10/11/2003 7:55 PM ET
Williams enjoying Cubs' ride
MIAMI -- Imagine being a longtime Chicago Cubs fan, walking through the stands at Pro Player Stadium and seeing two of your heroes, Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg, sitting together.
That was the scene Friday night in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series as the two, who are part of the Cubs traveling party, watched the 11-inning, 5-4 Chicago win.
"There was a guy in a [Mark] Prior shirt and he came by and wanted to buy us beer," Williams said Saturday. "People would walk by and say, 'Thanks for the memories.'"
Williams, 65, provided a lot of good memories playing with the Cubs from 1959-74. The sweet-swinging Hall of Fame outfielder finished with a career .290 average, 426 home runs and 1,475 RBIs.
But he never got a ring.
"There's really a buzz," Williams said of his teammates, who are as excited about the Cubs as the fans are. "I talked to [Ernie Banks] this summer and we'd talk about the pitching, the club we had. He asked if we could go all the way. [Ron Santo] has been here every day [as the WGN Radio color commentator] and Glenn Beckert, I talk to him. Whenever the Cubs lose, he'll call me and say, 'What happened?'
"Most of the guys who played in the '70s, '60s, who played with the Cubs realize what's happening here," Williams said. "They look at it as my baseball team winning, the team I signed with winning.
"We tried to do it for the fans of Chicago and now they're doing it for the fans of Chicago," Williams said. "The team is playing good, the fans are having a lot of fun. The entire city is having a lot of fun.
"One guy says, 'I've been waiting for it a long time,'" Williams said. "I know what he means."
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The Cubs came close in 1969, one of three times they finished second during Williams' 16 seasons in Chicago.
"There were a lot of 'What if' questions if we had won that year [in 1969]," Williams said. "What would the city have done? I don't know what they would do. I don't think they know what they would do.
"It's a time for excitement. There's a lot of emotions," he said. "A lot of people, their fathers introduced them to the Chicago Cubs. I hear gentlemen about 60 years old, women about 60 years old saying their grandparents led them by the hand and brought them to Wrigley Field and how they only hoped they were alive to see this.
"These times, I think there's a reflection on what happened in the past," he said. "I think most of the people in these times, they'll reminisce about the past and when they were introduced to the Chicago Cubs."
The Cubs aren't cursed. Williams doesn't buy that theory.
"I know a lot of people are superstitious and I had some things I did and it became a habit but the billy-goat thing, the curse of the Bambino -- every player who plays the game, he doesn't believe in that stuff," Williams said.
What about the lovable loser tag?
"We can get rid of that because it never was here," Williams said. "Nobody wants that tab. I know what I did to help the Cubs win. I tried to get them over the hump."
Now, Williams is seeing first-hand what it's like to play baseball in October at Wrigley Field. His official title is special assistant to the president and he's been with the team since the very first meeting in Spring Training.
What if the Cubs are in the World Series this year?
"I don't know what color the leaves will be in October," Williams said. "It's exciting. We started when the ice was on the top of the vines and we wind up when the leaves are brown. This is exciting."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
"We started when the ice was on the top of the vines and we wind up when the leaves are brown. This is exciting."
-- Billy Williams