Billy Williams was the model of consistency for the Chicago Cubs both at the plate and in the outfield during the 1960s and early 1970s. He also became the "Iron Man" of the National League as he held the record for consecutive games played with a streak that lasted from 1962 to 1974. This top list, featuring some of the best Billy Williams baseball cards, honors his long career with the Cubs and includes several of his less common releases from the 1960s.
Williams' career started off with a bang as he brought the 1961 NL Rookie of the Year Award to Chicago by hitting 25 home runs and driving in 86 RBI. The following season he would begin his streak of 1,117 consecutive games played that would run through 1974, setting the National League record. Williams hit more than 20 home runs in a season for 15 consecutive years, making him the second-best slugger in Cubs history, to that point, behind teammate Ernie Banks. Williams also became the second Cubs player to have his number retired by the team, following Banks, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987.
While many of his key options are featured below, other Williams cards of note include his appearance in 1964 Topps Stand-Ups, which was the first die-cut set issued since 1951. In addition, the 1966 Topps National League Home Run Leaders card features Williams alongside sluggers Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, making it a nice Hall of Fame trio card.
Williams is also frequently included with other Cubs legends for combination relics and autographs. A great example of this can be found in 2004 Upper Deck Baseball Legends with Ernie Banks and Ron Santo. In 2005 Upper Deck Ovation, Williams has a dual autograph card with Ken Griffey Jr. Also, he was included in 2016 Topps Series 2 as a part of their 100 Years At Wrigley Field autograph inserts.
A Chicago Cubs legend, Billy Williams remains a popular figure with cardboard collectors. In selecting cards for this top list, value was used as the key component as well as set design and availability to the collector.
Top 10 Billy Williams Baseball Cards
Click on the card titles or images to shop for specific cards on eBay. Linked sets in the descriptions go straight to product profiles.
Although the football version of the Topps Bucks inserts were found in 1962 Topps Football, the baseball version of Topps' currency came as a product of its own the same year at a cost of one penny per pack. Originally placed in packs folded in half, creases, and miss-cut bills are very common. Most of the players included in the set are of the $1 denominations (including Williams, who was an up-and-coming prospect at the time), followed next by the $5 in rarity, and ending with superstar players occupying the rarest version: $10 bills.
While many of the early Kahn's Wieners sets focused on players from the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, more teams were added to the roster over time. In 1968, eight teams, including Williams' Cubs, were offered and collectors can find two size variations for many of the cards in the set. Fans could also separate the player's photo from the Kahn's logo by cutting along the dotted line and cards that have been cut are worth about half of the value of the intact examples.
My personal favorite Billy Williams card is his 1966 Topps appearance which features him swinging with a clear blue sky in the background that nicely matches the blue of his Cubs uniform. Although he threw right-handed, Williams batted lefty and as the reverse side of his 1966 card notes, he set the Cubs left-handed single-season home run record in 1965. Overall, his 425 career home runs (392 while with the Cubs), places him third behind Sammy Sosa and Ernie Banks in the team rankings. The Williams card is placed firmly in the short-printed high numbers, giving the value a huge bump.
1964 Topps Giants was the first postcard-sized set that Topps ever produced. Although the oversized cards resembled postcards, the reverse side didn't give collectors any space to write a message to a loved one. Instead, the backs featured a newspaper-like article about the player featured. Williams' article covered his Rookie of the Year season in 1961. In the award voting, Williams edged out future Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre, who finished in second place.
The 1964 Topps set is considered by many to be the peak of the Topps releases from the 1960s in terms of design and it features one of the best-looking cards for Williams. An interesting addition to the card backs was a baseball trivia quiz question that would show you the answer by rubbing a coin on the answer box. Williams' card asks, "Which Washington Senators player had the most hits in a season?" with the answer being Hall of Fame outfielder Sam Rice. Cards in which the trivia answer is very visible have their value cut significantly.
A popular card option from the era, Post Cereal also owned the Jello line of products. In 1962 and 1963, they included trading cards in both the cereal and gelatin lines using the same card design. The 1962 sets could easily be determined by the inclusion of the Post logo but the 1963 set (featured below) removes that logo. Due to this, collectors need to use other factors, such as the slightly smaller size of the Jello cards, to distinguish the two sets. Another difference can be found in the card's stat section as the red line separating the 1962 and lifetime statistics is much longer on the Post cards and shorter on the Jello cards.
Eagle-eyed fans will notice that the small black-and-white image featured on Williams' 1963 Topps card would appear again in the '64 set in glorious color. By his retirement in 1976, Williams' batting resume included five 30-plus home run seasons, five seasons batting over .300, and ten seasons with more than 100 RBI.
Given his popularity, Williams has been included in many high-end sets, both new and old, with one of his first certified autograph appearances being in 2001 Fleer Greats of the Game. Williams' signature is often written at a right slant with the first letters—"B" and "W"—written similarly as the "W" is turned on its side. Although you often cannot make out the final letter "i" in his last name, his signature regularly features the dot for the letter in an unusual place, such as below the name on the card below.
Williams' Rookie of the Year performance also earned him a place on the Topps All-Star Rookie team in 1962 Topps. While Williams started off his career strong, he reached his peak performance nearly a decade later when he batted .322 with 42 home runs and 129 RBI during the 1970 season, finishing second in MVP voting. Two seasons later he would win the NL batting title with a .333 average and he was named the 1972 Sporting News Player of the Year.
Williams played a handful of games during the 1959 and 1960 seasons, earning a Rookie Star designation in 1961 Topps. Negro League legend and Cubs scout Buck O'Neil initially discovered Williams as a prospect and Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, who was also a scout for the team, was certain of Williams' future success. Williams' card is one of the top rookies featured in the set along with his Cubs teammate Ron Santo and San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal. Near-mint graded copies of his first card can top $200 at auction with those rarer mint copies reaching even higher levels.