In Memory of Walt Williams

Walt 'No Neck' Williams dies at 72
Bobbie Dittmeier
January 27, 2016

(c) Houston Astros

Walt Williams, a stocky outfielder and utilityman who played in 10 Major League seasons, including six with the White Sox, died Saturday in his hometown of Brownwood, Tex. He was 72.

Williams, popularly known as "No Neck" a nickname he may or may not have liked, depending on the account also played for the Houston Colt .45s, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. He was an everyday player for the White Sox in 1969, batting .304 with 32 RBIs and 59 runs scored in 135 games. He hit .294 with eight homers and 35 RBIs in 114 games for Chicago in 1971, and .289 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 104 games for the Indians in 1973.

Popular also for his hustling style of play, Williams spent two seasons with the Yankees, batting .281 in 185 atbats in 1975, mostly coming off the bench to help New York contend in the American League East before the team faded late in the season.

He was the great uncle of outfielder Mason Williams, currently ranked No. 12 among Yankees prospects by, and the uncle of Derwin Williams (Mason's father), a wide receiver for the New England Patriots from 1985-87.

The nickname "No Neck" was hung on the muscular 5-foot-6 Walt Williams because of his physical appearance. A typhus injection he received in his neck when he was very young, following a flood in Brownwood, caused his neck to shrink.

After being released by the Yankees in January 1976, Williams played two seasons for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan and two seasons in the Mexican League. He was firstbase coach for the White Sox in 1988 and managed three seasons, 1992-94, in the Minor Leagues.

Walt Williams, 72, Player Known as No Neck
Bruce Weber
New York Times
January 27, 2016

Walt Williams, a high-energy, free-swinging outfielder who played for four major league teams but who was probably best known for the unusual physique that earned him the nickname No Neck, died on Saturday in Abilene, Tex. He was 72.

The cause was a heart attack, his wife, Ester, said.

Williams played most of his career with the Chicago White Sox. He began in Houston, finished with the Yankees and spent a season in Cleveland. He was popular with fans wherever he went.

Like Pete Rose, he played with a caffeinated enthusiasm, running out every batted ball, hustling to his position for the start of an inning and even sprinting to first after receiving a base on balls, although that did not happen too often. Eager to swing the bat, he rarely walked -- never more than 26 times in a season.

Unusually for such an aggressive hitter, he did not strike out much either -- only 211 times in a 10-year career that included 2,555 plate appearances, or just 8.3 percent of the time. (For comparisonís sake, the major league average in 1975, Williamsís last year in the big leagues, was 13 percent; by 2014 it had risen to 20.4 percent.)

Williams had a quick bat and was a good bunter but had little power. He hit just 33 home runs in his career. His best year was 1969, when he hit .304, making him one of only six American Leaguers to top .300. He had an average higher than .280 three other times, including his season as a parttime player for the Yankees. He hit .270 for his career.

Williams was short and broad-shouldered, with the peculiar quality denoted, perhaps with a smidgen of hyperbole, by his nickname.

"The irregular left fielder of the Chicago White Sox," the sportswriter Jim Murray called him in 1970, adding just a tad unkindly: "A fine broth of a man, over 190 pounds, he is 6 feet tall, only it doesnít show on the outside. What you can see of Walt Williams is 5 feet 6."

Murray quoted an unnamed scout as saying, "He looks as if somebody tried to cram him into a suitcase when they heard the cops coming."

Walter Allen Williams was born in Brownwood, in central Texas, on Dec. 19, 1943, the son of Coleman Williams and the former Pearlie Mae Diggs. One of nine children, he was sent in adolescence to live with an aunt in San Francisco, where he graduated from Galileo High School (now the Galileo Academy of Science and Technology) and played football, basketball and baseball.

Before the 1963 season he signed with the second-year National League expansion team in Houston, then known as the Colt .45s, playing in their minor league system and briefly in the big leagues before being selected from the waiver list by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played in the Cardinalsí system but never for the Cardinals, who traded him to Chicago, where he made his debut in 1967.

When his major league career was over, he played in Japan and Mexico.

Williamsís first marriage ended in divorce. He married Ester Lacy in 1988, and they lived in Brownwood. In addition to her, he is survived by two brothers, Freddie and Joe; a sister, Carol Sue Stanfield; a stepbrother, Dennis Wade; a stepsister, Madeline Bradley; two sons, Deron and Walter Jr.; a stepdaughter, Sherry Barron; a stepson, Gary Eugene Barron; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

According to his wife, Williams said the shortness of his neck came about after a bungled vaccination when he was a child. The nickname came later; different teammates during his early days in professional baseball have been given credit for it -- or blame.

"He didnít like the name much at first," Ester Williams said in an interview Wednesday. "But he was stuck with it."