Results tagged ‘ Bernie Williams ’

Matsui, Cone put on show at Old Timer’s Day

At the annual Yankees Homecoming Dinner this April in which Hideki Matsui was honored for his career he told a story about when he was playing in Japan and was asked if he thought he could compete in the United States.

He told a reporter that he had seen a game in which David Cone was pitching and said, “I can hit that.”

Cone and Matsui have been teasing each other over that for years. So it was inevitable that there would be a confrontation between them. What better environment than Old Timer’s Day, the 70th version of which was celebrated Sunday?

Cone came into the game specifically to pitch to Matsui. The first pitch was over the Japanese slugger’s head. The next delivery was what has become an annual grooved special by Cone in Old Timer’s Day games, right down Broadway, and Matsui jumped all over it and drove it into the second deck in right field.

Cone feigned surprise and embarrassment. Truth be told, it is all an act. Cone knows what the fans want to see on Old Timer’s Day, and that is not a pitcher burning it in to every batter and striking everybody out. I once asked the Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson why he seldom took part in Old Timer’s games, and he told me that all they want is for the pitcher to put the ball over the plate so the hitters can mash it. Gibby was too competitive to play that kind of game.

Coney is a different cat. He knows Old Timer’s games are entertainment, and he aims to please. A few years ago, he grooved a pitch to former teammate Tino Martinez, who went yard. Paul O’Neill also clipped Cone. Sunday was just Matsui’s turn.

Scoring ahead of Matsui on his homer was Reggie Jackson, who had lined a single to left field in the prior at-bat off Scott Kamieniecki. I talked with Reggie Saturday after he spent about half an hour taking batting practice in the indoor cage at Yankee Stadium.

“I don’t want to strike out tomorrow,” he said, laughing.

Gene Michael is the manager for both teams, the Clippers and the Bombers. “That way, I can’t lose,” Stick said.

He had the lineup cards for both teams taped onto the front of his uniform. Roy White saw that he was batting sixth in the Clippers’ lineup and asked Stick how come Lee Mazzilli was batting second in the Bombers’ lineup.

“That’s the Triple-A squad; do you want to play for them,” Michael said.

Next came Mazzilli’s voice from across the room, “Hey, Stick, we can hear every word you are staying.”

The camaraderie among the former players is the best part of Old Timer’s Day. Bernie Williams and John Wetteland and Mariano Duncan and Charlie Hayes exchanged stories about the 1996 team that won the Yankees’ first World Series title in 15 years. Hayes still refers to the area near the third base box seats where he caught the final out against the Braves as “the holy ground.”

Williams was still beaming over graduating from Manhattan College of Music. “I completed the four years in three,” said Bernie, who is having a second career as a guitarist. “It was quite an experience. I thought I knew a lot about music until I realized that I didn’t.”

In addition to “Mr. October,” other Hall of Famers on hand were Whitey Ford, Rickey Henderson, Goose Gossage and Joe Torre. Eddie Robinson, at 95 the oldest living former Yankees player, and 1956 World Series perfect game author Don Larsen, 86, were also in attendance.

Sadly missing was the catcher who leaped into Larsen’s arms at the end of that game. Yogi Berra was a rookie in 1947 when the Yankees honored Babe Ruth to begin the Old Timer’s Day tradition and was a staple of the event over the years. He was there in spirit, however, as the Yankees used jeweled bases commemorating his legacy during the game.

‘Maria’ to toss out 1st pitch Sept. 8

As part of the Yankees’ continued celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, 15-time Emmy Award-winner Sonia Manzano will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the 7:05 p.m. game between the Yankees and the Orioles Tuesday, Sept. 8.

In addition, the club has also published the fourth annual installment of Yankees Magazine en Español, the Spanish-language edition of the club’s official game-day program. For the first time, Yankees Magazine en Español features two distinct covers, spotlighting the first two Puerto Rico–born members of Monument Park, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams.

Manzano, a first-generation American of Latino descent, was raised in the South Bronx and is best known for her portrayal of Maria on the critically acclaimed children’s program Sesame Street. First offered the part in the early 1970s, she went on to star in the role for 44 years and also win 15 Emmys as a writer for the show. Manzano is also an accomplished Broadway actress, speaker, and author. She had two books published books this year – Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx and Miracle on 133rd Street. An influential role model, she has touched the lives of millions for over four decades.

