MESA, Ariz. (AP) — The Chicago Cubs are making sure their fans never forget Billy Williams.
A statue of Williams — a Hall of Fame outfielder and the best left-handed hitter in team history — will be unveiled at Wrigley Field in a Sept. 7 ceremony.
"It's one of the greatest tributes; you don't expect that," Williams said Wednesday. "It's great for me and it's great for the family. The kids, the grandkids, the great-great grandkids will go see it ... and it will be there forever."
The decision to honor Williams with a statue was one of the first moves by new owner Tom Ricketts, a lifelong Cubs fan who made the announcement at a team function Tuesday night.
It has not yet been determined where the statue will be placed. The location could be temporary until the area outside the ballpark is done being refurbished.
Ernie Banks is the only other ballplayer to be so honored by the Cubs. There also is a statue of broadcaster Harry Caray outside of Wrigley.
Williams batted .290 with 1,475 RBIs during his 18-year career. He hit 392 of his 426 homers as a member of the Cubs from 1959 to 1974. Since ending his career in 1976 with the Oakland A's, he has served the Cubs in a variety of capacities: hitting coach, bench coach, first-base coach and special assistant to the president. He has been senior adviser since 2001.
GM Jim Hendry's voice cracked as he spoke of his respect and appreciation for Williams.
"It couldn't happen to a better guy, not only one of the greatest Cubs ever but one of the greatest influences on Cub players and employees," Hendry said. "The guy's been so good to all of us, and he carries himself with the utmost of humility and class."
Williams, 71, was asked why he still works in the front office and why he continues to serve as an instructor during spring training.
"Two days after I finished high school, I was on my way to Ponca City, Okla. (to play for the Cubs' Class D affiliate in 1956)," Williams said. "It gets in your blood. To enjoy the players, to still get excited to see a good baseball game ... I love the game. And this is how I played it."
The base of the statue will be inscribed with the words "Sweet Swinging," paying homage to Williams' smooth left-handed stroke.