on to defeat Paige in another dazzling display in a later game. Even baseball legend Ty Cobb, a known racist, said that Williams would have been a 30-game winner in Major League Baseball. Williams retired from the game in 1932.
A 1952 Pittsburgh Courier poll of Black sportswriters and baseball players elected Williams as the greatest pitcher in the Negro Leagues history over Paige.
Williams passed at the age of 64 in 1946. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
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