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Nish Williams

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Vinicius J. Williams (Zeke)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 2", Weight 185 lb.

While his impact on baseball long-term was in his raising of stepson Donn Clendenon, Nish Williams had a fine 13-year career in the Negro Leagues and managed briefly as well. Primarily a catcher who was not noted for his arm, he played every position except shortstop, center field and pitcher. He was known as a pull hitter.

After college, Williams signed with the Nashville Elite Giants, then not a member of the top black leagues so statistics are limited. He was the primary backstop by his second season, 1928. In 1929, he hit .259 against Negro American League competition.

Moving to the Cleveland Cubs for a season in 1931, he batted .301. He was back with Nashville for the Dixie Series. In game one, a 13-inning affair, he scored the only run after singling to start a rally and was 2 for 4 on the day but Nashville lost the Series to the Monroe Monarchs.

Back with Nashville for the 1932 season, Williams slumped to .228. He was 2 for 7 in accounted-for games in the playoffs against the Chicago American Giants.

Williams was moved to the bench in 1933 when Tommy Dukes joined the Elite Giants. In the playoffs, he went 3 for 5 against the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Moved to the outfield in 1934 with Dukes at catcher, Williams hit .321.

In 1935, the club became the Columbus Elite Giants but Williams only hit .172; with Dukes gone, he was again the primary backstop. The next year, Biz Mackey had joined the team (now the Washington Elite Giants) and Nish was back in the outfield and had a fine .329 batting average.

Moving to the Birmingham Black Barons in 1937, Williams slipped to .119. He was hired as player-manager of the Atlanta Black Crackers in 1938 after working out contract arrangements with the Elite Giants but was the subject of much interference from ownership and was let go as manager in mid-June. He was picked up by Birmingham again as a player.

He concluded his career with the 1939 Indianapolis Clowns, hitting third.

After Donn Clendenon's biological father died when he was six months old, Williams became his stepfather and instilled a love for baseball in him. While Clendenon had preferred football and basketball and could have made more money possibly in either sport, he chose baseball out of consideration for his stepfather's interest. Williams lived long enough to see his stepson hit 28 homers for the 1966 Pirates.

Sources: The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, The Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia by David Finoli and Bill Ranier, The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway

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