Closing the Deal: Charlie Williams
May 12th, 2011 by slangon

Yesterday, I made a very brief mention of how May 11 was the anniversary of the Mets bringing Willie Mays back to New York to finish out his career. The Giants traded the legendary slugger for Mets pitching prospect Charlie Williams plus a bag of cash equalling $50,000. After looking up 1972 Mets ticket stubs on eBay, it seems that prices that year ranged from $1 to $3 or so. I’d be willing to say that over the course of Willie’s stay in Queens, at least 50,000 people probably came to the ball park just to see him, so I’m willing to disregard the $50,000 and say that the gentleman pictured in the card above can tell his grandkids that he was traded straight up for Willie Mays. Let’s take a bit of a closer look at that trade and see who came out on top in swapping a fading superstar for a 7th round draft pick.

First, let’s examine Charles, shall we? Williams joined the Mets big club in 1971 and looking at the year he had in the minors in 1970, it’s pretty easy to see why he got the call. In 26 games, he posted a 12-5 record with a 3.25 ERA. Also, his HR/9 rating was a pretty nice 0.5. After heading to Queens in 1971, he was used mostly in relief, making only 9 starts in 31 appearances. He picked up his first Major League win on June 2nd that year, coincidentally against Juan Marichal and the Giants, after throwing 5 innings of 2-hit, no-run relief pitching.

Charlie won a couple and lost a couple more during the remainder of 1971 to end his first year in the Majors with 5-6 record. The portion of 1972 that he was still with the Mets was spent entirely in AAA. He didn’t fare any better after being given the distinction of being traded for one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He made 3 appearances with the Giants, 2 starts and 1 in relief. After having his ERA balloon from 2.70 to 6.48 to 8.68 over the course of those appearances, San Francisco took a cue from the Mets and sent Charlie down to AAA for the remainder of the 1972 season.

Charlie bounced around the Giants system for the next 6 years, mostly in relief, but making a start here and there. He finished out his career in 1978 and was able to do what many before and after him weren’t. He finished his career with a winning record, albeit just barely. His final tally in the Majors was 23 wins to 22 losses, a 3.97 ERA and 257 punchouts. If nothing else, he ate up 483 innings for the Giants, so that’s something.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, an aging, slowing Willie Mays was playing out the string with the Mets. I was well aware that Mays played the 1973 season with the Mets, but I honestly didn’t know that he also spent the majority of 1972 with the club. He played a total of 135 games during the 2 years, occasionally pinch hitting, but most of the time starting. During his time with the Mets, he hit an anemic .238 with 14 homers and 44 driven in. Not exactly the stuff of legends. He did pick up the pace a bit in the 1973 playoffs, hitting .333 in the Championship Series and .286 in the World Series.

Interestingly, Willie made the 1973 All-Star team despite his .211/.303/.344 line for the year. I’d venture to say that was strictly as a sign of respect for what Mays did during his 22 year career. A nice gesture, but I’m not sure that whoever didn’t make the All-Star team that year because Willie took their spot on the roster would agree. Besides, if you want to show someone respect for a spectacular career, isn’t there like a Hall of Fame or something?

So, in conclusion, who made out better on that deal? Before I even started looking into it, I was sure it was the Mets who won that battle. I mean, it’s Willie Freakin’ Mays, ferchrissake. I know he was old and not exactly the same player who has a Wikipedia page dedicated to one particular catch that he made, but still. After looking more in depth at Charlie Williams career, I was even more convinced that it was the Mets who came out on top. I guess he was an okay middle relief pitcher, but I doubt anyone in San Francisco was overjoyed when Charlie Fox went to the mound and called for the righty out of the bullpen. Then I started looking at what The Say Hey Kid did during his tenure in a Mets uniform. Yech.

Let’s just call it a draw. The Giants were able to save other pitchers almost 500 innings of work and got $50 grand. The Mets had themselves a Hall of Fame centerfielder who made the All-Star team every year he was in Queens except for 1.

By the way, aside from having the distinction of being traded for Willie Mays, Charlie Williams also has the distinction of being the first Mets player to actually be born in Flushing, Queens. So there’s always that.

2 Responses to “Closing the Deal: Charlie Williams”

  1. Funny…your ’66 Mays card actually is in better shape than my ’66 Mays card.

  2. That pretty beat, man. I think I might have you by a little bit though.

Leave a Reply