Saturday, June 23, 2012

Signature Saturday - Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams

I've mentioned several times already that I'm a big fan of the Boys of Zimmer. I was around Little League age at the time and remember racing home from school in April and May to catch those afternoon games on WGN. And of course, during the summer, coming in from playing outside and taking a couple hour break to watch the games.

I remember hearing about the trade that brought Mitch Williams to the Cubs before the 1989 season and being very disappointed. I don't recall all of the players involved but it was a multi-player trade and we definitely traded away Jamie Moyer (for some reason, back then, I always mixed him up with Greg Maddux) and Rafael Palmeiro. Gasp! He was a 1987 Topps Future Star for goodness sake!

Mitch Williams ended up being a big part of that team that season and I remember two games very distinctly. The first was opening day and obviously his first appearance with the team. I looked up the boxscore to verify my account and the only thing I mis-remembered was that he had come in during the 8th inning not just the 9th. With the Cubs leading the Phillies 5-4, he relieved Calvin Schiraldi in the 8th with one out. He proceeded to get a pop fly out, walk the second batter, balk him to second and walk the next batter before getting former Cub Steve Lake to end the inning with another pop fly.

Mitch Williams 1989 Topps Traded

Williams came back out to pitch the 9th with the Cubs still leading 5-4. He quickly loaded the bases with three straight singles with no outs. The game ended after he struck out the next three batters, including future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.

Mitch Williams 1990 Topps

Later that season, in a close game with the Mets, Williams came on in relief in the top of the 8th inning. The Cubs rallied for four runs in the bottom of the 8th including a 3-run homer from none other than Mitch Williams. It was his first Major League hit (keep in mind he was a closer, who came from the American League). With the score now 10-4, he came out to pitch the top of the 9th. He got two quick outs before the wheels started to fall off. A bloop double started a rally that was followed by a pinch-hit walk, back-to-back RBI singles and a hit batter. The score was now 10-6, bases loaded, 2 outs with tying run at the plate. Who is up? Clean up hitter, 1988 MVP runner-up and reigning National League home run champion Darryl Strawberry. In true "Wild Thing" fashion, he struck him out swinging.

I remembered the gist of this game too, mostly the home run, the crazyness ninth inning (although not the exact sequence) and Strawberry striking out to end the game. That Williams home run ended up being his only hit with the Cubs in 10 at-bats.

Mitch Williams 1991 Topps

I sent the three cards above to a private signing before I started my 1991 Topps Desert Shield project. The ATCRCS cards weren't even a thought in my mind yet. Next time I see him doing one, I'll be sending those in too. 

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