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Sat, 02.24.1934

Arthur Williams, Baseball Umpire born

Arthur Williams

*Arthur Williams was born on this date in 1934.  He was a Black professional baseball umpire. 

Born in Camden, Arkansas, he grew up in Bakersfield, CA., and began his career as a pitcher for his hometown Bakersfield Indians of the California League, in the Detroit Tigers organization, in 1953, going 11-6, 3.26 in 20 starts. He was the first Black player signed by the Tigers.  His career was ended by an elbow injury; he was on the roster of various Philadelphia Phillies affiliates over the next couple of seasons but was not able to work up the strength to return to the field. Overall, he went 36-41, 4.83.

He went to work for the Bakersfield sanitation department.  He was umpiring local recreational baseball in Bakersfield when a former scout for the San Francisco Giants encouraged him to attend umpire school. He attended umpire school in 1969 and then began umpiring in the minor leagues. Williams became the first Black umpire in the NL when he worked 19 games at the end of the 1972 season. He was promoted to full-time status when the NL purchased his contract from the Triple-A International League on March 21, 1973. He was assigned to the postseason once, working the 1975 National League Championship Series.

He was fired after the 1977 season, having worked 806 games in six MLB seasons. He remained the only Black NL umpire in his last season. At a hearing a few months after his firing, he claimed that his dismissal may have been motivated by racism. He said that, with the planned promotion of umpire Eric Gregg, the league did not want to accommodate two black umpires among its ranks. A complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was still pending at the time of his death.

Williams drove a bus in Bakersfield until he suffered a seizure in the fall of 1978. He underwent brain surgery and was in a coma for six weeks until his death on February 8, 1979.  

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