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Dick Williams

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1921 Canada
Date and Place of Death:    February 21, 1945 The Philippines
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Technician Fifth Grade
Military Unit: Headquarters Battery, 82nd Field Artillery Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division US Army
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Richard L. "Dick" Williams was born in Canada and moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he was five years old. He played football and baseball in high school and when he changed from a submarine delivery to straight overhand he became a highly effective pitcher, with seven straight high school wins.

In 1940, the left-hander was playing semi-pro baseball when he attracted the attention of the Detroit Tigers who gave him a tryout. The Tigers did not sign Williams but the Brooklyn Dodgers had also shown an interest and he played briefly for the Americus Pioneers of the Class D Georgia-Florida League and the Superior Blues of the Class D Northern League, before joining the Appleton Papermakers of the newly-formed Class D Wisconsin State League in June.

Described as having "good stuff, with an overhand curveball breaking down on the hitter," Williams got off to a good start but then struggled to win a game until June 18, when he defeated Green Bay, 2-0. [1]

Another run of bad luck saw him traded at the beginning of August to the Sheboygan Indians of the same league. The trade coincided with the extraction of an ulcerated tooth, and under the guidance of Joe "Unser Choe" Hauser, the first player to hit 60 home runs twice in his career (first with the Baltimore Orioles in 1930, 63 home runs, and then with the Minneapolis Millers in 1933, 69 home runs), he fared much better and ended the year with a 9-9 won-loss record and a 4.94 ERA.

Back with Sheboygan for 1941, Williams earned recognition as "the best left-hander in the league." [2] On June 3, he pitched a 1-0 three-hitter against Wisconsin Rapids and followed that on June 27 by scattering eight hits in a 3-2 win against Janesville, striking out 16 batters to tie a Wisconsin State League record. He finished the regular season with a 14-11 record and a 3.89 ERA, and struck out 138 in 177 innings.3 The Indians finished fourth in the league to earn a place in the playoffs, and Williams earned his team a spot in the finals with a sensational 1-0 five-hitter against the LaCrosse Blackhawks. The Indians were then awarded the championship when Green Bay forfeited. [3]

Williams entered military service with the Army at Kalamazoo, Michigan, on July 25, 1942, and served with the 82nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division. The division arrived in Australia in June 1943, and saw its first combat in the Admiralty Islands, where attacks by fanatical Japanese troops were thrown back, and the enemy force surrounded by the end of March 1944. The division then took part in the invasion of Leyte in October 1944, and invaded Luzon in January 1945, fighting its way to Manila by February 3, 1945. On February 20, the division was assigned the mission of seizing and securing crossings over the Marikina River and securing the Tagaytay-Antipolo Line. Technician Fifth Grade Williams was killed in action on February 21, 1945. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for actions during the battle for Manila, and was buried at the Manila American Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio in the Philippines.

Year

Team

League

Class

G

IP

ER

BB

SO

W

L

ERA

1940 Americus Georgia-Florida D - - - - - - - -
1940 Superior Northern D - - - - - - - -
1940 Appleton/Sheboygan Wisconsin State D 29 144 79 113 104 9 9 4.94
1941 Sheboygan Wisconsin State D 29 177 77 84 138 14 11 3.89

 

Notes
1. Sheboygan Press, May 14, 1941
2. Ibid
3. Sharing pitching duties with Williams on the 1941 Sheboygan team was right-hander Chipper Wantuck. Also a powerful hitter, Wantuck was 15-5 for the year and batted .232. He was killed in action on Biak Island in New Guinea, in June 1944.

Date Added May 29, 2012 Updated June 12, 2014

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