Born: April 5, 1877
Died: December 6, 1959
William Edward Conroy was born April 5, 1877 in Camden. He was obsessed with baseball as a boy and during his teen years led a gang of young baseball-playing kids, who he looked after as a sort of surrogate parent. He became known, somewhat mockingly, as the Widow Conroy, which was shortened to Wid. When Wid turned 19 he signed to play with a minor league club in the Cumberland Valley League, which often scouted players in South Jersey and Philly.
Wid was a skinny, scrappy shortstop who was a demon on the bases. While playing for a team in upstate New York in 1899, word of his defensive prowess found its way to Connie Mack, who ran the Milwaukee Brewers. Wid played two years for Milwaukee, including the 1901 season, when Milwaukee was one of the original 8 American League clubs.
In 1902, the Brewers moved to St. Louis and became the Browns. Several talented National Leaguers jumped to the Browns and the team finished second. Wid went the other way, jumping to the NL’s defending champions, the Pittsburgh Pirates. He began the year as a backup to Honus Wagner, but showed enough ability for manager Fred Clarke to move Wagner to the outfield. Wid and third baseman Tommy Leach made the left side of the Pirates’ infield almost impenetrable and the team went on to win the pennant. Wid was the team’s weakest hitter, but one of its toughest players. A fistfight with burly Joe Tinker of the Cubs earned him a 20-game suspension.
Wid was what many called a punch hitter. He choked up high on the bat and poked the ball into or through unattended spots on the field. Occasionally, he would take a rip at a pitch if he saw the outfielders playing too shallow. The result was that he placed among the league leaders in home runs and triples on a couple of occasions.
After the 1902 season, Wid jumped back to the AL, signing a lucrative deal with the New York Highlanders. He enticed some of his Pittsburgh teammates to join him—possibly on a commission basis from the new league—but a peace agreement cancelled all but Wid’s contract and the other players were returned to the Pirates.
Wid soon became one of the league’s top base runners, and was famous for his dangerously long leads. In his six years with the Highlanders he stole 30 or more base four times. He also proved versatile on defense, starting at third in some seasons and in the outfield in others. Wid’s best season was 1904, when the Highlanders came within an eyelash of the pennant. He tied for the team lead with 12 triples, topped the team with 30 steals and 43 walks, and was third with 52 RBIs.
New York traded Wid to the Washington Senators in 1909. His speed was no longer a formidable weapon and, after three seasons in D.C, Wid was released. He took a job as player-manager with Elmira of the NY State League and won a pennant there. He continued to play in the minors through the 1918 season. In 1922, he served as a coach with the Phillies. Wid and his family settled in Moorestown, where he worked for the Burlington County Trust Company. He passed away in 1959 in Mt. Holly at the age of 82.