Former player, manager and coach Jimy Williams has passed away, according to announcement from his previous clubs. He was 80 years old.
Williams was born in Santa Maria, California in 1943 and started his professional career by signing with the Red Sox. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 1965 Rule 5 draft and made his major league debut with that club. His playing career was quite modest, as he got into just 14 big league games with the Cards, 13 in 1966 and one more the following year. He made 14 plate appearances, walking once and striking out six times. His three singles in 13 at-bats gave him a batting average of .231.
He was traded to the Reds after the 1967 season and selected by the Expos in the 1968 expansion draft, but he never made it back to the big leagues. Though his playing career was limited, he managed to have brushes with greatness. His first appearance was against Sandy Koufax and his first hit came off Juan Marichal, both of whom eventually became Hall of Famers.
He transitioned to coaching and managing in the ’70s, starting in the Angels’ farm system. He got to the big leagues as the third base coach of the Blue Jays in 1980. He was promoted to the manager’s chair in 1986, with Bobby Cox vacating the role and heading to Atlanta. The Jays posted a winning record the next three seasons though didn’t make the postseason. Toronto fans of a certain vintage will remember that the 1987 club had a 3.5-game lead over the Tigers before losing their final seven contests for a heartbreaking second-place finish despite winning 96 games on the year. In 1989, the Jays got out to a slow start and Williams was fired in May, replaced by Cito Gaston.
Williams’ next gig was with Atlanta, reuniting him with Cox. Williams served as the third base coach in Atlanta from 1991 to 1996. The 1994 season wasn’t finished because of that year’s strike, but Atlanta won the National League East in every other season during that stretch, winning the World Series in 1995.
He got another managerial gig in 1997, getting hired by the Red Sox. They finished in fourth in the American League East in the first of his seasons in Boston but then got up to second place and earned the American League Wild Card spot in both 1998 and 1999. Williams won American League Manager of the Year honors in the latter of those two seasons, but the Sox didn’t make it back to the postseason in 2000 and then Williams was fired in August of 2001.
A few months later, Williams was hired to manage the Astros. They finished with winning records but shy of the postseason in 2002 and 2003, before Williams was fired midway through the 2004 campaign. That would be his last managerial gig, but he was hired to be the Phillies’ bench coach going into the 2007 season. The Phils won the National League East that year but lost to the Rockies in the NLDS. The next year, they won the division again and eventually won the 2008 World Series, a second ring for Williams as a coach. He decided not to return to the club the following year, finishing his career on a high note.
Over his career, Williams managed parts of 12 seasons with a combined record of 910-790, a .535 winning percentage. His two sons, Brady Williams and Shawn Williams, went on to become professional baseball players and minor league managers/coaches. We at MLB Trade Rumors join the rest of the baseball world in sending our condolences to the Williams family as well as Jimy’s many friends, acquaintances and fans throughout the game.