Cubs

Statue's beyond Williams' wildest dreams

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Statue's beyond Williams' wildest dreams

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 201011:54 PM

By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.com
Growing up in Alabama, Billy Williams would watch TV with his family and dream about playing professional baseball. As a young man working in the segregated South, he would be forced into dining rooms separate from the rest of his minor-league teammates.

I looked at the big picture, he said.

That perspective helped get Williams to where he was Tuesday night, standing beside his brand-new statue outside Wrigley Field at the corner of Sheffield and Addison. It is a monument to a Hall of Fame career, and 52 years in the Cubs organization.

Those deep connections brought the Ricketts family, seemingly all the high-ranking members of the front office and several beloved teammates from Ernie Banks to Ron Santo to Fergie Jenkins out to Tuesdays dedication ceremony.

He was not flashy or loud, Banks said, but he played the game the right way.

Others will draw attention to Williams, currently a senior advisor to the club. His No. 26 already flies from the right-field flagpole, a tribute to his 2,213 games, .296 average and 392 homers with the Cubs.

I got it done, Williams said. I didnt throw the bat in the air. I didnt try to show up the pitchers. I just went out and tried to do my job. As a matter of fact, you couldnt do it anyway, because guys like (Bob) Gibson and (Don) Drysdale (would) knock you down. But thats the way I was. (It) was a job to me.

Williams is still an old-school presence in Arizona during spring training, and when he found out his day was coming in September, it couldnt get here fast enough.

For generations to come, he wont be forgotten. The fans heading to Wrigley Field will begin to say: Meet me at the Billy Williams statue.

This is beyond my wildest dreams, he said.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Takeaways from Cubs Convention and players primed for a 2018 breakout

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jon Graff, Matt Buckman and Scott Changnon rattle off their main takeaways from the weekend’s Cubs Convention, including the funniest moments and how the players engaged with fans and each other throughout the three days at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

Plus, which players — besides Kyle Schwarber — made the most of the offseason and are primed for a breakout in 2018? The crew gives its take, with options including Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Jason Heyward.

Take a listen below:

Why Kyle Hendricks is excited to have Tyler Chatwood in the Cubs' starting rotation

Why Kyle Hendricks is excited to have Tyler Chatwood in the Cubs' starting rotation

Everyone wants to know when the Cubs are going to add another starting pitcher. Fewer folks want to talk about the one they've already signed this offseason.

Kyle Hendricks, though, is happy to talk about Tyler Chatwood.

Chatwood might not be a big name like Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb, and the former Colorado Rockie wasn't brought on to fill the Arrieta-sized hole in the Cubs' rotation, instead projected to slide behind the current top three of Jon Lester, Hendricks and Jose Quintana.

But whether he's the fourth starter or the fifth starter — depending on what kind of starting pitcher the Cubs add to the roster before spring training — how Chatwood performs could go a long way in determining what kind of season it is for the Cubs.

Hendricks, talking Friday during the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago, thinks Chatwood will thrive on the North Side.

"Chatwood, I think, is going to be really big for us," Hendricks said. "We grew up in the same area, so I played summer baseball with him senior year, and he wasn't even pitching then, he was a shortstop, great hitter. But he's just a baseball guy, baseball mind, and that's kind of what this team's about. It's a bunch of guys who love playing the game, love being together. I think he's going to fit in great, personality-wise.

"And the stuff he has, I know it's going to play really well. He's only had a couple starts at Wrigley, but he's obviously pitched well there. That's going to bode well for him in the future. And being able to pick guys' brains, like Lester and these older guys that have been around. I think they're going to help him like they've helped me."

Depending on how much they trust Hendricks' scouting eye, that might ease the concerns of Cubs fans nervous about the prospect of replacing Arrieta and John Lackey with Chatwood and Mike Montgomery in the starting rotation. Last season, Chatwood's 15 losses were the most in the National League, and he finished the season with a 4.69 ERA. But the numbers were dramatically different thanks to Coors Field being his home ballpark. In Denver, his ERA was 6.01. On the road, it was a far more respectable 3.49.

"It's not easy. I'll leave it at that, it's not easy," Chatwood said Friday of pitching in the Mile High City. "I enjoyed my time there, but I'm excited to be here."

As Hendricks mentioned, Chatwood's transition to Wrigley seems promising. Chatwood has started a pair of games on the North Side and fared really well, surrendering just one run with 11 strikeouts in his 13 innings of work.

The Cubs have made it to three straight NL Championship Series — and won that curse-smashing World Series championship in 2016 — thanks to elite starting pitching. Arrieta was the Cy Young winner in 2015. Lester and Hendricks were Cy Young finalists in 2016. And Quintana has extraordinary promise if he can replicate what he did on the South Side in a Cubs uniform. If Arrieta lands anywhere but the North Side by the time this slow-moving offseason finally wraps up, Chatwood will be leaned on to help keep the Cubs' starting staff among the most formidable in the game. If he does, then 2018 could end like 2016 did. And that's what Chatwood wants.

"Obviously it's a great organization and a great team that I want to be a part of. I want to be on a winning team, so it was a pretty easy decision," Chatwood said. "I want to win one of those and be a part of that parade they had two years ago. I'm excited and hoping we've got a chance to do that."