#CardCorner: 1969 Topps Walt Williams
Hall of Fame staffers are also baseball fans and love to share their stories. Here is a fan's perspective from Cooperstown.
Walt Williams was one of the most distinctive looking ballplayers of his era. Built strong and low to the ground, Williams’ physique could best be described as that of a fireplug. He was only five feet, six inches tall, but had the kind of broad shoulders and thin waist that we tend to associate with great athletes. Except those athletes tend to be bruising fullbacks in football, rather than speedy outfielders in baseball.
And then there was that neck, or lack thereof. As can be seen on his 1969 Topps card, Williams had one of the shortest necks around, so short in fact that he earned the nickname of “No Neck.” So it is with some irony that we should note that Williams is wearing a turtleneck shirt under his powder blue Chicago White Sox road uniform. Why would a player nicknamed No Neck need a turtleneck? That will have to remain one of the game’s great mysteries.
Williams had an effect on popular culture, with his name sometimes becoming the punch line to jokes and amusing stories. When I first became interested in weightlifting in 1970s, my father admonished me, offering a cautionary tale. He told me repeatedly, “Don’t overdo it lifting those weights. You’ll end up looking like No-Neck Williams!”
Williams earned that memorable nickname during his first major league stint. Signed by the Houston organization in the early 1960s, when the franchise was still known as the Colt .45s and not the Astros, Williams made his major league debut in 1964. It didn’t take long for his teammates to take note of his unusual physique. Williams’ height, which was just about the same as Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto, seemed more appropriate for that of a second baseman or a shortstop. As outfielders go, he was unusually diminutive. But he also weighed 190 pounds and was so extraordinarily well developed in the chest, with muscles in his upper torso seemingly obscuring the length of his neck. Colorful Colt .45s catcher John Bateman observed Williams for only a short time before dubbing him "No Neck."