Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jimmy Williams

The St. Louis Base-ball Club to-day engaged a new manager in the person of J.A. Williams, well known as the present Secretary of the American Association. President Von der Ahe to-day makes the announcement that while he lost the championship of the American Association in 1883 he will make a bold bid for it in 1884, and will appear in the field with the strongest nine that can be go together. He says the club of this year cost him $45,000 and that he will expend twice that amount to get a winning team here in 1884. Williams is to be given full management of the team and he is to be allowed the privilege of engaging players without regard to the expenses entailed.
-The New York Times, October 16, 1883

J.A. Williams is Jimmy Williams, the manager, and not Jimmy Williams, the player, who was born in St. Louis and played for the AL Browns. And for that matter, it's also not James Alfred Williams, who played for the Padres in 1969 and 1970, or Jimy Williams, the manager of Blow Jays fame.

Williams' tenure as manager of the Browns in 1884 is seen as a bit of a disaster and a set-back in the team's growth towards championship status. While the team played well, they finished fourth in the AA as compared to a second place finish the previous year. Also, in 1884, there were a string of embarrassing incidents involving Browns' players that many believed reflected a lack of managerial discipline. On September 4th, Williams resigned amid accusations that he had lost control of the team. He was replaced by Charlie Comiskey.

One positive that came out of Williams' tenure was the acquisition of Tip O'Neill. Jon David Cash writes that Williams "had been hired by Von der Ahe in late October 1883 to manage the Browns. Nevertheless, he still remained the American Association secretary until December 12, pending the appointment of his replacement at the winter meeting. In his capacity of league secretary, Williams voided O'Neill's contract with the Metropolitans; then in his role as Browns' manager, Williams signed O'Neill to a St. Louis contract...National League president Abraham G. Mills, functioning as chairman of the Arbitration Committee, upheld the Browns' claim to O'Neill's services..."

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