“For 44 years, Sonia Manzano has portrayed one of the most iconic Latina characters in television history – Maria on Sesame Street,” Yankees executive director of Latino Affairs Manuel Garcia said. “Raised in the South Bronx, her award-winning accomplishments throughout her career have made her a true inspiration to many in our community. We are very excited to have her participate in our annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration and I know her appearance in Yankee Stadium will trigger many childhood memories for our wonderful fans.”

Yankees Magazine has served as the team’s game-day program since its inception in 1980 and has strived to exceed the expectations normally associated with a team-based periodical. The fourth Spanish-language issue of Yankees Magazine en Español continues the publication’s dedication to serve its loyal readers in new and engaging ways. The magazine can be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com/publications and http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com/publicaciones or by phone at (800) GO-YANKS [800-469-2657].

In an on-field ceremony prior to their game against the White Sox Thursday, Sept. 24, the Yankees will recognize the Carlos Beltran Scholarship Program at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. In conjunction with the Carlos Beltran Foundation, the program granted scholarships, based on merit and financial need, to four deserving Hostos students which has allowed each student to continue to attain their respective educational goals.

Additional on-field ceremonies this month include the Hispanic Committee’s 50th Anniversary, the eighth annual Hispanic Heritage Month Community Achievement Awards, a team from the Rolando Paulino Baseball Little League and five students from the League of Puerto Rican Women who each received scholarships from the Yankees Foundation.

Fans may learn more about these and other events by visiting the team’s official Spanish-language website, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com and clicking on the special Hispanic Heritage Month section. While there, fans may also participate in an online sweepstakes for the opportunity to win tickets to the final regular season home game Thursday, Oct. 1, against the Red Sox. Up-to-date information on all of the team’s Hispanic initiatives can also be found on the following Yankees Spanish-language social media outlets:

Twitter & Instagram: @Yankees_beisbol and @LosYankeesPR
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/yankeesbeisbol

Too bad Pettitte was not warming up

What the Yankees needed on Andy Pettitte Day Sunday at Yankee Stadium was, well, Andy Pettitte.

Another nostalgic ceremony to retire Pettitte’s No. 46 and install a plaque in Monument Park honoring his pitching career with the Yankees was barely over when CC Sabathia gave up a two-run home run to Indians first baseman Carlos Santana in the first inning in what turned out an ominous day for the big lefthander.

There was no one warming up in the bullpen in the third inning when Sabathia had to come out of the game because of an injury to his surgical right knee. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to rely on a couple of Scranton shuttle guys, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder, to get through the middle innings.

A chant of “Andy Pettitte” from the bleachers sprung up several times from fans with fond memories of his grim determination on the mound over an 18-season major league career, all but three of them with the Yankees, that included an additional 276 1/3 innings of postseason work that produced a 19-11 record and four World Series championships.

“I just don’t remember ever going out there and feeling like I’m going to step on this mound and absolutely dominate this team because I am so good,” Pettitte told the crowd earlier. “I know some of the great players have felt like that. Every game at the big-league level, mentally, I had to be into it every pitch. It seemed like if I let my focus down for one inning, it was going to be a three-run inning. I needed every ounce of focus and energy to be successful.”

Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte

The Yankees had coaxed Pettitte out of retirement once before, in 2012. Too bad they could not do it again Sunday.

The only work for Pettitte Sunday was getting through a well-constructed speech in which he thanked his family, former teammates, the Steinbrenner family and even us writers, whom he said treated him fairly over the years.

Joining him on the field for the pregame ceremony were fellow Core Four partners Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Saturday’s honoree Jorge Posada as well as other former teammates Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez and Hideki Matsui; former trainer Gene Monahan; former executive Gene Michael; Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and former manager Joe Torre; managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and vice president Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

“We experienced some amazing wins, some heartbreaking losses,” Pettitte added. “Through it all, this place has become home to me and my family.”

Sabathia was supposed to be Pettitte’s successor as the senior voice on the pitching staff, but he has been slowed down by a knee that has been operated on twice and which was drained twice over the past two months. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he felt discomfort while warming up but did not say anything until he was interrogated by his manager on the mound.

“It has been a watch for us all year long as we knew it would be,” Girardi said. “For him to say something on the mound it had to be pretty sore.”

Sabathia, who was to undergo an MRI exam late Sunday, has not been himself most of the season. He is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA, and his record could be worse if the Yankees had not come back from trailing in games to get him off the hook eight times, including Sunday when they tied the score in the seventh inning on a two-run double by Carlos Beltran.

