"That beard of his," says Cub pitcher Pat Perry. "I told him he looked like a Quaker yesterday. But he seems to be pretty proud of it." Williams shaves the patchy whiskers after every 11 saves, saying he would like to shave four times this season. "He tells me I'm goofy," says Perry, "and that scares me."
In July, Williams played in his first All-Star Game, coming on in relief in the eighth inning. He walked the first batter, former teammate Ruben Sierra, on four pitches, then picked him off first before retiring Steve Sax and Mickey Tettleton. That was a big moment for Williams, but in the following weeks he found himself being pulled out and replaced by Lancaster in save situations. On July 22, after a joyous 5-2 win over the Giants at Wrigley Field in which Lancaster gets the save and Williams only gets to warm up, it looks as if Wild Thing is ready to detonate. Everybody on the team swarms into the clubhouse lounge to watch third baseman Vance Law on national TV. Dawson had smashed a shaving-cream pie into Law's face, and Law is trying valiantly to talk to the interviewer through a coating of white muck. The players howl, but Williams is not with them. He has dressed fast and is headed off to Marigold Arcade, a bowling alley a few blocks from the field. He needs therapy.
"He really needed to pitch today," says Dee, looking sadly at her man. "I've never seen anybody who needs to pitch as much as him."
"Yeah, I'm going nuts," says Williams as he bombs one down the lane. "But since Lester came up, he's been pitching so good...."
Williams has left the 7-pin standing. He switches the ball to his right hand and heaves a moving fastball that sails into the left gutter, bounces out and slips the pin for a spare. This is helping somewhat. "Warming up isn't the same as going in," he says. "I need opportunities."
Lindsey gets her finger squashed between two balls and starts to cry. Williams picks her up and rocks her gently. Things seem to fall into perspective as he cradles her. "I have two of the best kids in the world," Williams has said earlier. "They both call me Dad, and that, to me, is like a dream come true."
Against the Pirates two weeks later, Williams gets all the work he can handle. In the ninth inning, he is hit in the head by a screaming liner off first baseman Jeff King's bat and crumples to the ground in pain. After a few seconds, however, he gets to his feet and declares himself fit to pitch. But Zimmer takes him out, anyway. Later, in the clubhouse, Williams insists the blow was no big deal. "I've been hit in the head with other objects before," he says. "I was hit in the head repeatedly by my brother."
The work has made him whole again; his humor has returned. But goodness, wasn't he knocked unconscious by the line drive?
"Not that I know of," says the lefthander.
Pitching isn't brain surgery. And ain't that a sweet thing.