After more than a quarter century with the franchise as a player, scout, and executive, Kenny Williams was fired as executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox last week.
With the White Sox preparing for their 12th losing season in the last 19 years, some may try to diminish his legacy. But Williams’ role in building one of the most successful runs in White Sox history cannot be forgotten.
Kenny Williams is a baseball pioneer
Williams takes his place among pioneers like Bill Lucas, Bob Watson, and Bill White in baseball history and remains one of only two Black general managers to assemble a World Series champion.
Kenny Williams held every job imaginable as he climbed the leadership ladder with Chicago. Following a less than notable career as a player that ended in 1991, Williams rejoined the White Sox as a scout in 1992 before becoming a special assistant to the team’s chairman, Jerry Reinsdorf, in 1994.
Williams showed a talent for identifying players, and in 1997 he was promoted to vice president of player development.
Kenny Williams builds Chicago White Sox World Series winner
In 2000, Williams replaced Ron Schueler as general manager of the Sox following the team’s first playoff appearance in seven years. With Frank Thomas’ career winding down, Williams made the choice to hire another White Sox legend to push the team over the hump.
By bringing in the fiery personality of Ozzie Guillén, and committing to aggressive moves in acquiring talent, Williams was able to completely rebuild the lineup in just over two years.
In 2005, his vision would be realized.
The White Sox finished 99-63, capturing the AL Central title before defeating the defending champion Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, and Houston Astros to win the World Series for the first time in 88 years.
Over the next seven years, Chicago would remain competitive but failed to match the success of that magical run of ‘05. However, Williams’ loyalty and success were rewarded by Reinsdorf as he was promoted to executive vice president.
And now, that historic tenure has come to an end.
Ken Williams endured and won during his two decades in charge of the White Sox. He dealt with racism, low expectations, and the notoriously tight budget of Reinsdorf over the years.
He accomplished what few have in his sport. Making the successful transition from the field to the front office has been rare enough, but even more rare for Black players.
History will not forget Kenny Williams, and as long as that World Series banner flies, his legacy lives on the South Side.