Stan Williams, who grew up on Denver’s East Side and attended East High School during the Angels’ 1950 heydays, signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent out of high school.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander with a blistering fastball joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958, the club’s first year on the West Coast. He quickly earned the nicknames “Big Daddy” and “The Big Hurt.”
The following season, Williams pitched in his first World Series.
“I guess the first one always is special for a player,” Williams told the Denver Post in 2007. “It was only my second year in the big leagues and I was wide-eyed and wondering what was going on.”
Williams quickly learned, claiming the first of six World Series rings over a long baseball career as a player and and pitching coach. He pitched for 14 years with six clubs — the Dodgers through 1962, New York Yankees (1963-1964), Cleveland Indians (1965-1969), Minnesota Twins (1970-1971), St. Louis Cardinals (1971) and the Boston Red Sox (1972).
He won the second game of the 1959 tie-breaking playoff with the Milwaukee Braves to give the Dodgers the first playoff victory in their history, propelling them to the World Series. He became a regular member of the Dodger rotation in 1960, compiling a 14-10 record with a 3.00 ERA and earning an All-Star berth.
Williams compiled a career record of 109-94 in 482 games and 208 starts. He had a career ERA of 3.48 with 42 complete games, 11 shutouts and 1,305 strikeouts.
He logged the majority of his wins with the Dodgers and after the 1962 season, the Dodgers traded him to the hated New York Yankees for Bill “Moose” Skowron.
He fit right in with a who’s who of baseball on the Dodgers and Yankees.
When he first came up with the Dodgers, he joined a pitching rotation that included Sandy Koufax, Johnny Podres and Don Drysdale. Maury Wills, Junior Gilliam, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider also were on that team.
With the Yankees, it was pitchers Whitey Ford, Al Downing and Jim Bouton. Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bobby Richardson, Yogi Berra and Elston Howard were teammates.
Although his control often kept him from being a top pitcher, Williams’ presence on the mound was huge, and many batters around the league feared the big right-hander, who wasn’t afraid to fire a fastball inside. In 1961, Williams finished second in the league in strikeouts with 205, behind Koufax (269). Drysdale was third with 182 as the Dodgers staff dominated the National League.
In 1970 with the Twins, he went 10-1 on the season in relief, with a 1.99 ERA, one of the best seasons a relief pitcher has ever had. After retiring, Williams served as a pitching coach for 14 MLB seasons, with the Red Sox, Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds. He was also an advance scout for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Washington Nationals.
I guess the first one always is special for a player.