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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tragic story of ex-big league baseballer ends on the streets

The sad tale of Frank Williams.

Frank Williams, a former major-league baseball pitcher who ended up on the streets in Victoria, has died. He was 50.

Rev. Al Tysick of the Pandora Avenue shelter Our Place said Williams had a heart attack about two weeks ago, went into a coma and never came out. He died last Friday.

Williams’s life reads like a Hollywood fantasy. He was an orphan who grew up in foster homes in Seattle, but he made it to baseball’s major leagues, pitching for the San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds between 1984 and 1989. Over six seasons, he pitched 471.7 innings, had a 24-14 won-loss record with eight saves and an earned-run average of 3.00.

He earned $442,500 in 1988 and $425,000 in 1989. By the time he died last week, all that money was gone. He spent his last days bouncing around Victoria shelters and detox centres, a street-level alcoholic.

Repoz Posted: January 14, 2009 at 09:17 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: obituaries

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   1. Sexy Lizard Posted: January 14, 2009 at 09:24 PM (#3051984)
One career start, one shutout. That's pretty unusual.
   2. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: January 14, 2009 at 09:35 PM (#3052003)
Sad story.

Williams's 1986 and 1987 seasons were just unbelievable...one of the great forgotten stretches of pitching in my lifetime. (121 appearances, 158 innings, all in relief, with an ERA of 1.94.) Even at the end of his career, he was getting people out despite a K/BB ratio way worse than 1.00.

I always wondered what had happened to him. I wonder if his drinking problem led to his inability to throw strikes at the end of his career.
   3. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: January 14, 2009 at 09:37 PM (#3052008)
Heh, I noticed that too, along with a 1.20 ERA in 50+ IP another year. Wonder if it was really the sauce that ended things, as he was pretty effective even in his last year in MLB.

Edit: Curse you, #s 1 and 2!
   4. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 14, 2009 at 09:37 PM (#3052011)
He was a straight sidearmer, wasn't he? I think I remember watching him pitcher for the Giants.
   5. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: January 14, 2009 at 09:46 PM (#3052027)
   6. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: January 14, 2009 at 09:47 PM (#3052030)
Wonder if it was really the sauce that ended things

The story says it was a car crash (pure speculation: alcohol involved?) that ended his career. I guess he might have gotten another shot in '90, but with that kind of walk rate, his career was probably close to its end anyway.
   7. FBI Regional Bureau Chief GORDON COLE!!! Posted: January 14, 2009 at 09:58 PM (#3052050)
That one shutout in '84 placed Williams in instant contention for "ace of the staff" status. That was a really terrible Giants pitching staff. (Which begs the question of why he wasn't started more than once...)

**checks retrosheet**

Ha--that one shutout was a 5-inning shutout on May 5. Interesting. 5 innings, 2 hits, no runs, 4 walks, 3 Ks. Seems like a nice microcosm of his career, really--effectively wild.

He appeared in the league's top 10 in wild pitches (in '84) and hit batsmen ('85) despite pitching entirely in relief, except for the one start.

Oh, and that caption-writer should receive a stern talking-to, as that's not his rookie card in the photo.
   8. FBI Regional Bureau Chief GORDON COLE!!! Posted: January 14, 2009 at 10:02 PM (#3052060)
And I also remember him being a sidearmer.
   9. winnipegwhip Posted: January 14, 2009 at 10:06 PM (#3052066)
#5 I knew there was a Frank Williams MLB pitcher. But whenever I hear that name I always think of the Frank Williams from Columbus Ohio. I haven't even played the youtube clip. I just checked to confirm my suspicions. Hilarious.

BTW - Roddy Piper is from Winnipeg.
   10. StHendu Posted: January 14, 2009 at 10:06 PM (#3052067)
There is a August 2007 article that mentions Frank Williams' claims to have placed bets for Pete Rose and went clubbing with Mrs. Rose. Fifty is way too young die. Jesse Orosco is older than that!
http://www.canada.com/topics/sports/story.html?id=f59bb2b3-1964-4e2b-b220-f202d75dce57&k=93376&p=1
   11. RJ in TO Posted: January 14, 2009 at 10:08 PM (#3052071)
BTW - Roddy Piper is from Winnipeg.


Actually, he was born in Saskatoon, and raised in Winnepeg.
   12. "Catching Dianetics" by Dr. L. Ron Karkovice Posted: January 14, 2009 at 10:18 PM (#3052077)
My late uncle lived in Victoria...Beautiful Beautiful city...Temperate too. If you are going to be a homeless alcoholic in just one city in North America in 2009, I highly recommend Victoria.

