Saturday, March 15, 2008

Regarding Woody Williams, “Oh, Schlitz”

Spring training for the Houston Astros has been anything but a walk in the park for seasoned veteran Woody Williams. Coming off a less than memorable year, posting a losing record of 8-15 with a 5.27 ERA, I had to wonder why the team offered Woody another $6.5 million this season.

Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak, major league stats for 2007 along with the last three years can be viewed on Yahoo’s page here.

Quoting Joseph Duarte, Eye on the Astros section of the Houston Chronicle,

“Woody Williams' future with the Astros is in serious jeopardy after being rocked in his latest outing Wednesday.

Williams allowed eight runs -- including four home runs -- in three innings against the Detroit Tigers.

Williams allowed 10 hits in the game -- seven for extra bases.

He gave up back-to-back home runs to Edgar Renteria and Ivan Rodriguez in the third inning.

Williams had two other shots off him caught at the warning track.

In his last two spring outings, Williams has allowed 13 runs and 16 hits in 5 2-3

It could be a long year for the Astros with pitching being a major issue. I suppose we should list Woody as a batting practice pitcher since the team has no intention of putting him in the bull pen or sending him down to AAA. That’s a real shame too as I remember many great years for Woody when he was with the Padres and Cardinals. I suppose having Woody on the team is good as an attendance draw, even if only for his name.

This reminded me of a pitcher from another era, Bill Famous. What, you’re not familiar with the name? Long after he was able to contribute to the team, at least on the mound; Bill would sit in the bull pen and talk baseball with the young up and coming pitchers. He’d sign autographs for the fans and relax knowing that his job was mostly public relations; the odds of having to pitch were similar to winning the lottery twice in the same day.

Late in the season the team was well out of the pennant race. It was a hot Saturday afternoon and they were in the seventh inning, trailing by a considerable margin. Rather than waste a relief pitcher in a losing cause the manager pointed to the bull pen and had Bill Famous warm up; he was actually going into a game.

Bill strolled to the mound while the stadium rocked with a standing ovation, old men pointing to their grandchildren, explaining how a piece of history was being played out before their eyes. He took a few more warm up tosses and the batter stepped into the box.

“Ball One!” Bill reached down to something at the back of the mound, picked it up and walked around a bit before the next pitch.

“Ball Two!” The pitch was a foot and a half out of the zone and the catcher had to take a quick jab just to coral it. Bill repeated the act of bending down and walking the mound.

“Ball Three!” Bill didn’t seem to be overly concerned, having been in plenty of situations over the years where he had to battle back while down in the count.

“Ball Four, take your base”, the umpire let the words fall as the batter tossed his bat off to the side and strutted down the line. Upon reaching base he took a modest lead while the first baseman began the barber session.

“What’s that brown thing Bill kept going to between pitches?” The first baseman kept his defensive position with one foot wedged against the bag in the event of a pick off move. The runner smiled and began to laugh at the rookie ball player.

“Why, that’s the beer that made Bill Famous walk me.”

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