A comeback victory was not forthcoming, however, as Francisco Lindor finished off his second straight three-hit game with a solo home run off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning that held up for a 4-3 victory for the Indians, who were 5-2 against the Yankees this year.

It was almost as painful a game for the Stadium crowd of 46,945 to watch as it was for Sabathia. This was an absolute walkathon with Yankees pitchers combining for 10 walks (four by Sabathia) and the Indians for six. Despite all those free base runners the Yankees allowed, the score stayed close because the Tribe was 1-for-10 (.100) with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base, which would have been more if the Yanks had not turned four double plays.

Sabathia’s injury, which general manager Brian Cashman said would likely put him on the 15-day disabled list, botches plans the Yankees had of going to a six-man rotation with the return from the DL of Michael Pineda, who is scheduled to start Wednesday at the Stadium against the Astros.

The idea was to give an additional day of rest to all the starters, but that will have to go on hold for now. The Yankees could return Adam Warren to the rotation, but as well as he has pitched in relief they are reluctant to do that. The more likely choice for a sixth starter would be Bryan Mitchell, who was on the seven-day concussion list after being struck in the face by a batted ball Aug. 17. Cashman said Mitchell may pitch a simulated game this week.

All these pitching woes and the possibility the Yankees could drop out of first place put a damper on the special day for Pettitte, who might have been a big help had he been able to don a unifiorm.

Andy Pettitte’s Monument Park plaque

ANDREW EUGENE PETTITTE
NEW YORK YANKEES 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013

A FIVE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION AND THREE-TIME ALL-STAR, PETTITTE WAS A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY IN THE YANKEES ROTATION FOR 15 SEASONS, GOING 219-127 (.633) AND TYING THE FRANCHISE RECORD OF 438 STARTS.

KNOWN FOR HAVING ONE OF BASEBALL’S BEST PICKOFF MOVES, PETTITTE WILL BE MOST REMEMBERED FOR HIS EXTENSIVE OCTOBER RÉSUMÉ, AS HE WENT 18-10 WITH A 3.76 ERA IN 40 POSTSEASON STARTS WITH THE CLUB. IN 2009, HE BECAME THE FIRST PITCHER TO START AND WIN
THE CLINCHING GAME IN EACH OF THREE SERIES IN A SINGLE POSTSEASON.

THE LEFTHANDER RETIRED WITH THE THIRD HIGHEST WIN TOTAL IN FRANCHISE HISTORY, AND HE IS THE CLUB’S ALL-TIME STRIKEOUT LEADER, WITH 2,020. TWICE A 20-GAME WINNER, PETTITTE FINISHED HIS CAREER AS THE FIRST PLAYER TO PITCH MORE THAN 15 SEASONS IN THE MAJORS WITHOUT EVER HAVING A LOSING RECORD.

DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 23, 2015

Posada joins legends in Monument Park

During Saturday’s ceremony at Yankee Stadium for former All-Star catcher Jorge Posada, whose uniform No. 20 was retired and who received a plaque in Monument Park, I got a text from my son Corey, who was watching on television from his home on Long Island.

“Watching this makes me feel very old!”

Corey is only 33. If he thought he felt old, how about me? I met Posada at his first spring training camp with the Yankees 20 years ago. There is a photo in the office of my Queens apartment of me presenting the James P. Dawson Award to Posada as the outstanding rookie in training camp for 1997 before a spring training game at Tampa, the year before there was a major league franchise in that area.

And now there was Posada, still trim but his wavy black hair turning grey, standing behind a podium surrounded by former teammates, Yankees dignitaries and his family drinking in praise from a sellout crowd in the Bronx talking about a career that does not seem all that long ago.

One of the feelings that these celebrations at the Stadium convey is the passage of time. Posada was an integral part of a period in Yankees history that was indeed glorious and to people of Corey’s generation a dominant part of their personal scrapbook, the way previous generations venerated the careers of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry and Don Mattingly.

“I can’t believe I’m standing up here right now,” Posada told the crowd. “And I can tell you, I’ve never been nervous on a baseball field. Being here seems surreal. I can honestly tell you, this is one of the happiest days of my life.”

His partners in the Core Four — Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who will be honored Sunday — were in attendance as well as former teammates Bernie Williams, David Cone, Hideki Matsui and Paul O’Neill; former manager Joe Torre; former trainer Gene Monahan; former player, coach, manager and executive Gene Michael and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams (NY Daily News photo).

Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams (NY Daily News photo).

Posada was truly moved at being considered part of the legacy of great Yankees catchers that began with Bill Dickey and continued through Berra, Elston Howard and Munson, whose widow, Diane, was also on the field. Posada kept a baseball card of Munson in his locker throughout his playing career.

“I never saw myself as part of that group,” Posada said. “Just a lot of respect for the guys. It’s just being there with them now is such a great honor. I’m never going to forget this day.”

Berra, hobbled by painful knees, was unable to attend but sent Posada a personal message that was displayed and narrated on the video board in center field.

“You were a really good ball player for a long time,” Berra wrote. “I’m proud of you, kid.”

Posada could not help but appreciate the irony that he had resisted at first the Yankees’ suggestion that he convert to catcher from second base, his natural position, while in the minor leagues in 1991. He recalled a conversation he had with Mark Newman, then the Yankees’ director of player personnel.

“He said, you have a great arm. You’re going to be very strong because your legs are very strong. You haven’t been catching, so you’re going to be very durable. Your knees are not [worn out]. They haven’t caught.’ And he said, ‘It’s the fastest way to get to the big leagues.’ When he said that, that was it. That was it for me. I wanted to get to the big leagues. That’s all I wanted.”

Posada went on to play 17 seasons behind the plate, all for the Yankees, and batted .273 with 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI. He was a five-time All-Star, won five Silver Slugger Awards and wore four World Series rings. Only twice did the Yankees fail to reach postseason play in Posada’s time. He played in 125 postseason games, including 29 in the World Series.

Posada evoked DiMaggio when he said, “Today, I must say I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee.”

He was all Georgie when he said, “Ever since I can remember, all I wanted to ever do was play baseball. Honestly, I didn’t have a Plan B.”

That was a break for all of us, no matter how old it made us feel Saturday.

Jorge Posada’s Plaque

JORGE RAFAEL DE POSADA VILLETA
NEW YORK YANKEES
1995 – 2011

A MEMBER OF FIVE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS AND A FIVE-TIME SILVER SLUGGER AWARD- WINNER, POSADA WAS A HOMEGROWN YANKEE, PLAYING ALL 17 OF HIS MAJOR LEAGUE SEASONS IN PINSTRIPES.

CONTINUING THE LEGACY OF GREAT YANKEES CATCHERS, HE APPEARED IN 1,829 CAREER GAMES, COMPILING A .273 BATTING AVERAGE, WITH 275 CAREER HOME RUNS, 1,065 RBI, AND A .374 ON-BASE PERCENTAGE.

THE FIVE-TIME ALL-STAR SET CAREER HIGHS WITH 30 HOME RUNS AND 101 RBI IN 2003, FINISHING THIRD IN AL MVP VOTING AND MATCHING YOGI BERRA’S SINGLE-SEASON RECORD FOR MOST HOME RUNS BY A YANKEES CATCHER.

IN 2007, POSADA HAD A HISTORIC SEASON, BATTING .338, WITH 20 HOME RUNS, 90 RBI, 42 DOUBLES, AND A .426 ON-BASE PERCENTAGE.

DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 22, 2015

Bernie thanks fans for the memories

Bernie Williams, a man of few words in his playing career, was downright eloquent in his remarks Sunday night in response to the Yankees’ presenting him with a plaque in his honor in Monument Park and retiring his uniform No. 51.

Williams, whose last season with the Yankees was in 2005, was joined on the field by his mother, Rufina, his brother and his children as well as former Yankees executive Gene Michael, former manager Joe Torre, former coaches Roy White and Willie Randolph and former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Williams thanked Michael “for not trading me” when he was a younger player. He thanked White for helping him with his left-handed stance that made him more effective as a switch hitter and Randolph for the advice never to be afraid of success. He also thanked his old teammates for all their support during his 16-season career, all with the Yankees.

Manager Joe Girardi, another former teammate of Williams, presented Bernie’s mom with a bouquet of flowers. Stephen Swindal Jr., grandson of the late Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner, presented Williams a replica of his plaque. Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner present Bernie a milestone, diamond ring embossed with No. 51.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought as a 17-year-old in Puerto Rico that I could be here this day,” Bernie said. “I am overwhelmed. I remember something Joe Torre told me once. ‘God does not give you the ability — he just lets you borrow it.’ I want to thank God for letting me borrow the ability to play for this franchise all those years.”

