Ken Williams

“Brownie Stalwart of the 20s” said his obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For those with long memories, Ken Williams was one of the cherished, lamented, never-quite-made-it team that finished a game behind the Yankee pennant-winners of 1922. He and the Browns had their best year together. A well-built six-footer who batted left and threw right, Williams led the league in home runs (39) and RBI (155) that year, hit .337, and stole 37 bases. This made him the first player ever to hit 30 home runs, steal 30 bases, and hit .300. In one game he swatted three homers, in another, two in one inning; in between, he had six in as many consecutive games. He had a pleasant, gap-toothed smile and was popular with teammates and fans.

Born and raised in Grants Pass, OR, Ken was the small-town boy who made it to the big leagues. He was the only ballplayer among six brothers whose mother had been a logging-camp cook and later operated an all-night restaurant serving the train crews when Grants Pass was a junction point on the railroad.

It took him a while to make it. After a two-year trial with Cincinnati, he was returned to the high minors, spent most of 1918 in the military, and began to see action with the Browns in 1919. The following year the club put together its finest outfield, with Ken in left, Baby Doll Jacobson in center, and Jack Tobin in right. Williams’s numbers were always respectable, if not outstanding. In 1925, although he missed some games after being skulled by a pitch, he led the league with a slugging percentage of .613.

The Browns sold him to Boston, where he put in two more .300 years. Portland (PCL) had him for two more, and at 41 he retired to Grants Pass.