Note: This page discusses 1920s and 1930s infielder Bobby Williams. For the minor league manager of the same name, click here.
Robert Lawns Williams
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 5", Weight 140 lb.
Bobby Williams was an infielder in the 1920s and 1930s who managed briefly.
After college, Williams began his career with the semipro New Orleans Eagles. He moved on to the Dayton Giants. In 1918, he became the starting shortstop for the Chicago American Giants; he had big shoes to fill, replacing Hall-of-Famer Pop Lloyd. He made an impression early with a head-first slide into first to beat out a bunt, winning fans.  He hit only .171/.237/.200 for a 32 OPS+ before being called up to the Army to serve in France during World War I with the 803rd Pioneer Infantry.  Just as he succeeded a Hall-of-Famer, he was replaced by one, José Méndez. 
He rejoined Chicago in 1919, winning back his starting spot. He hit a little better (.219/.276/.258, 64 OPS+) and fielded .887 in games against other top black teams.  When the Negro National League formed in 1920, Chicago won the first pennant and Williams started at short for them. He fielded .915 and produced at a .212/.281/.250 clip (67 OPS+).
In 1921, Chicago repeated as champs and he hit .195/.271/.258 (59 OPS+) with 14 steals in 86 games, while fielding .907. He tied Matías Ríos, Clint Thomas and Frank Warfield for 5th in the 1921 Negro National League with 17 sacrifice hits. In a postseason contest against the eastern Hilldale Daisies, he stole four bases in a game.  He once again started at short for the NNL champs in 1922, batting .224/.296/.287 (69 OPS+) and fielding .891. He was 10th in the 1922 NNL with 15 sacrifice hits. Chicago met the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants in a postseason series. He was 3 for 23; in the last game, Game 5, he came up in the 20th inning of a scoreless duel. He laid down a sacrifice against Harold Treadwell to set up Cristobal Torriente's winning hit. 
Williams hit .250/.285/.284 (57 OPS+) for Chicago in 1923, fielding .889 at short. He led 1923 NNL shortstops in errors (43, 7 ahead of Bill Riggins). He was 0 for 7 with 3 walks in games against white major league teams that off-season. He then had perhaps a career season in 1924, producing at a .273/.333/.356 clip for a 100 OPS+ with 57 runs and 50 RBI in 75 games. He improved his fielding percentage to .912 as well. He tied Heavy Johnson and Turkey Stearnes for 7th in the league in runs, tied Johnson and Dewey Creacy for 4th in triples (7), was 8th in RBI (between Bill Pierce and Mule Suttles), was 2nd in steals (15, 7 behind college teammate Dave Malarcher) and again led shortstops in errors (two ahead of Riggins and Sanford Jackson, but with a fielding percentage above the league norm this time).
In 1925, he fell back down to a .208/.259/.267 line and 49 OPS+. He led the 1925 NNL with 25 sacrifice hits, five ahead of Felton Stratton. He split 1926 between the Indianapolis ABCs and Homestead Grays, leaving Chicago after eight seasons. He hit .310/.341/.405 (99 OPS+) between the two clubs. In 1927, he was 10 for 25 with 3 walks, 2 doubles and a homer when Homestead played other top black teams (they were not in a league) and he went 1 for 6 against the AL All-Stars.
The Louisiana native bounced around in 1928, returning to the American Giants (.167/.277/.194, 39 OPS+ 24 in G) and also seeing action with the Cleveland Tigers (8 for 31, 2 BB) and New York Lincoln Giants (5 for 38, 3 BB, 3B). He was a backup infielder for the Bacharach Giants in 1929, batting .189/.286/.216 (23 OPS+). He was 1 for 6 for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1931. Teammates included Harry Williams, Bucky Williams and Chester Williams for a confusing infield.
A player-coach for Pittsburgh in 1932 , he hit .140/.204/.200 (8 OPS+). He managed the 1934 Cleveland Red Sox, a 3-22 team; he was 0 for 1 to wrap up his career. (BR register shows him playing briefly in 1948, but Seamheads credits that time to another Williams).
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, pg. 861
- Agate Type blog
- Seamheads DB; this is the source for all Negro League stats listed in this bio
- The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway
- ibid., pg. 171
- The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, pg. 861