We’re sorry to learn today of the passing of pitcher Stan Williams, aged 84, at his home in Laughlin, Nevada. Stan had a fine 14-year major league career in which he went 109-94 (.537), with a 3.48 ERA. In 11 post-season innings, he gave up just three hits and no earned runs. He is mostly remembered for his five outstanding years with the Dodgers in which he went 57-46 with a 3.83 ERA, but he also pitched for the Yankees, Indians, Twins, Cardinals and Red Sox. The two-time All-Star was known as the “Big Hurt” for his penchant for pitching inside. His son, Stan, Jr. quoted Henry Aaron as saying his dad was “the toughest guy he ever faced.”
As we send our condolences to Stan’s family, I’d like to repost an essay I wrote about him a few years ago. Unfortunately, Stan’s tenure with the Dodgers did not end well. He played a part in what I called the worst inning in Dodger history, and he remained bitter about it for the rest of his life.
A BITTER STAN WILLIAMS RECALLS HIS ROLE IN ONE OF THE WORST INNINGS IN DODGER HISTORY, OCTOBER 3, 1962
“I don’t like the Dodgers, and they don’t like me. They have completely divorced me over the years, and I pull against them every night.’’ –Ex-Dodger, Stan Williams
Pitcher Stan Williams remembers the fateful inning like it was yesterday, although it happened 59 years ago this Fall. Here’s the setting:
It was the best-of-three playoff series between the Dodgers and the Giants. The 1962 National League pennant was on the line. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. The winner would go to the World Series. The loser would have six months at home to brood about it. Both teams had finished the regular season with identical 101-61 records. Now the playoff series was also tied, one game apiece. It all came down to Game Three at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers held a 4-2 lead as the top of the ninth inning unfolded. They had Ed Roebuck on the mound and were just three outs away from their second trip to the World Series in four years. Dodger Stadium was electric with the anticipation of another pennant.
(In the featured photo above, we Stan Williams, third from left with Dodger teammates, including Don Drysdale, Pete Richert, Sandy Koufax, and Johnny Podres.)
A single and two walks loaded the bases with one out for the Giants. The dangerous Willie Mays was next; and, true to form, he delivered with a run-scoring single. Suddenly it was 4-3.
That brought manager Walt Alston out of the Dodger dugout. He called for 6-foot-5 inch starter Stan Williams to close out the game, “saving” Don Drysdale for the World Series. First batter Orlando Cepeda wasted no time and hit a sac fly. Just like that, the two-run lead had vanished and the game was tied at four. Mays then advanced to second on a wild pitch to Ed Bailey, leaving first base open. A hush fell over the stunned crowd…
Alston then ordered an intentional walk to Bailey, just a .147 hitter against Williams. But the decision didn’t sit well: “First base was open,” Williams later recalled, “but I knew I owned this guy. So I called out Johnny Roseboro and we agreed we would tell Walt to let me pitch to him.”
There was only one problem. Looking into the Dodgers’ dugout, Williams and Roseboro couldn’t find the manager: “He was apparently standing up in the tunnel having a cigarette. We couldn’t find him, so we couldn’t get him to change his instructions.’’ Williams had no choice but to follow orders. He issued the intentional walk to Bailey, reloading the bases.
That brought up the dangerous Jim Davenport. With him came the nightmare at-bat Stan Williams has never forgotten. With the count 2-1, Williams proceeded to throw ball three and ball four, walking Davenport on five pitches, forcing in a run, and giving the Giants a 5-4 lead.
Then another run scored on an error, making it 6-4. Stan was replaced by Ron Perranoski, but the damage had been done. After Billy Pierce closed out the Dodgers with a perfect ninth, suddenly the Giants had an improbable 6-4 victory and the 1962 pennant. The Dodgers? They were heading home, having just snatched a bitter, stinging defeat from the jaws of victory.
For most of the Dodgers’ early years in Los Angeles, Stan Williams was a mainstay on an outstanding rotation that featured Hall-of-Fame greats Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, plus Johnny Podres. In his five years as a Dodger, Stan went 57-46 (.537) with a 3.48 ERA. In 1959, he literally pitched them into the World Series, closing out a 12-inning playoff win against the Braves with three scoreless innings.
Stan Williams is often remembered for the five pitches he threw to Jim Davenport, but he deserves a much better fate. Surely there was blame enough to go around. Alston made some questionable decisions. The poor positioning of second baseman Larry Burright may have cost a potential double play.
Over the years, Stan Williams, now 81, has been consistently snubbed by the Dodgers, having been invited to only one old-timer’s event and no fantasy camps. He believes the Dodgers want to separate themselves from the memory of that fateful inning. He also feels the Dodgers never forgave him. “I eventually got over it, but they never did.”
When contacted about Williams’ claims, the Dodgers denied the charges: “In Dodger history, Stan Williams is one of the great pitchers and a big contributor to some great teams, and he’ll always be part of our family. We’ve got the greatest respect for his accomplishments.’’
Three batters…five pitches…one nightmare inning 59 years ago. It left an indelible scar on Stan Williams, turning him against the Dodgers, the team for which he pitched so well, and blemishing the career of an outstanding pitcher.
Baseball, like life, is sometimes unfair…
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Photo Credits: All from Google search
Information from Baseball-Reference; Quote from Stan Williams, Jr. from Chicago Sun-Times, February 22, 2021.
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