The years were filled with great memories on teams that won four World Series titles and was on the losing end of two other World Series, of exciting Division Series and League Championship Series games.

“I am frequently asked what my greatest memory as a player was,” he said. “There were so many. I will say this: all those memories you fans were involved in every one of them.”

Sunday night was yet one more.

Here’s a number you’ll never forget, Bernie

In terms of profile and temperament, Bernie Williams and New York would not seem a comfortable fit. The city that never sleeps was the incubator that gave the culture such over-the-top performers from Cagney to Streisand to DeNiro, not to mention such flamboyant out-of-town athletes who conquered the Big Apple’s hard core, from Dempsey to Mantle to Namath.

But Bernie Williams? Bob Sheppard, the late majestic voice of Yankee Stadium, noted that even the syllables of Williams’ name failed to conjure up images of greatness. Except for his Puerto Rican heritage, which he shared with many Bronx residents, Williams did not appear to have much in common with the population of the borough that the Yankees call home which traditionally has revered players who thrive on being the center of attention.

Towards the end of the 2005 season when his tenure with the Yankees was drawing to a close, fans at the Stadium finally stood up and took notice at Williams on a regular basis with standing ovations before and after each of his plate appearances. Bernie Williams was at center stage at last. The outpouring of affection was a belated tribute by Yankees fans for all Williams meant to the franchise in one of the most significant periods of its glorious history.

And the penultimate experience occurs Sunday night when a packed Stadium will shower Williams with an abundance of affection as the Yankees will honor him with a plaque in Monument Park and officially retire his uniform No. 51. No player has worn that number since Williams’ last season 10 years ago, even the two who had worn it with distinction in Seattle, Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki. After coming to the Yankees in trades from the Mariners, Johnson wore No. 41 and Suzuki No. 31.

Bernie Williams'  No. 51 joins Monument Park retirement list.

Bernie Williams’ No. 51 joins Monument Park retirement list.

While other teammates drew greater cheers and headlines over the years, Williams was the calming center of a team that went from spit to shinola in the 1990’s to complete a resounding history of baseball in the Bronx. The quiet, contemplative, switch-hitting center fielder batted cleanup in lineups that produced four World Series championships, including three in a row, over the last five years of the 20th century and the first year of the 21st.

Of all the players who took part in the Yankees’ extraordinary run during that period, Williams was the only one who was there when it all began, when the club started to make strides toward decency in 1992 and improved to such an extent that by the middle of the decade was on the verge of yet another dynastic era.

Yes, that Bernie Williams, whose way with a guitar rivaled that of his handling of bat and glove. Williams’ love of the guitar was so strong that he was just as much in awe of meeting Les Paul and Paul McCartney as he was shaking hands with Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. Yet it is in the latter’s company that Williams will always hold a special place in Yankees lore.

It is a past as eventful as any in franchise history. Williams’ rankings on the Yankees’ career lists include third in doubles (449), singles (1,545) and intentional walks (97); fourth in at-bats (7,869); fifth in plate appearances (9,053), hits (2,336), bases on balls (1,069), times on base (3,444) and sacrifice flies( 64); sixth in games (2,076), total bases (3,756), extra-base hits (791) and runs (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and runs batted in (1,257). He is one of only 10 players who played 16 or more seasons only with the Yankees. The others are Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Frankie Crosetti, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Not bad for an unassuming man who was often the cruel butt of jokes by veteran teammates when he came into the majors in 1991. “Bambi” was the nickname Mel Hall, Steve Sax, Jesse Barfield and others hung on Williams, a suggestion that his non-confrontational demeanor and love for classical guitar music somehow made him unfit for the rigors of professional sports.

As it turned out, Williams not only turned the other cheek but also left the gigglers in the dust. He carved out for himself a career that is superior to all his old tormentors and one that just might make him a serious candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame some day.

Williams batted .297 over those 16 seasons, with a .381 on-base average and .477 slugging percentage. He won a batting title, four Gold Gloves for fielding, a Silver Slugger for hitting and was named to five All-Star teams.

Even more impressive are Williams’ post-season numbers. He ranks second in most major offensive categories – games (121), at-bats (465), runs (83), hits (128), total bases (223), singles (77) and total bases (202). In each case, Williams is second to long-time teammate Derek Jeter. Williams is also the runner-up in post-season home runs (22) to Manny Ramirez and walks (77) to Chipper Jones.

