Chicago Cubs: A taste of postseason baseball?
Over the course of the next two years, Williams remained a productive player but, nonetheless, began to show the wear and tear from playing every day for years on end. And, with these cracks in his facade, his performance waned.
In 1973, he hit 20 home runs and batted .288, a far cry from the year before. The following year in ‘74, he appeared in just 117 games, batting .280 with only 16 big flies.
By the mid-70s, long gone were the winning ways of the ‘60s, as the Cubs descended deeper into mediocrity. “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks retired in 1971, and, after the 1973 season, the Cubs overhauled their roster, trading most of the team’s staples that included Fergie Jenkins, Ron Santo, Glenn Beckert and Randy Hundley. The only stalwart left was Billy Williams, though he knew his days were numbered and on Oct. 23, 1974, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics.
The trade would not be complete without Williams’ approval but, with the Cubs coming off an abysmal 96-loss season and many of his former teammates now departed from Chicago, he approved the deal in hopes for an opportunity to play in a World Series, where the A’s where coming off their third-straight championship title.
As Oakland’s full-time designated hitter, the 37-year old Williams provided an additional capable bat in the lineup. In 1975, he played in 155 games, smacking 23 home runs. His average dropped dramatically to .244 as he struggled in his new home ballpark, which was not as hitter-friendly as Wrigley. Regardless of his hitting woes, he was a valuable and welcomed addition to the team, providing veteran leadership in the clubhouse.
The Athletics did make the playoffs, finally giving Williams an opportunity to play in the postseason for the first time in his career. However, it was a short-lived experience being he was held hitless in seven at-bats and the team was swiftly swept by the Boston Red Sox.
After the 1976 season, which saw Williams hit just .211 in 120 games. The team failed to make the postseason and, at season’s end, the Athletics released him and he decided to hang up his cleats and retire from the game.