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Paul M. Lucko

WILLIAMS, JOE (ca. 1876–1946). Joe Williams, sometimes known as Smokey Joe or Cyclone Joe Williams, was a baseball player in the Negro leagues. Probably born in Seguin, Texas, around 1876, he was the son of an African-American father and a mother who was of mixed African-American and Native American ancestry. Although little is known about his early life and athletic career, Williams was pitching for the San Antonio Broncos by 1908, when racial segregation characterized professional baseball. Around 1910 manager Andrew (Rube) Foster, sometimes called the "father of black baseball," recruited Williams to play for the Chicago American Giants. Williams left Chicago in 1912 and joined the New York Lincoln Giants, where he remained through 1923. After leaving the Lincoln Giants, Williams played for a number of other teams, including the Pittsburgh Homestead Grays, the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, and the Brooklyn Royal Giants. Williams was as a tall, lanky man who earned a reputation as the fastest black pitcher of his era. A right-hander, he struck out more than twenty batters in a number of nine-inning games and struck out twenty-seven batters in one twelve-inning game. Williams sometimes required two catchers for a nine-inning game and intimidated batters. One former player remembered that Williams's fastball "looked like a pea" to batters. Williams played for teams that won consistently against the best black teams and against white semipro and major league teams in exhibition games. He retired from baseball in 1934. In 1952 a poll of former writers associated with the Negro leagues chose Williams as the greatest pitcher in the history of the leagues. After leaving baseball, Williams worked as a bartender in Harlem. He died in 1946. In 2001 the city of Seguin named the baseball field at Fairgrounds Park in his honor.


Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982). Robert Peterson, Only the Ball Was White (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970; rpt., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984). Donn Rogosin, Invisible Men: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues (New York: Atheneum, 1983).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Paul M. Lucko, "WILLIAMS, JOE," accessed July 06, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwiuj.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 25, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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