Williams is the only player in post-season history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in one game, and he did it twice, in the 1995 American League Division Series against the Mariners and in the 1996 AL Division Series against the Rangers. Also in ‘96, he was the Most Valuable Player of the AL Championship Series victory over the Orioles.

The World Series victory over the Braves that followed remained a key moment in Williams’ career. Years later, he noted, “The World Series gives you confidence. Whenever a team goes through adversity, every player who has been to the World Series knows that this is the beauty of the game, how great it is. We don’t just play for the money or the records. There’s a reason to be the best. We realized it [in ‘96], not just because we won it, but the way we won it. We were down by two games, and we went down to Atlanta and swept the Braves. That taught us a lot about the game, what it means.”

Williams was distraught in the 1997 post-season when he was 2-for-17 in the ALDS loss to the Indians, a setback that seemed to galvanize the Yankees as they came back to win three straight World Series. They were memorable seasons for Williams, who won his batting title in 1998 with a .339 average to go with 26 home runs and 97 RBI and had an even better year in ‘99, batting .342 with 25 home runs and 115 RBI. His best overall season was in 2000, batting .307 with 30 home runs and 121 RBI.

Not even Yankees scout Fred Ferreira, with the recommendation of Roberto Rivera, who signed Williams to a contract Sept. 13, 1985, his 17th birthday, could have foreseen such a career, particularly in the heady atmosphere of center field at the Stadium that had been patrolled by Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer and Mickey Rivers.

Bernabe Figueroa Williams was born in San Juan in 1968 and grew up in Vega Alta, P.R., where he played high school ball with future two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez. Williams’ parents also instilled in him a love for music, which proved a sustaining force at times when his baseball career became over-challenging.

One of the oddities of Williams’ time with the Yankees was that he was frequently the only player in the batting order who did not have a special song played for him when he came to bat, a practice that became prominent at ballparks in the ‘90s. Williams’ interest in music was so intense that he considered listening to a “theme song” before a plate appearance a distraction.

During Williams’ rise through the minors, the Yankees weren’t quite sure how to use him. Despite being fleet afoot, Williams lacked the larcenous behavior to be an effective base stealer, which made him less than an attractive leadoff hitter despite an excellent on-base percentage. His legs helped him run down any fly ball, but his throwing arm was never particularly strong or accurate

But in the early ‘90s, the Yankees were in no position to be over picky about prospects. When injuries cut into the playing time of outfielders Roberto Kelly and Danny Tartabull, Williams was summoned to the majors and the slow apprenticeship began. Brought along slowly by managers Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter, Williams came into his own in 1993 and took control of center field at Yankee Stadium, the most sacred patch of ground in the majors, for the next 10 years.

His breakthrough year was 1995 when Williams batted .307 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI and followed that by hitting .429 with two home runs and five RBI in 21 at-bats in the grueling, five-game ALDS loss to the Mariners, an exciting series that helped “sell” the new concept of an expanded round of playoffs.

Joe Torre arrived the next season, and while some of Williams’ eccentricities had the new manager shaking his head on occasion was won over by his almost childlike enthusiasm.

“I don’t think there is anything about Bernie that could surprise me – take that as a plus or a minus,” Torre told MLB.com last year. “That’s just his personality, just him, basically. He’s very different in that he is not your typical baseball player. That’s probably why he was a little more sensitive than other players.”

But with that sensitivity also came with Williams a sense of loyalty. Despite being wooed by the Red Sox and the Diamondbacks when he was eligible for free agency after the 1998 season, Williams contacted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the sides worked out a seven-year contract for $87 million that kept Bernie in pinstripes.

Williams had been hopeful he could have played for the Yankees in 2007, but there was no longer a role for him. So the soft-spoken center fielder, now 46, enjoys a satisfying retirement and continues to write music. His 2003 CD, “The Journey Within,” drew praise from the likes of McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon.

“Don’t let your job define who you are,” Williams once said. “Your relationships will define who you are. No matter what you do in life, you are going to be in a position to make an impact on somebody’s life. In my experience with the Yankees, these are a few of the thing that I have learned. You’ve got to have a plan of action, you have to stay focused on the things you can control, and don’t get discouraged or distracted by the things you cannot control.”

