White Sox

Ben Wilson's killer: 'I don't consider myself a criminal'

947091.png

Ben Wilson's killer: 'I don't consider myself a criminal'

"I live with Ben everyday. Im sure until the day I die, Im going to live with Ben. I cant get away from that. Unfortunately, theres going to be people in society who arent going to let me get away from that." -- Billy Moore, the man who murdered Ben Wilson

Twenty-eight years ago today, two bullets ended the life of a Chicago basketball star and ruined the lives of many others.

Ben Wilson, a 6-foot-7 forward from Simeon High School, was considered the No. 1 high school player in the country.

Billy Moore was a 16-year-old teenager walking down Vincennes Ave. on Chicago's South Side with a gun.

It would become one of the darkest moments in the history of Chicago sports.

"It was an unfortunate situation," Moore said, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "It really didn't have to happen, but it did. I'm so sorry that it did."

How long should a man pay for his sins? Can someone ever be forgiven for killing another?

These are questions that have tormented Moore ever since he was released from prison in 2004. With every step he takes, he moves further away from the incident; but no matter how far he travels, Moore can't shake it.

His murder of Ben Wilson is always there in the rearview mirror.

"I asked Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Wilson and the Wilson family to forgive me. I've asked God to forgive me and I have forgiven myself," Moore said. "As you sit here with me today, I'm 44 years old. I'm not the 16-year-old person who committed that crime."

But almost three decades later, the result of Moore's crime is still being felt -- especially to those in the Wilson family -- like Ben's younger brother, Jeff -- who walks around with a deep wound in his heart.

"I lost my brother who was like a father to me," Jeff Wilson told Comcast SportsNet.
"You shot my brother, our brother. You ruined the lives of people waiting for him in college, the sports world, NBA, the whole city of Chicago."

"If you rob a man, you can replace what you have taken. If you beat a man up, his wounds will heal. But if you kill, there is no tomorrow for that man. There is no working anything out. That life is gone forever."-- Jeff Wilson on the loss of brother, Ben, 28 years agoBefore the shooting, Ben Wilson, at just 17 years old, was one of the most popular athletes in Chicago, comparable to Michael Jordan, an NBA rookie who was just starting his career with the Bulls.

Wilson was expected to follow in Jordans footsteps. But on that one afternoon, the dream ended.

He and Moore were strangers. They had a confrontation on a sidewalk just steps away from Simeon High School. Shots rang out. One life ended. Another one stopped dead in its tracks.

Moore was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder and attempted armed robbery. He ended up serving 19 years, 9 months. His accomplice, Omar Dixon was given 30 years.

While Moore admits to killing Wilson, he maintains that he shot Wilson out of self-defense.

"Omar Dixon who went to prison with me had nothing to do with it. He was standing in the grass." Moore explained. "They said we tried to rob Ben. It was 12 oclock in the daytime, a half a block from a high school with people walking up and down the block in front of a busy store. I would think it would be stupid for me to pick the biggest person that I have ever seen in my life to try and rob him in broad daylight, but thats what I was charged with; attempted robbery and first-degree murder."

A criminal is defined as "a person charged with and convicted of a crime." That would make Moore a criminal in the past, present and future. But he doesnt see it that way.

"I dont consider myself a criminal," Moore declared.

But you did shoot him.

"I did shoot him," he said. "Growing up in Chicago, it's not right to be carrying a gun. I think a criminal is a person who pretty much survives on criminal instincts to live, to make a life, to victimize other people. This is the way he pretty much goes about his everyday life. I made a very stupid mistake at 16 by picking up a gun. This is the day that me and Ben met up and as a result, he lost his life and I went away for 20 years."

But to Jeff Wilson, who feels the permanent void of a brother he'll never get back -- the crime is eternal, the loss indefinite.

"If you rob a man, you can replace what you have taken. If you beat a man up, his wounds will heal," Wilson said. "But if you kill, there is no tomorrow for that man. There is no working anything out. That life is gone forever."

Moore hopes that one day the Wilson family will come to forgive him. Jeff Wilson says he is willing to forgive, but he cannot absolve Moore for the murder of his brother.

"I have forgiven my anger towards him and I hope that everyone who loved Benji would do the same," Wilson said.

The two have never spoken to each other but if given the chance, what would Billy Moore say to Ben's brother?

"I would say that I understand how you feel. There's no right for me to tell you that you should continue to hold onto that," he said. "The only thing I can tell you is that I didn't mean to do what happened. I didn't mean for Ben to die. If you could find it in your heart to forgive me, I would welcome that. But who am I to say how you should feel about this situation? That was their brother. That's family."

Today, Moore works as a security guard for the Chicago charter school system. His main job, ironically, is to make sure his students avoid danger at school and get home safely.

Before pulling out the gun that killed Ben Wilson, Moore says he didn't have anyone in his life telling him to avoid guns. He recalled the words of his grandfather who said, "If you show your gun, use it."

Now he is hoping to spread his anti-gun message to young people, specifically in Chicago, where there have been 461 homicides so far in 2012, a large majority of the victims being African-Americans.

"If I could be of any example, to help people who might be confronted with some situations that they don't know how to deal with it and think that carrying a gun is the best solution, I'm here to tell you right now, that it's the worst solution. That's no solution," said Moore.

Recently, Moore's young daughter saw some old footage of Ben Wilson playing basketball. She told her mother that she wanted to wear No. 25 on her jersey.

Ben Wilsons number.

"That's her decision," Moore said. "I wouldn't encourage her against it. If it inspired her to feel that way, then so be it."

What would have become of Ben Wilson? Well never know. All we're left with are the questions ... and the man responsible for his death, a person still haunted by his past as he tries to turn his life around.

"I suffered for 19 years and nine months, and I've had an opportunity to regain my freedom and resume my life. I know every day that Ben didn't."

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

0522-james-shields.jpg
USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."