(KRON) The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame has inducted its five newest members. Matt Williams was the San Francisco Giants home run slugging third baseman for 10 years during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
KRON4’s Gary Radnich talked with Williams before the induction ceremony on April 24, 2017.
Williams was originally drafted by the New York Mets in 1983.
“I was 17 when I graduated high school and wouldn’t turn 18 until November, so I didn’t feel like I was ready. The Mets drafted me in the 27th round and I didn’t feel like I was ready to go play professionally. It gave me a sense that I could though.”
The baseball obsessed infielder opted for the college route and spent the next three years at UNLV honing his craft. The Giants took Williams as the number three overall pick of the 1986 baseball draft.
Williams said of his baseball passion “I would rather spend time on the baseball field than anything else. I grew up 12 miles from Lake Tahoe and would rather be on the ballpark than on the lake, so yeah, that speaks to passion, sure.”
Williams was one of baseball’s top power hitting third basemen. In 1994 he led the league with 43 home run and was on pace to make a run at Roger Maris’ single season home run record until a strike cut the season short.
“I was the beneficiary of a lot of great players so if I roll myself through my own career. The first 10 years as a Giant, I got to hit behind Will Clark and Barry Bonds and Kevin Mitchell. So the opposition said well are we gonna face Clark or are we gonna face Mitch or are we gonna face Bonds? No we’ll face Williams. So I got to clean the mess up every once in a while.”
“There was really no fanfare about it because everybody was concerned or focused on the labor relations and the labor negotiations. So there wasn’t any talk about some home run championship or challenging anyone because nobody thought we were going to get there anyway and it turned out that was the truth” Williams said from his home in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Over a 17 year career Williams appeared in 5 All Star games and collected four silver slugger awards. But the individual achievement he is most proud of are his four gold glove awards.
“The gold glove award is the most prestigious for me. The reason for that is it’s voted on by the opposing coaches and managers. So you know if you win one, you have the respect of your opposition and that’s important.”
The Giants traded Williams in 1997 to the Cleveland Indians where he played in the World Series “at that time, a relief because there was a lot of us on that team that never got a chance to experience that. So I was one of the guys that got to play in two of them, lost em both prior, so it was more relief for all of us to say ‘whew!”
Williams also played in the Fall Classic with the Arizona Diamondbacks and retired with the team in 2003. Williams went on to manage the Washington Nationals for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
“I always just wanted to get there. I always just wanted to be able to play and be a good player. So being inducted, I think for me is justification that all of the hard work was right. I’m so honored. I mean, have you seen the people in there? Oh my god. So I get to be one of them? I mean wow that’s overwhelming.”