Yankees home for Memorial Day Weekend

The Yankees return home Friday night for the first of six games at Yankee Stadium. The stretch will feature a three-game series against the Rangers Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday night and a three-game set against the Royals Monday afternoon, Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

As part of a pregame ceremony prior to Sunday’s 8:05 p.m. game against the Rangers, the Yankees will honor Bernie Williams by unveiling a Monument Park plaque recognizing his career. Additionally, Williams’ uniform No. 51 will be retired by the organization. Former teammates, coaches and other guests will take part in the festivities with ceremonies scheduled to begin at approximately 7:15 p.m.

Williams played his entire 16-year major-league career with the Yankees (1991-2006). The switch hitter batted .297 in 2,076 games and 7,869 at-bats. A four-time World Series champion (1996, ’98, ’99, 2000), Williams is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121).

Over the course of the homestand, ceremonial first pitches will be held Friday (acclaimed authors Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke), Saturday (Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus), and Wednesday (St. John’s University head basketball coach Chris Mullin).

Tuesday, Richard Albero will conclude his 1,150-mile journey from Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., to the plate at Yankee Stadium. Albero began his journey March 2 to honor his nephew who passed away in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. After reaching the plate, Albero will be honored in an on-field ceremony.

Ticket specials will run Saturday (Youth Game), Monday (Military Personnel and Senior Citizen Game), Tuesday night (Military Personnel Game) and Wednesday (MasterCard Half-Price, Military Personnel, Senior Citizen and Student Game).

For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:

Friday, May 22 – Yankees vs. Rangers, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees Reusable Tote Bag Night, presented by MLB Network to all in attendance.

Saturday, May 23 – Yankees vs. Rangers, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Drawstring Backpack Day, presented by Kumon, to the first 18,000 in attendance, 14 and younger.

Sunday, May 24 – Yankees vs. Rangers, 8:05 p.m.
Bernie Williams Collector Card Night, presented by Yankees-Steiner Collectibles, to all in attendance.

Monday, May 25 – Yankees vs. Royals, 1:05 p.m.
Sunscreen Day, presented by Blue Lizard, to all in attendance.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at (877) 469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at (800) 943-4327 and at all ticket offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call (212) YANKEES [926-5337] or email tickets@yankees.com.

For information on parking and public transportation options to the Stadium, please visit http://www.yankees.com and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.

Yanks stop Mets’ winning streak away from Citi

By jumping all over Jacob deGrom early Friday night, the Yankees took some of the buzz out of the highly-anticipated opening of the first round of this season’s Subway Series. They had a six-run lead by the third inning and coasted to a 6-1 victory that put an end to the Mets’ 11-game winning streak, which tied a franchise record.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Friday night at Yankee Stadium marked the first time in the 19 seasons of inter-league play that the Yankees and the Mets faced each other while owning at least a share of first place in their respective divisions. At 13-3, the Mets had the best record in the major leagues atop the National League East while the 9-7 Yankees were tied with the Red Sox for the American League East lead.

There was the usual buzz in the crowd leading up to the game’s start after Bernie Williams tossed the ceremonial first pitch (more like a lob, actually).

Yankees starter Michael Pineda got off a good start with a scoreless first inning with two strikeouts. DeGrom was not so fortunate. The righthander entered the game with a 2-1 record and a 0.93 ERA. The 2014 NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year made an impressive debut last year against the Yankees at Citi Field.

Mark Teixeira, who has not been as imposing from the left side of the plate as from the right, turned that situation around. Tex drove a 2-1 pitch into the second deck in right field for a two-run home run that showed the Mets they were no longer at Citi Field. It ended an 18-inning scoreless streak by deGrom.

Teixeira struck again in the third inning but not before Jacoby Ellsbury led off with his first home run of the season. Brett Gardner did deGrom a favor by getting thrown out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double.

After Alex Rodriguez walked, Teixeira went deep again to right field for another two-run blast. It marked the 38th multi-homer game of Tex’s career.

The Yankees were not finished scoring that inning. They loaded the bases on singles by Brian McCann and Chase Headley surrounding a walk to Carlos Beltran. Stephen Drew pushed the Yanks’ lead to 6-0 with a sacrifice fly.

Teixeira had the opportunity to do more damage when he came up with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth, but he fouled out to third against Hansel Robles, a hard-throwing righthander who made an impressive big-league debut by turning the Yanks away with strikeouts of McCann and Beltran.

That was probably the highlight of the game for the Mets. That is how dominant the Yankees were in ending the Mets’ franchise-record-equaling winning streak. The Yankees continued their role and have won nine of their past 12 games.

