Sam Donnellon | Why Mitch Williams is Wildly popular

Gets Brotherly Love because he was accountable for Carter HR

Posted: March 22, 2007

He's on your radio. He's on your television, too.

He will come to your event, provided he can find a spot in a schedule that is already loaded with golf tournaments.

You love Mitch Williams, I love Mitch Williams, just about everybody in the Delaware Valley loves Mitch Williams.

And, well, how crazy is that?

"It's incredible," Angelo Cataldi said after Williams made his official debut on WIP's morning show yesterday. "Now that I am working with him, I can see how it happened. He's a real test case for what happens when you don't run, when you don't hide, and you answer all the questions honestly."

Williams will be on WIP each Wednesday morning of the baseball season - a role, Cataldi said, that easily could expand. He has signed up with Comcast SportsNet for 55 Phillies postgame shows and at least 14 "Daily News Live'' shows.

Already in guest roles, he has proven to be funny, self-deprecating and - in what must shock those who bought into his "Wild Thing" image - incredibly sharp-witted.

"I think one of the reasons I didn't go further as a coach is because of that moniker 'Wild Thing,' '' he said. "People meet me, they think they're meeting up with a blithering idiot."

"They think he's goofy,'' said John Kruk, his Phillies teammate and a frequent companion. "And sometimes that's pretty accurate."

Here's what else is: He is bemused, not bitter, about the personal purgatory that followed his infamous home run pitch to Joe Carter that abruptly ended the 1993 World Series.

Better yet, he blames no one for it. He has taken his abuse, taken his ridicule, survived through his postcareer infamy and emerged, somehow, on the other side, unaffected.

He has done what no other athlete has done in this town - or any town, really. Name another goat who has turned his situation so upside down. And in Philadelphia, no less.

Bill Buckner got out of Boston.

Gene Mauch certainly didn't enjoy his return trips to town.

Kruk recalled standing next to Mauch during one of those events in which the Phillies celebrated their past.

"He was in the tunnel chain-smoking, waiting, and when his name was about to be called he said, 'Oh, here we go.' " Kruk said. "I said, 'No way, man, that was so long ago, ancient history, '64 or something.'

"But he knew. He absolutely got booed, and I felt so bad for him."

"I think anybody who knows me would tell you that I've never backed down from any criticism," Williams was saying yesterday. "You can't say anything about me that I haven't said about myself, or worse, over 50 times."

Said Kruk: "Let me tell you this. If he ran back to Texas after that and disappeared and then all of a sudden showed up now, people might view him differently. People respect him now because he stood up then and continues to stand up. He was a man about it."

A little refresher for the young: After Carter's ninth-inning homer won the World Series for the Blue Jays, Williams stood at his locker and answered every last question. He returned home to find his home egged, received some nasty phone calls, even a few veiled threats.

The Phillies dealt him to the Astros in November, but not at Williams' behest. In fact, when spring training opened, Williams was at his new locker, answering all the old questions.

Cataldi said he asked Williams how he prepared for that.

"He laughed," said the morning host. " 'Preparation? I went to my locker, put on my uniform, and stood there and answered all of their questions.' "

Williams believes accountability is why he is perceived differently now than he was then.

That - and time, of course.

"All the people in Philadelphia ask you to give is an honest effort," he said. "And that's always what I gave them. I think over time, they realized that.

"It's a city built on failures as much as successes. Everyone with a blue-collar job knows about having good days and having bad days. It's like that old saying, 'The sun don't shine on the same dog's [butt] every day.' "

I'm not sure what that means. You're not sure what that means, either.

But isn't it nice that in the next few months, Mitch Williams will have a chance to explain it to us? *

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