Chester Arthur Williams
Positions: ss, 2b, 3b
Teams: Pittsburgh Crawfords (1931-1938), Homestead Grays (1932-1933, 1941-1942), Toledo Crawfords (1939), Philadelphia Stars (1939-1941), Mexican league (1940), Memphis Red Sox (1943), Chicago American Giants (1943)
Height: 5' 9'' Weight: 180
Died: December 25, 1952, Lake Charles, Louisiana
The sparkplug of the infield for the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the 1930s, this quick, flashy shortstop was one of the first quality players whom Gus Greenlee added to his roster after purchasing the team in 1931, and he remained an essential part of the nucleus of the great Crawford teams that sent five players to the Hall of Fame. An outstanding fielder, he could play either shortstop or second base equally well. On the bases he had both speed and quickness and posed a threat to steal. A solid hitter with appreciable power, he hit for averages of .302, .301, .319, 247. and .381 during the Crawfords' glory years. 1932-1936. A ballplayer's ballplayer, the scrappy infielder "came to play," and his team value was recognized by teammates and opponents alike. His style of play was also appreciated by the fans, and he was selected to play in four consecutive East-West All Star games in 1934-1937.
With the defection of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and other players from the Crawfords in 1937, the halcyon years passed. Williams, who had previously been placed in the lower part of the batting order, was moved into the second slot for his last two seasons with the Crawfords, and he responded by hitting .348 in 1938. When the franchise left Pittsburgh to relocate in Toledo, the slick-fielding shortstop soon took his glove elsewhere, signing with the Philadelphia Stars, where he hit .291 while batting in the second slot. But his stay with the Stars was short, and in 1940 he jumped the team to play with Toreon in the Mexican League, where he hit .344 with 13 doubles, 5 triples, 7 home runs, and only 9 strikeouts in 74 games.
Returning to the United States after only one season in Mexico, he soon connected with Cum Posey, who sought him to fill a hole at shortstop for the Homestead Grays. Although he was past his prime, he fielded his position as expected and contributed a .250 batting average as the Grays annexed another Negro National League pennant. After a winter with Aquadilla in the Puerto Rican League, the veteran infielder split his playing time between shortstop and second base in 1942. As a part-time starter, his offensive production was reduced to a meager .160 batting average, but the Grays won their sixth straight pennant and played in the first World Series between the Negro National League and the Negro American League.
In 1943 he closed out his career, when he batted .270 while splitting his season between the Memphis Red Sox and the Chicago American Giants in the Negro American League. He also played in the Cuban League and averaged .298 during two winters on the island. Throughout his career he was a free spirit and often was involved in off-the-field escapades that could have resulted in serious consequences. Fewer than ten years after he played his last baseball game, the former All Star shortstop was shot to death in a bar in Texas on Christmas Day 1952.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.