Kenny Williams

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Note: This page links to Kenny Williams, the long-time White Sox general manager. For others with a similar name, click here.

Ken Williams.jpg

Kenneth Royal Williams

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Kenny Williams played six seasons in the major leagues, and later became the general manager of the Chicago White Sox.

Baseball Career[edit]

Williams attended Stanford University, where he was a top return man for the football team as a freshman before dropping his football career. He had already been drafted in the 3rd round by the White Sox in the 1982 amateur draft out of Mount Pleasant High School in San Jose, CA by then, but was allowed to play a different sport as an amateur in the NCAA while already on the Sox's payroll. He spent 1982-1986 moving his way up the minor league system. His most notable stop was during the 1986 season, when he hit .331/.376/.493 in 68 games for the Double-A Birmingham Barons.

He began his major league career in September 1986, the same month as George Foster finished his major league career with the White Sox. Foster's last start was on September 1st, while Williams' first start was on September 2nd. The other two starting outfielders on both days were Reid Nichols and Daryl Boston. He played 15 games in that first taste of the major leagues, hitting only .129.

Williams had a successful rookie season in 1987, hitting .281 with 11 home runs and 21 stolen bases for Chicago. It would ultimately be his best season in the majors. The 1987 White Sox featured Ivan Calderon and Gary Redus in the outfield with Williams, and Harold Baines was the DH. A 39-year-old Carlton Fisk was the catcher. Williams and shortstop Ozzie Guillen were both 23 years old.

The 1988 season proved to be a struggle; Williams slumped badly, hitting just .159 in 220 at bats. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Eric King, shortly before the 1989 season. Between two seasons with the Tigers, Williams hit .205 in 94 games.

Williams continued to struggle at the plate in 1990, and the Toronto Blue Jays picked him up off waivers in the middle of the season. His stay with Toronto ended in 1991, when baseball's other Canadian team, the Montreal Expos, claimed the young journeyman. Williams hit .271 in 34 games with Montreal, but it proved to be the end of the line. The Expos released Williams in November of that year. His major league playing career ended at the age of 27.

Ken played 10 seasons in the minors, finishing up with the Denver Zephyrs in 1992. He had 72 home runs, 29 triples, and an 142 stolen bases, including 27 in the 1983 season and 31 in 1986.

The most similar player to Williams, based on similarity scores, is Brad Komminsk.

Front Office Career[edit]

Williams rejoined the White Sox as a scout in 1992. He also spent time as a special assistant to club owner, Jerry Reinsdorf. In 1995, Williams contributed to White Sox television broadcasts.

From 1995-2000, he served as director of minor league operations and then vice president of player development for the White Sox. In November, 2000, Williams replaced Ron Schueler as Chicago's General Manager.

As an executive, Williams was known for his aggressive style. Unlike his predecessor Schueler, Williams was not averse to dealing young prospects in return for established major leaguers. He executed a number of blockbuster deals, acquiring such famed players as David Wells, Billy Koch, Bartolo Colon, Roberto Alomar, Carl Everett, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras and Jim Thome. This style kept the White Sox competitive, but also thinned out the farm system. Ironically, the most successful season of the Williams era, 2005, featured relatively few mid-season transactions (after a busy off-season, though) and did bring the team its first World Championship since 1917.

Williams was equally aggressive with his words. He sparked feuds with former players (including White Sox legend Frank Thomas) and exploded in tirades during interviews with the media. He had a few run-ins with long-time manager Ozzie Guillen, his former teammate, who had an equally colorful tongue, but the two always managed to patch things up before they went too far.

"Shouldergate" and the Quest for an Ace

Kenny Williams was determined to build on the White Sox success in 2001 by improving the team's pitching and defense. He chose David Wells as the ace that could take the White Sox to the World Series. Williams sent Mike Sirotka, Brian Simmons, Kevin Beirne, and Mike Williams to Toronto in exchange for Wells. Not long after the trade, the Blue Jays discovered that Sirotka had an injured shoulder. Controversy swirled, and Williams exchanged cool words with the Jays through the media. Sirotka's injury turned out to be severe; ultimately, he never pitched for his new team.

