Scheduled to receive his second shot on Monday, Williams is torn: Should he go to Mesa? Is it safe? Is it the right thing to do?
So, you miss the sensory delights of live baseball, do you?
Just imagine how Billy Williams feels.
Seventeen and a half months. That’s how long the Cubs Hall of Famer, 82, has gone without the sights and sounds that have made his heart sing since he was a boy in Alabama.
“Baseball has been my life,” he said this week. “And if you don’t have it, it’s tough. It hurts. You miss it. I just miss it so much.”
Last March, Williams was a day or two away from a plane ride to Arizona, where he’d gone for spring training every year but one since 1957. This trip would be with his grandson, Christian Harris, an athlete himself who plays wide receiver at Indiana. It was going to be special.
Hearing talk about a strange, potentially lethal virus, though, Williams canceled his plans; he’d just have to catch the Cubs at Wrigley Field instead. But by the time the Cubs were back in business and asked him to come to the ballpark and throw out a first pitch, Williams wasn’t going anywhere — especially not with Shirley, his wife of 60 years, at home with him in Glen Ellyn and deeply in the throes of dementia.
“No way,” he said. “That, I couldn’t do.”
Billy and Shirley are scheduled to receive their second vaccination shots — Pfizer, for those of you scoring at home — on Monday. And Williams is torn: Should he go to Mesa? Is it safe? Is it the right thing to do?
If he doesn’t, he’ll continue to feel like a man without a team. Days feel like weeks, and weeks like months. It just doesn’t sit well.
“She’s still intaking food and she’s sleeping pretty good, and we have a couple people coming in and really taking good care of her,” he said. “That gives me the chance to do some things I want to do.”
What he does these days — for his own well-being — is get outside and walk around the block a couple of times. It’s what an old right fielder can muster.
“Got to try to keep the legs in shape,” he said.
Williams has been hit hard by the losses of so many ballplayers, many of them Hall of Famers, in recent months. Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Joe Morgan, Cubs teammate Glenn Beckert and others including — and especially — Hank Aaron, who came up a few miles from Williams in Mobile, Alabama. Williams knew about Aaron’s passing in January before the sad news got out because, well, that’s what happens when you’re dear friends.
Being around the game would help ease the hurt.
“But I just don’t know if I should,” he said. “It’s a hard decision, you know? People are still not wearing the mask. I wish they would. You’ve got to take it from the doctors and the people who know about this disease.”
And what about the Cubs? Are they going to be any good? Are they going to be great again while Williams is still watching?
“I want to see, and everybody wants to see, this team get back to the World Series,” he said. “If the ingredients are not there, I think [president of baseball operations] Jed Hoyer would do the job and get the people in to help out. But we’ve got the core.”
For what it’s worth, Williams still believes in Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo — the stars in their walk years.
“All these people who were in the World Series in 2016, they know how to win,” he said. “Last year was a different year, a different year for everybody. But I think this year, knowing they’re going to play 162 games, the guys are ready for that. A lot of guys have fun when it’s their [walk] year. I think all the thoughts are good.”
And what else?
“I don’t want to just watch it on television anymore,” he said.
So many can relate, but maybe not as much.