Ex-Braves catcher Earl Williams dies

Former Atlanta Braves catcher Earl Williams died in New Jersey this week after a battle with leukemia. He was 64.

Williams was the 1971 National League Rookie of the Year while with the Braves. He was diagnosed with cancer last July and died at his home Monday in Somerset, N.J., according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

He played with the Braves from 1970 to 1972 and again from 1975 to 1976. He also played briefly with the Baltimore Orioles, the Montreal Expos and the Oakland Athletics, retiring in 1977.

According to Braves.com, Williams was a “power-hitting corner infielder-turned-catcher.” He started out playing first and third bases in 1970 before moving to catcher. He shared the roster with Hank Aaron and Phil Niekro.

“Williams, at age 22 and without experience behind the plate, caught 72 games in 1971 and 116 the following season. His bat kept him in the lineup,” Braves.com said.

Williams left the Braves for the Orioles in 1972 in a trade that sent six players to Atlanta. The Star-Ledger quoted former Orioles manager Earl Weaver as saying, “Give me Earl Williams, I’ll win the pennant.”

After a return to the Braves in 1975, another departure a year later and several other years in the majors, Williams left baseball for good in 1977, though he still wanted to play, according to according to the Star-Ledger.

At the encouragement of his mother, the newspaper reported Williams posted an ad in The New York Times featuring his “experience, statistics, salary demand (very reasonable), lack of a police record, health and address with the headline ‘Employment Wanted by Baseball Player.’”

After 889 games, Williams ended his career with a .247 batting average, 138 homers and 457 runs batted in.

He is survived by his wife, Linda, a stepdaughter and a granddaughter.

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