Devin Williams grew up in the St. Louis area, the son of a single mom with a unique talent in a game that, quite frankly, has not been overly receptive to Black players.
On Monday, Williams was named the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s 2020 Jackie Robinson National League Rookie of the Year Award winner.
The Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher attended CBC then transferred to Hazelwood West before being drafted by the Detroit Tigers. His early career was derailed by elbow surgery, but he proved he has more than recovered – he has prospered.
He also realizes the importance of his achievement because it could help draw other Black athletes to baseball.
While on a well-deserved vacation in Jamaica, Williams said via a Zoom interview, “I feel like you need someone who looks like you to show you it's possible.”
“Growing up, I had guys like Derek Jeter and other biracial and Black players who just kind of opened the door to that possibility for me. When you don’t see anyone who looks like you, it doesn’t feel like it’s attainable, in a way,” he said.
During the 60-game season, Williams surrendered a single earned run in 27 innings – the equivalent of three full games. In 20 appearances between July 29 and the season’s close, Williams threw 24 2/3 innings of shutout baseball, gave up just eight hits and struck out 53 of the 100 batters he faced.
Yet, he heard that his numbers should not have qualified him for the award.
“Everyone is given the same number of games this year so what you did with them is what you did with them,” Williams said.
“I saw some people saying I didn’t have that many innings and things like that, but I did with mine what I did, and they did with theirs what they did. We all had the same opportunity.”
Speaking of opportunity, Major League Baseball has a growing number of Black stars that should be marketed and showcased.
For the first time since 1984, when Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets and Alvin Davis of the Oakland A’s won respective Rookie of Year Awards, two Black players did it in 2020.
Seattle Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis won the Jackie Robinson Award in the American League. He too noted the importance of he and Williams winning in a season that some Black players spoke up and demanded social justice in America.
“That’s really special. That’s something I don’t take lightly,” Lewis said following his Zoom interview when the award was announced.
“When I was watching the show, I watched Devin Williams and I had a lot of pride in that, just to be on the call together and speak about being Black in baseball.”
“It’s really special to see another young brother come out and perform at a high level. It’s something we take a lot of pride in. I just want to set that example, set that table, for guys who want to reach out to me and ask questions. I want to be an open book for that.”
Like Williams, Lewis had to battle through an injury to keep his career on track. The Mariners did not give up on him after a serious knee injury in 2016 – he also didn’t give up on himself.
“I think it teaches so much respect,” he said.
“It was definitely not a conventional path, but I think there’s a lot of lessons in that, and I try to appreciate that. Keep plugging away, keep chipping away. Put your head down and work.”
Lewis led all AL rookies in runs scored (37), walks (34), total bases (90) and games played (tied, 58). Lewis tied for first with Chicago White Sox outfielder Luis Robert in home runs (11), finished second in hits (54) and RBIs (28), and tied for fifth in stolen bases (5). He also was first in on-base percentage (.364), slugging percentage (.437) and OPS (.801), and second in batting average (.262).
With 15 Black players selected in the 2020 MLB Draft (which was reduced to five rounds from 40), 36 years should not pass before a pair of Black players win respective Rookie of the year Awards following the same season.
Tony tipsy again, say cops
The Chicago White Sox fired popular, successful Latino manager Rick Renteria and put forth no real effort to interview a Black candidate before hiring Tony La Russa to take over the young, fiery, diverse team.
We learned on Monday that owner Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox announced La Russa’s hiring while aware that he had been charged with driving under the influence in Arizona a day before.
The arrest stemmed from an incident last February in which La Russa reportedly crashed into a curb and blew out a tire near Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
According to a police report, La Russa told a police officer that he had been at dinner with friends and his vehicle hit something and had a tire blow out.
“(A) light odor” of alcohol was detected by the officer, who called La Russa “argumentative” in an affidavit obtained by ESPN.
La Russa was taken into custody after a field sobriety test, the report said.
The usually talkative La Russa had little to say when ESPN reached him for a comment on his arrest.
“I have nothing to say,” La Russa said before hanging up.
“Because this is an active case, we cannot comment further at this time,” a White Sox spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune after acknowledging that the team was aware of the arrest when La Russa was hired, then introduced to the press.
This is the same La Russa, who in 2016, said this about Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem: “You’re not going to be out there representing our team and our organization by disrespecting the flag. No, sir, I would not allow it.”
I guess driving drunk (for a second time) and being “argumentative” with a police officer is not worse than kneeling during a song.
Remember, the 76-year-old La Russa was arrested for DUI in March 2007 in Jupiter, Florida, after falling asleep at an intersection with his vehicle in park at a stop sign. He pleaded guilty eight months later.
In my opinion, MLB should step in and suspend La Russa for the 2021 season. The White Sox can then choose whether to bring him back in 2022.
Morris making statement
Since taking over the Atlanta Falcons as interim head coach, Raheem Morris’ team is 3-1 and getting better every week.
I hate to keep bringing this up, but if running back Todd Gurley had kneeled at the 1-yard-line instead of scoring and giving the ball back to the Detroit Lions, Morris would be 4-0.
After last Sunday’s 34-27 win over the Denver Broncos, a media member asked Morris about a third-quarter drive that came up empty.
“Why are you guys so negative? That’s what I’ve got to ask. Don’t be so greedy,” he said.
Morris is clearly in charge in Atlanta.
Two weeks ago, defensive tackle Takk McKinley used social media to blast his team for turning down two trade offers for him.
“Takk will definitely be held accountable for his actions and everything that goes with it,” Morris said.
The injured McKinley had not played in five weeks, but he was fined nonetheless for his outburst on Twitter.
On Monday, Morris released the disgruntled McKinley without a comment.
The Reid Roundup
Devin Williams is the third St. Louisan to win a Rookie of the Year Award. Roy Sievers won the American League award in 1949 and Ryan Howard won the NL award in 2005…Tiger Woods will defend his 2019 Masters title beginning on Thursday in Augusta, Georgia. The odds of him winning stood at about 30-1 on Tuesday…LSU receiver Koy Moore announced on Twitter Sunday that he was "violated numerous times" during an incident with Baton Rouge police on Saturday night. The three officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave… Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown has agreed to a $750,000 settlement with the city of Milwaukee. In 2017, he was tased by an officer during a flap with police over a parking violation. The city also admits that Brown’s constitutional rights were violated, and it must commit to implementing changes to the police department… When a local election board reported it could not afford to place voting machines and poll workers at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the team purchased 25 machines and financed 30 poll workers’ pay so the stadium could be a voting site. Head coach Andy Reid voted there… Last Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Steelers organization reached out to Allegheny County officials and asked whether players could provide meals for dozens of ballot counters. They could, and did. “It’s very nice, very appreciated,” county spokeswoman Amie Downs told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The menu included chicken, rigatoni pasta, vegetables, bread rolls and pies.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.