I know a ridiculous amount about the history of the Phillies. Although I think this is true of most Phillies team collectors (how can you not learn about the team’s history when you’re collecting cards that were printed decades before you were born), I actually pride myself on the breadth and width of my Phillies knowledge. Though I’m certain that there’s plenty of minutiae about the Phillies 130+ year history I don’t know, I don’t expect anything I learn to take me completely by surprise. That changed yesterday when I read Frank Jackson’s tribute to Fred “Cy” Williams in “Song for an Unsung Slugger” over on The Hardball Times.
Now, I know quite a bit about Williams, and I’ve previously featured on this blog a few of his cards from my collection. I knew he was a late bloomer offensively, won three NL home run titles for the Phillies, was one of the most feared sluggers in the National League during the 1920s, and remains the oldest man to win a league home run title. Yet, Jackson managed to pass along a piece of trivia that caught me totally by surprise: when Williams retired, he was third all-time in career home runs — just one of three men (the others being Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby) with over 250 home runs. Furthermore, after reading Jackson’s article, I went over to Williams’s page on Baseball-Reference and discovered that in 1926, at the age of 38, he was arguably the best offensive player in the National League — and he didn’t even win the home run crown that year.
Despite all the home runs, Williams never received serious Hall of Fame consideration, something Jackson’s article briefly addresses. Even though I’m a “Big Hall” kind of fan, I feel that Williams fell short of reaching borderline candidate status. Still, he was the eighth player to be awarded with a plaque in the Phillies Wall of Fame and deserved to be better remembered than he appears to be.