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St. Paul Saints honor Billy Williams, one of Minnesota's most impactful Black baseball players

St. Paul, Saints honor Billy Williams
St. Paul, Saints honor Billy Williams 01:58

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Paul Saints and the City of St. Paul are honoring one of Minnesota's most impactful Black baseball players this weekend.

Norman Seawright shows us what St. Paul Native Billy Williams accomplished on the field and at the statehouse.

"This was one of the most well-known baseball players in the state of Minnesota. People knew this man was a great ball player," said Derek Sharrer, General Manager with the St. Paul Saints.

Minor League Baseball's Nine Initiative honors Black players just like Williams, who played for the St. Paul Colored Gophers.

"It was an incredible franchise - one of the top Black baseball teams in the entire nation. They toured throughout the state of Minnesota and the upper Midwest and took on all comers. And I believe won their fair share of games against the Saints," Sharrer said. "For our team now to be able to wear those uniforms, represent that era of Black baseball."

The Baltimore Orioles wanted Williams to claim he was Native American in 1904 and play for them.

Instead, he chose to remain true to himself and remain in Minnesota for 53 years as an assistant to 14 governors.

Although Williams was a prolific baseball player, it was his self-sacrifice and his dedication to the statehouse that makes him an important Minnesotan to remember.

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"I speak from a bit of experience on this - governors are known to be a bit temperamental," Gov. Tim Walz said. "I would imagine 14 of them - to imagine someone to be able to serve and as I said, in where he served right in the office where he serves as an assistant."

That experience resonates with St. Paul Public School superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard, who found out he's related to Williams.

"Knowing some of the trials and tribulations that he fought... Race relations - when we were really talking about race relations - it was just polarization and the peacemaker. That work was started by somebody like Billy Williams," Gothard said.

Gov. Walz proclaimed Saturday, June 10 as William Frank "Billy" Willaims day.

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