Yesterday was a special night in the Bronx as the Yankees honored former center fielder and four time World Series Champion, number 51, Bernie Williams.
Williams had his number 51 retired and earned himself a plaque in monument park at Yankee Stadium. Williams will be the 18th member of the New York Yankees to have his jersey number retired. He played his entire 16 year Major League Baseball career with the Yankees, spanning from 1991 to 2006. Williams officially retired in 2008.
Williams career really started to pickup in the 1996 postseason. He batted .467 in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, with the momentum continuing in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles. He hit a walk off home run in the 11th inning of the first game of the ALCS, finishing with an average of .474, earning himself ALCS MVP.
Williams did struggle a little bit in the World Series though. He had just 4 hits but one of them turned out to be huge. A clutch go ahead home run in game 3 of the World Series that helped the Yankees earn their first world championship since 1978 and was the first championship of Williams career.
During the New York Yankees 1998 season the team went 114 – 48 which was an American League record for wins at that time. Williams finished the 1998 season with a.339 batting average, becoming the first player in Major League Baseball history to win a battling title, Gold Glove award, and World Series Championship all in the same year. This would be the second championship of Williams career.
Williams would go on to win two more championships with the Yankees in 1999 and 2000. He became part of the Yankees dynasty that won four championships in five years. His last year in the Majors was 2006. He spent a majority of that year splitting the center field role with Johnny Damon and Japanese star Hideki Matsui. Williams contract expired after the 2006 season, but he was willing to accept a backup outfielder role the following season. The Yankees offered him an invitation to spring training but he declined it. This would be the end of Bernie’s career
Williams returned to Yankee Stadium two years later in 2008 for the ceremonies of the final season at the old Yankee Stadium. Although Bernie had not played in a game since 2006, he officially announced his retirement in April 2015, holding out for nine years in the hopes of returning to New York.
Shortly after that the Yankees announced that they would hold a ceremony on May 24, 2015 for Williams to retire his number and put a plaque in his honor in Monument Park. Williams has earned this opportunity by playing his entire 16 year career with the Yankees and propelling the Yankees to the dynasty they became in the late ’90’s early 2000’s. In honor of Bernie Williams the Yankees wore patches in their Sunday night game against the Texas Rangers as well (pictured left).
Williams is the first of three Yankees who will have his number retired in 2015, along with former teammates Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.
Bernie Williams is considered to most one of the greatest and most clutch Yankees of all time and having his plaque put in monument park is something special for both him and the New York Yankees franchise.