The White Sox got off to a horrendous start and failed to win the division in 2001, finishing with just 83 wins. Still seeking a front-of-the-rotation ace, Williams acquired Todd Ritchie from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, and Sean Lowe before the 2002 season. The trade was a bust, and Ritchie finished with a 5-15 record, and a 6.06 ERA. The team showed no improvement from the year before, finishing 81-81.

Williams rolled the dice a third time in 2003, bringing in established ace Bartolo Colon, obtained form the Montreal Expos. Williams also transformed the bullpen by trading for Billy Koch and signing Tom Gordon. Colon, incumbent Mark Buehrle, and free agent surprise Esteban Loaiza formed a solid trio at the front of the rotation. However, Koch was a bust in the pen and the team was never able to find a consistent closer. The Sox were in first place as late as August, but suffered a collapse down the stretch.

More fresh faces joined the rotation in 2004. With Colon gone via free agency, the White Sox rotation was lacking depth, but still managed to stay in contention. Williams helped to deepen the staff by trading for Freddy Garcia. Later in the season, Williams traded Loaiza for Jose Contreras. Shingo Takatsu turned into a pleasant surprise for Williams, providing solid relief work in save situations.

World Series Magic

Orlando Hernandez was picked up as the final piece of the rotation puzzle. After years of shuffling around aces, Williams had put together a quintet of Buehrle, Garcia, Contreras, Jon Garland, and Hernandez. The GM then turned his attention to adding speed to the offense. Carlos Lee was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers for Scott Podsednik and Luis Vizcaino. Jermaine Dye, A.J. Pierzynski, and Tadahito Iguchi were all signed as free agents. One of the most significant pick-ups was Bobby Jenks. Claimed off of the waiver wire, Jenks turned into the club's postseason closer.

The rotation performed as well as any in baseball, and the offense seemed to always score just enough to win. Kenny Williams and the 2005 White Sox won the organization's first World Series title since 1917.

Thome and Retooling

Following the Championship season, Kenny Williams beefed up the lineup with slugger Jim Thome. He also traded highly-touted prospect Chris Young along with Orlando Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino to get Javier Vazquez. The slugging Sox failed to deliver in the second half of the 2006 season, and the team had to settle for 90 wins and a third-place ranking.

Williams set off to make the team younger prior to the 2007 season. Freddy Garcia was shipped to the Philadelphia Phillies, and Brandon McCarthy was sent to the Texas Rangers. Critics argued that the trades weakened the club, while proponents pointed out that the farm system had thinned out, making the trades necessary.

The White Sox fell out of contention rather quickly, sparking rumors of a fire sale. Williams locked up veterans Jermaine Dye and Mark Buehrle with contract extensions, but still made moves to rebuild for the future. A prospect-for-prospect trade landed middle infielder Danny Richar, Tadahito Iguchi was shipped to the Phillies for Michael Dubee, and Rob Mackowiak was sent to the San Diego Padres for Jon Link. A number of young players took on large roles for the White Sox, including Josh Fields, Jerry Owens, Andy Gonzalez, and Ehren Wassermann.

Williams retired as General manager after the 2012 season when a White Sox team that on paper had no shot at competing for the postseason was in a race with the Detroit Tigers until the final week of the season. He ceded his position to long-time assistant Rick Hahn and was promoted to Senior Vice-President of the White Sox. After the 2014 season, his name emerged as the favorite to replace Paul Beeston, who had stepped down as President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, but it did not happen. He stayed in his position until August 22, 2023 when both he and Hahn were fired in the middle of a very tough season for the Sox.


Kenny's son, Kenny Williams Jr. was drafted in 2007, but not by Williams. The White Sox picked him in 2008 when the team's scouts decided to select him; Kenny Sr. opposed the move because he felt it would place too much added pressure on his son. The White Sox drafted another of his sons, Kyle Williams, in the 47th round of the 2006 amateur draft. Kyle played wide receiver at Arizona State University and was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 6th round (206th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Preceded by
Ron Schueler
Chicago White Sox General Manager
Succeeded by
Rick Hahn

Record as G.M.[edit]

Significant Trades[edit]

Draft Picks[edit]

First Round Selections

Other Notable Selections

Other Transactions[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Scott Merkin: "Ken Williams on facing racism, hope for future",, June 15, 2020. [1]

Related Sites[edit]