Last fall Brian Campf acquired this postcard:
At first you might think that the identity of this player is obvious. There was an Andrew Williams, a pitcher who sometimes played in the outfield, who was active in 1918. That would be the player more commonly known as “String Bean” Williams, a right-hander for a number of teams in the 1910s and 1920s. In a way he was a kind of prototype for Satchel Paige: a lanky, have-glove-will-travel moundsman who was reputed to be quite advanced in age even during his prime. (While I have some leads, I’ve never been able to pin him down for sure in historical records or figure out how old he was.) Of course, as a pitcher String Bean was pretty good, but not nearly in the same class as Paige.
Anyway, the thing about String Bean Williams is that we know what he looked like. Here are various images of him, dating from 1911 to 1921:
To my eyes, this is very clearly a different person from the Andrew Williams on Brian’s postcard. Their chins are quite different, for example, as well as their eyebrows, noses, and, perhaps, complexions (though this last is sometimes hard to tell in old photographs, as lighting and angle can make a huge difference).
Williams is a common name, and there are several players named Williams in black professional baseball circa 1920. Most interestingly for us, Baseball-Reference.com lists a player called Andrew “Red” Williams playing for the Bacharach Giants in 1922 and the Indianapolis ABCs in 1924. In fact, though, the 1922 Bacharachs player is none other than String Bean himself, while the 1924 player is an infielder from the west coast named Adams Williams, nicknamed “Black Cat” (I personally haven’t found him called “Red” anywhere). Nevertheless, it’s possible there was an Andrew “Red” Williams active around that time—it’s just that he was wrongly attached to the 1922 and 1924 records. And maybe this other Andrew Williams, wherever he actually played, is the guy in Brian’s photo. But at this point it’s anybody’s guess. If you’ve got any ideas, let me know.