Billy Williams had been a mainstay in the Cubs outfield for over a decade and turned 34 during the 1972 season.
He chose that year to have one of his best overall seasons, and July 1972 was the best month of that season.
The Cubs had started that year poorly, losing 10 of their first 14. But they clawed their way back into contention with a 30-12 run that had them in second place, just two games out of first on June 20. A “June swoon,” typical of that era, then had them lose 18 of 28 entering a game on Tuesday, July 18 at Wrigley Field against the Reds.
Fergie Jenkins matched up against Gary Nolan, and each team could score only one run through nine. The Cubs took a 1-0 lead on a Ron Santo sac fly in the sixth, and Tony Perez homered off Fergie in the seventh to tie the game.
Jenkins continued into extra innings, something you’d never see now, and put two runners on in the 10th, but got out of it with a pair of comebackers.
The walkoff homer was part of a July in which Williams hit .438/.482/.760 (53-for-121) with 12 doubles and nine home runs — and only four strikeouts! From July 9-22, he hit .526/.541/.930 (30-for-57) with five doubles and six home runs. Unsurprisingly, he was named National League Player of the Month.
Unfortunately, this great performance didn’t move the needle much for the Cubs that month. They went just 14-17 in July 1972 and, after moving to within nine games of first place with that walkoff win over the Reds, never got closer and eventually finished a distant second in the NL East to the Pirates, 11 games back.
Williams finished the 1972 season batting .333/.398/.606 with 37 home runs and 122 RBI. He led the National League in BA, SLG, OPS, OPS+ and total bases, and finished second in MVP voting to Johnny Bench for the second time in three years (also in 1970).
The Billy Williams walkoff homer you see above — one of five walkoff HR he hit in his career — happened 50 years ago today, Tuesday, July 18, 1972.