White Sox

Mike Williams has a message for today's youth

Mike Williams has a message for today's youth

Friday, Sept. 9, 2011
posted: 1:22 p.m.

By Taylor BellCSNChicago.com
Several of Mike Williams' old friends, teammates and admiring opponents staged a surprise birthday party for the former De La Salle basketball star on Aug. 14. It was a joyous occasion for the 48-year-old who hasn't had too many reasons to celebrate in recent years.

"It was a roll call of players. Levi Cobb, J.J. Anderson, Donald Reese, Carl Golston, Paul Beane, Greg Williams, Lamone Lampley, Pierre Cooper, Darryl Allen, Demetrius Brown," Williams said. "I'm doing good man, hanging in there. I'm lucky to be alive."

Williams' life story is worth noting. ESPN is planning a documentary in October and ESPN The Magazine is working on a story. A book is in the works and a Los Angeles production company is doing a motion picture. Chicago radio station WVON is doing a show and he had a four-minute segment on NBC's Today show.

It's all about a guy who played only 102 minutes in the NBA, was shot eight times and paralyzed from the waist down in a bar fight in Atlanta in 2009, is learning to walk again in a Chicago nursing and rehabilitation center and is speaking out to teenagers about curtailing violence with guns, an issue he is well qualified to preach about.

"It isn't a calling," he said. "People don't see what they do to other people. I've got a lot of damage to me. Financially, it destroyed me. I've gone through a lot of pain. I lost bladder and bowel control and I have only one kidney. I used to be 6-foot-9 and weighed 275 pounds. I'm gaining my weight back.

"There's a whole lot I want to say. There is no catch phrase. I want to hit home, save a life, don't take a life. Whatever you believe, you'll have to answer for what you do. I want to show kids what they are doing to people. I happened to live. But look what I have to go through on a daily basis."

Williams grew up in Roseland, across from Fenger High School. He attended St. Anselm's grade school, which also sent LaRue Martin to De La Salle. Williams was influenced by Andrew Summerlin, a CYO coach and an icon in the South Side neighborhood, who suggested that he should join coach Jerry Tokars' program at De La Salle.

"De La Salle had a great program in those days. I still think we should have won the state title in 1980," recalled Williams, who started on De La Salle's state quarterfinal teams in 1979 and 1980 and was an All-Stater as a senior in 1981.

He played on a Chicago all-star team with Walter Downing, Andre Goode, Paul Beane, Carl Golston, Dan Ivankovich, Kevin Upshaw and Greg Williams.

They played in the Boston Shootout and in New York against teams that featured Patrick Ewing, Pearl Washington and Adrian Branch.

"Those were the good old days," he said.

Williams starred on De La Salle teams that eliminated top-ranked St.

Joseph and Isiah Thomas from the state tournament in 1979 and beat Proviso East and Glenn "Doc" Rivers in 1980. Later, he played at Cincinnati, then left when coach Ed Badger became coach of the Chicago Bulls and transferred to Bradley to play for Dick Versace. He is a member of Bradley's 1980s Team of the Decade.

He was selected by the Golden State Warriors as the fourth pick in the third round of the 1986 NBA draft. He played for three years in Italy and ended his career with the Atlanta Hawks in 1989-90. He saw only 102 minutes of playing time in the NBA.

"It wasn't disappointing at all," he said. "I made it. I played in the NBA. How many kids can say that? I had suffered a lot of injuries that held me back. I had broken my wrist in Cincinnati. I was just thrilled to get some points and block some shots and dunk on some guys. I blocked Clyde Drexler's dunk and Robert Parish's shot. So many kids don't get that chance."

Then Williams' life took a tragic turn. Working as a security guard at a night club in Atlanta, he responded to a fight.

"The next thing I know I start to hear shots," he recalled. "I fell to the ground. I don't know if I was hit. I just remember the one that hit my back. It hurt. I felt my legs go numb. I stayed conscious until the paramedics got there.

"I'm thinking 'I'm not going to like this.' I started fighting to stay alive. They take me to the hospital, the doctor said the estimated time of arrival was 18 minutes. 'Hey, I don't have 18 minutes,' I said in the ambulance. They saved my life.

"When I got to the hospital, I said, 'Just give me something for the pain.' Then I woke up two months later. Nobody said anything about how serious it was. When I woke up, I realized I couldn't move my legs and I knew something was wrong. I'm determined to walk again."

Ironically, it is Ivankovich, now a Chicago orthopedic surgeon, who is overseeing his old teammate's rehabilitation and recovery. Williams saw a story on television about a youngster who had suffered a spinal chord injury in the Haitian earthquake who was brought to Chicago by Ivankovich for care.

Williams recognized Ivankovich. "That's Big Dan," he said, instantly recalling the seven-footer from Glenbrook South. "Maybe he can help me. That's how we got started."

He e-mailed Ivankovich, who called Williams. He spent five weeks at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and has been at GlenCrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 2451 W. Touhy ever since.

"I can take a few steps with braces and a walker. I can stand but my ankles don't move. I have a lot of nerve damage," Williams said. "Dan is my guardian angel. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am. I'm really lucky to be alive."

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."