4/15 Thank you, Jackie

April 15 is a special day for Hall of Famer Billy Williams.

“It really gives you a good feeling,” Williams said in the Cubs clubhouse before all the players donned No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball on this date in 1947.

Forty years after that, Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame. The sweet swinging outfielder from Whistler, Ala., wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues or make it to Cooperstown if not for Robinson.

“When I look around and see the variety of players in the Major Leagues, all of it reverts back to No. 42, Jackie Robinson, who walked on Ebbets Field in 1947,” Williams said. “He made it possible that if you’re good enough, it doesn’t matter what color, origin, where you’re from, if you’re good enough you could play in the Major Leagues.

“When I look at ’42’ out there, that’s what I see,” Williams said. “I see the variety of players from different countries, different cultures, just enjoying themselves like they did when they were coming up as a young man. It gives you a great feeling.”

Williams, now a senior advisor on the Cubs staff, talked in his induction speech to Cooperstown in 1987 about how then commissioner Happy Chandler had to lobby the owners to let Robinson in.

“One of the statements Happy Chandler made when he talked to the owners was, ‘Fellas, one day, I’m going to have to meet my maker, and I don’t want to tell him I kept this guy out of the Major Leagues because he was black,'” Williams said.

“After I made my speech in New York [at the Hall], [Chandler] said, ‘A lot of people have talked about it and told the story but you’re the only one who got it right,'” said Williams, who received a long thank you letter from Chandler.

— Carrie Muskat

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