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Earl Williams – 1973 Topps #504

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Earl Craig Williams, Jr.(born July 14, 1948) He never played catcher in the minor leagues, he earned the National League’s Rookie of the Year award at that position in 1971. He made his first start behind the plate on June 20 against the Cincinnati Reds. George Foster led off the Reds’ half of the second inning with a single, then proceeded to take full advantage of Williams’ inexperience at his new position. Foster stole second, advanced to third on Williams’ throwing error, then stole home to score the first run of the game. The following day, Williams caught both games of a doubleheader against the Montreal Expos, and caught his first attempted base stealer, Rusty Staub. He ended up appearing in 72 games at catcher, committing eight errors and catching 28% of potential base stealers. On September 10, Williams became the only Braves player besides Hank Aaron to hit a home run into the upper deck at Fulton County Stadium. Aaron was also the first right-handed hitter to do it, and Williams was the second. The feat had been preceded by the left-handed hitters Willie Smith and Willie Stargell. Williams spent most of the 1972 season catching. He had a whopping 28 passed balls that season, mostly due to his inability to catch Phil Niekro’s knuckleball. However, he also had 28 home runs and 87 RBIs. Following the season, he and infield prospect Taylor Duncan were traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Pat Dobson, Roric Harrison, Davey Johnson and Johnny Oates. Many Oriole players, most notably ace pitcher Jim Palmer, were critical of this trade. Ironically, Palmer was 13-5 in games in which he pitched to Williams, and went on to win his first Cy Young Award in 1973. Williams batted .237 with 22 home runs and 83 RBIs his first season in the American League. Williams reached the post season for the only time in his career with the Orioles in 1973 and 1974, losing to the Oakland Athletics in the American League Championship Series both years. His only post-season home run came off Ken Holtzman in the 1973 American League Championship Series.

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