Matt Williams, former third base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, was introduced Friday as the fifth manager in Nationals history, taking over for the retired Davey Johnson.
Williams played 17 seasons as a third baseman with the Giants, Indians and Diamondbacks, playing in a World Series with each team. His only ring came in 2001 with the Diamondbacks. He is the only player in history to hit at least one home run in the World Series for three different teams.
Other nuggets about Williams’ career:
* In 1994, with Barry Bonds batting behind him in the lineup, Williams had a chance to break Roger Maris’ single-season record for home runs. He hit 43 home runs in the Giants’ first 112 games before the players’ strike ended the season. Williams was on pace to break the record even though he was playing in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, where the wind blowing in from left field made it almost impossible for a right-handed batter to pull pitches over the fence. Hall of Famer Willie Mays admitted that Candlestick was the reason he didn’t challenge the career record for home runs.
* Orioles fans should remember Williams for the “wheel play” in the 1997 American League Championship Series when Williams played for Cleveland. In a scoreless game in the seventh inning, the Orioles had runners on first and second when Williams, from third base, called for the wheel play, where the corner infielders charge the plate for an anticipated bunt while the shortstop goes to third and the second baseman to first. The Orioles’ Roberto Alomar bunted. Williams picked up the ball and threw to Omar Vizquel at third, getting Mike Bordick.
“That to me was the play of the game,” Orioles manager Davey Johnson says. “Cleveland didn’t run the wheel play all year long. I tip my hat to (manager) Mike Hargrove to run it in that situation.”
The Indians won Game 6 1-0 in 11 innings at Camden Yards to advance to the World Series.
* An anecdote that defines Williams’ passion: In 1993, when the Dodgers beat the Giants on the final day of the regular season and eliminated them from postseason contention, Williams interpreted postgame comments by Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser as making fun of the Giants.
Williams was still fired up about reacting to Hershiser when he the team arrived in San Francisco and told a group of fans at the airport, “This isn’t done. We are going to get them back.”
* Although he hasn’t done it in a while, Williams can do a great imitation of Babe Ruth’s upper-cut swing and pigeon-toed gait. Williams is built like a cinder block, the same type of build as Hall of Fame third baseman Harmon Killebrew. Often, Williams’ defense was compared to Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.
* Williams has a connection to Washington baseball history. His grandfather, Bert Griffith, no relation to Calvin Griffith, played in six games for Washington in 1924. Griffith, who had four home runs during his career for Brooklyn, went 1-for-8 for the Senators.
* In 1996, the Giants’ media guide speculated that Williams was on a Hall of Fame pace as he entered his age 29 season. The comparison showed that he had more home runs at that point in his career than seven Hall of Fame third basemen.
* Williams and former manager Dusty Baker, his batting coach in San Francisco, like to fish for bass and bluefish.
* Williams was a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove third baseman. At times, he was known for taking grounders while holding ping-pong paddles, which helped him develop his soft hands. He liked to use stiff, new gloves in the field. Some seasons, he’d use six different gloves.
* He finished in the top 10 in league MVP voting three times, including second to Houston’s Jeff Bagwell in the 1994 season.
* Williams struck out 109 times in his first 401 at-bats during his first two seasons with the Giants, all because he couldn’t hit the curve. Apparently, he adjusted.
* Williams hit 30-plus home runs six times and finished with 100 RBIs four different times.