As of this writing, the Oakland Athletics have the best record in Major League Baseball. So, as the saying goes, they are the best team in baseball. That's simple enough. Last night, July 25th, they lost to the team with the worst record in Major League Baseball, the Texas Rangers. What's more, they lost 4-1, and the guy who pitched and won for the Rangers was pitching in Round Rock Texas for the Rangers' AAA team a couple of days ago. Not only that, this guy was out of the major leagues altogether from 2008-2010, is clearly overweight, and, to add insult to injury, wears a pink glove whenever he takes the mound! In spite of all that, last night he handled the A's for 6 innings and he made it look easy. If that was the end of the story, it would piss me off because I happen to be an Oakland fan. But there's much more to this story, and it's the kind of story that makes me love the game of baseball.
The Rangers' pitcher was Jerome Williams. He first came up with the San Francisco Giants. He was a first round pick in 1999, and by 2003, at the age of 21, he was pitching in the bigs. He showed great promise early in his career, but he came to Spring Training one year overweight and out of shape. He seemed to have an attitude problem, and his performance started going downhill. The Giants eventually gave up on him and dealt him to the Cubs where he limped along for a couple of years before being waived. To make a long story short, he was out of Major League Baseball after the 2009 season. To the casual observer it seemed like the Jerome Williams story was all about wasted promise, and that his middling career was over.
In 2011 he returned to Major League Baseball landing a spot with the Los Angeles Angels. He wore a pink glove every time he took the mound, definitely one of a kind in the big leagues. He decided to wear the glove to honor his mother who'd died of breast cancer in 2001 when Williams was 19 years old. He pitched for the Angels through the 2013 season after which he became a free agent. The Astros, the league's worst team in 2013, signed him as a free agent after their miserable season was over. Williams made the club out of Spring Training and appeared in 26 games for them this season. He failed to impress, racking up an ERA of 6.04, and the Astros released him on July 8th. The Rangers, who've been battered by injuries to their pitching staff, signed him a couple of days later and sent him to Round Rock, their AAA affiliate. He was brought up to the big club on Thursday and given the assignment of starting that night against the best team in baseball. And he beat them. He gave up 5 hits and 1 earned run over 6 innings. He didn't walk anyone, throwing 58 strikes out of 88 pitches, and striking out 4 along the way. And as much as I hate to see Oakland lose, I love the story of Jerome Williams. He's a guy who lost his mom when he was 19, a guy who publicly honors her every time he takes the mound no matter how silly it looks to old school baseball nuts like me, a guy who has battled back from professional failure to once again be a starting pitcher at the game's highest level, and a guy who, after all he's been through in his personal and professional life, beat the best team in baseball while wearing a pink glove.