Every professional sports team has an unsung hero. That obligatory member may seem to be irrelevant to most, but that same one comes through when you need it. Only the team’s fans recognize him or her and how integral that person was to their team.
During the New York Yankees’ run in the late 1990s, that unsung player was Bernie Williams.
The Puerto Rican born center fielder became a staple for the Yankees since his debut in 1991. Williams took advantage of various opportunities and came through in the clutch when called upon. He helped the Yankees bring four more rings to the franchise in 1996 and the three peat from 1998 through 2000.
Williams last played as a Yankee in 2006, unable to come to terms to return to the Bronx Bombers. He left to pursue a music career, which led him to success.
Fun fact: Williams didn’t retire from the majors. Now, that’s what happened nine years later.
Bernie Williams officially retired on Friday, April 24 from Major League Baseball. His No. 51 jersey will be retired at Monument Park on May 24 before the Yankees’ game against the Texas Rangers that day.
Despite his storied Yankee career, Williams is not considered among the Core Four.
The Yankees’ Core Four consisted of “The Captain” Derek Jeter, “The Hammer” Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. They’re credited for ushering in a new era for the franchise. And yet, Bernie Williams isn’t in that discussion.
In fact, it was brought up during his press conference. Any athlete might’ve taken credit for bringing any organization to new heights. That just isn’t Bernie’s way, and he stated as such in his statement. He found it to be funny more than anything else. He added how he was honored just to be a part of the team:
the fact that I was part of a team that had a great run in the history of this organization, I think to me that’s the most important thing.…I never would have thought a moment like this would happen. So I’m extremely proud and grateful and very humble.
Bernie Williams was no pushover either. He was a four-time gold glove winner and five-time All-Star. Williams also became the 1996 ALCS MVP and the 1998 American League Batting Champion.
Williams also holds the postseason record for the most RBI’s by a player in Major League history. He drove in 80 runs while battling as a Yankee.
Bernie Williams could have laid claim to the title and made the Core Four a “Fab Five.” He just decided not to.
It’s his demeanor that makes him a Yankee staple. The man is a perfect example of class and should be emulated because of it.
No, he probably won’t be a Hall of Famer or on the Mount Rushmore of Yankees. But for Bernie Williams, playing the game was the highest honor for him.
Enjoy the official retirement and your impending induction into Monument Park, Bernie Williams. You’ve earned it.
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Copyright @ 2007
*stats are from Baseball Reference
*For more on Bernie Williams, click here for his website.