Pineda ran his record to 3-0, equaling the mark of teammate Dellin Betances, who was not needed Friday night. Pineda worked into the eighth inning and only hurt himself with a wild pitch that pushed Curtis Granderson into scoring position. A sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda in the sixth inning was the only blemish for Pineda, who lowered his ERA to 3.86. He allowed five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. Of his 100 pitches, 78 were for strikes.

“We’ve turned it around,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We have swung the bats well. We’re pitching well. Our defense is doing what we thought it was capable of.”

Subway Series highlights homestand

The Yankees will return home Friday night for the first of six games at Yankee Stadium. The stretch will feature a three-game series against the Mets (Friday-Sunday, April 24-26) and a three-game set against the Rays (Monday-Wednesday, April 27-29).

As part of his retirement celebration, Bernie Williams will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game vs. the Mets. Additionally, the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams in a pregame ceremony. Fifteen percent of pin proceeds will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).

Prior to Sunday’s 8:05 p.m. game vs. the Mets, Matthew Morrison will sing the national anthem. The Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actor is currently starring in the Harvey Weinstein musical Finding Neverland and recently wrapped up the final season of Fox’s musical comedy Glee where he starred as Will Schuester.

Ticket specials will run Saturday, April 25 (Youth Game), Monday, April 27 (MasterCard $5 and Military Personnel Game), Tuesday, April 28 (MasterCard $5, Military Personnel and Senior Citizen Game) and Wednesday, April 29 (MasterCard Half-Price, Military Personnel, Senior Citizen and Student Game).

For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:

Saturday, April 25 – Yankees vs. Mets, 4:05 p.m.
     Brett Gardner Replica Bat Day, presented by Bank of America, to first 10,000 Guests, 14 and younger.

Tuesday, April 28 – Yankees vs. Rays, 7:05 p.m.
      Masahiro Tanaka Bobblehead Night, presented by AT&T, to first 18,000 Guests.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at (877) 469-9849,  Ticketmaster TTY at (800) 943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call (212) YANKEES [926-5337] or email tickets@yankees.com.
For information on parking and public transportation options to Yankee Stadium, please visit http://www.yankees.com and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.

As part of Major League Baseball’s initiative to standardize security procedures at all 30 parks, visitors are required to be screened via metal detectors before entering the Stadium. The increased security measures are the result of MLB’s continuing work with the Department of Homeland Security and are designed to elevate and standardize security practices across the game. The added security measures are in addition to bag checks that are conducted at all MLB ballparks.

As a result, the Yankees strongly encourage all visitors to budget extra time for arrival and entry to the Stadium for all home games throughout the 2015 season and future seasons.

Bernie to make his retirement official 

Although he has not played a game in the major leagues since the end of the 2006 season and has already fallen off the Hall of Fame ballot, Bernie Williams has never officially announced his retirement as a player.

That will change at 5:45 p.m. Friday in the press conference room at Yankee Stadium before the first game of this season’s Subway Series when Williams will formally sign his retirement papers in a ceremony to be overseen by general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman.

During Friday’s press conference, the Yankees will unveil a logo related to his uniform number (51) retirement and Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place on Sunday, May 24, prior to the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers.

Additionally Friday — in an on-field ceremony at approximately 6:45 p.m. — the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams. Fifteen percent of net sales from the pins will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).

Bernie will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game against the Mets.

Williams, 46, played his entire 16-year major-league career with the Yankees (1991-2006). The switch hitter batted .297 over 2,076 games. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the American League batting title in 1998 with a .339 average.

A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ’98, ’99, 2000), Williams is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121).  He was named the 1996 AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player after batting .474 with two home runs and six RBI in 19 at-bats in the Yankees’ five-game series against the Orioles.  In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS against the Red Sox, Williams hit a 10th-inning home run to win the game for the Yankees.

I remember telling Bernie when the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot came out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that whether he liked it or not he was officially retired. He just laughed and said, “Man, I can’t believe five years went by so fast.”

 

Bernie Williams


 
Williams stayed on the ballot for only two years. He received 9.6 percent of the vote in 2012 and 3.3 percent in 2013. Players need to achieve 75 percent of the vote to gain election and are dropped from consideration if they do not get five percent of the vote. I voted for him both years and wish more of my colleagues recognized the Hall of Fame worthiness of his career.