Really, though...this is a tragic story.
   13. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: January 14, 2009 at 10:31 PM (#3052091)
A previous thread.
   14. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 14, 2009 at 11:38 PM (#3052158)
"The story says it was a car crash (pure speculation: alcohol involved?) that ended his career."

His wife was driving. I guess she could've been drunk, though that's obviously not how you meant it.

He wasn't wearing a seat belt, and suffered big-time injuries to the head and neck. I think he ended up needing cosmetic surgery to look relatively normal again, though I might be misremembering.
   15. Anthony Giacalone Posted: January 14, 2009 at 11:45 PM (#3052165)
Wow. That's a terrible shame. He was just a great reliever for a couple of years. I seem to recall that he had a wicked side-arm delivery.
   16. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: January 14, 2009 at 11:51 PM (#3052176)
Yeah, Vlad, I was premature and unfair when I speculated about alcohol. Maybe it was an alcohol-induced crash, maybe it wasn't, but in any event it wasn't Frank Williams driving the car. My apologies.
   17. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: January 14, 2009 at 11:55 PM (#3052179)
And for what it's worth, when I hear "Frank Williams" and "car crash", I immediately think of Ayrton Senna, whose wreck was certainly not alcohol-induced.
   18. WSPanic Posted: January 15, 2009 at 12:02 AM (#3052183)
My late uncle lived in Victoria...Beautiful Beautiful city...Temperate too. If you are going to be a homeless alcoholic in just one city in North America in 2009, I highly recommend Victoria.

Really, though...this is a tragic story.


The word is out. I went to Victoria about 18 months ago - yes, it's beautiful. But they have a huge homeless population.
   19. Dewey, Soupuss Not Doomed to Succeed Posted: January 15, 2009 at 12:27 AM (#3052199)
The word is out. I went to Victoria about 18 months ago - yes, it's beautiful. But they have a huge homeless population.

I lived in San Francisco for a decade, and got used to the homeless people everywhere. When I moved to Chicago in July, I noted how few homeless people there wer. Almost five times the population of San Francisco, relatively few homeless.

Now that winter's here, I understand why.
   20. Leroy Kincaid Posted: January 15, 2009 at 12:30 AM (#3052203)
   21. Hugh Jorgan Posted: January 15, 2009 at 01:01 AM (#3052234)
I lived in San Francisco for a decade, and got used to the homeless people everywhere. When I moved to Chicago in July, I noted how few homeless people there wer. Almost five times the population of San Francisco, relatively few homeless.

Now that winter's here, I understand why.


Uh yeah, sleeping under newspaper would certainly be more inconvenient in Chicago in Feb. then SF. Personally if I were homeless I'd be in San Diego. However I think Victoria(and Canada in general) are probably a bit kinder on the homeless population then the Americans.
   22. Bruce Markusen Posted: January 15, 2009 at 04:07 AM (#3052355)
Williams' tragic story reminds me a lot of Leon Wagner's. Wagner ended up dying in an electrical shed that he had made into his home. I think Wagner suffered a heart attack, too, while living out his final days in extreme poverty.

With all the money that players have been making from the eighties on, it would be nice to think that some of Williams' old teammates and friends would have stepped up to help him. Of course, that assumes that Williams sought out help. Many times, it seems these troubled ex-players refuse assistance. That was certainly the case with Wagner.
   23. A triple short of the cycle Posted: January 15, 2009 at 06:05 AM (#3052420)
Personally if I were homeless I'd be in San Diego. However I think Victoria(and Canada in general) are probably a bit kinder on the homeless population then the Americans.

And San Francisco is a probably bit kinder on the homeless population than San Diego.
   24. Exploring Leftist Conservatism since 2008 (ark..) Posted: January 15, 2009 at 06:29 AM (#3052437)
I lived in San Francisco for a decade, and got used to the homeless people everywhere. When I moved to Chicago in July, I noted how few homeless people there wer. Almost five times the population of San Francisco, relatively few homeless.

Now that winter's here, I understand why.
What amazed me, having lived through several Quebec winters, is that there are a number of homeless in Montreal.
   25. Steve Treder Posted: January 15, 2009 at 06:40 AM (#3052442)
Williams' tragic story reminds me a lot of Leon Wagner's. Wagner ended up dying in an electrical shed that he had made into his home. I think Wagner suffered a heart attack, too, while living out his final days in extreme poverty.

Yes, but Wagner was 70. When Wagner was 50, he was doing well, working his Hollywood supporting roles, selling cars, living quite well. Wagner met a sad end, for sure, but his course of life was significantly more successful than that of Williams.

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