September 13 – Happy Birthday Bernie Williams

Bernie Williams, the starting center fielder for four World Championship New York Yankee teams was born on this date in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1967.

My earliest memories of Bernie were of those watching him play for the Albany-Colonie (NY) Yankees at the now-closed Heritage Park somewhere around 1990.  Back then, Bernie was one of two prospects with the last name of Williams trying to make their way from New York’s double A minor league franchise to the Yankee Stadium outfield and I have to admit, I thought Gerald Williams would win the competition.

But Bernie was a grinder. The only superstar skill he had was using his great speed to get into position to catch just about any fly ball hit his way. In Yankee Stadium’s spacious center field, that was an important skill to have. He was also a switch-hitter. These were probably the two key reasons why Buck Showalter made Bernie his regular center fielder in 1993. From that point on, Bernie simply evolved himself into a great Yankee and became a key cog in the pinstripe teams that won four World Series during the glorious 1996-2000 run.

During his peak years, Bernie made five straight AL All Star teams and put together seven consecutive years of scoring at least 100 runs, of driving in at least 90, and eight consecutive years hitting above 300.

One of Bernie’s unheralded talents and also his most annoying was the way he would step out of the batter’s box at exactly the precise moment when the opposing pitcher was about to initiate his windup. Nobody did this more effectively than Bernie. Unfortunately, it was also the reason most Yankee games took four hours to complete when Bernie was on the team.

I do regret the fact that the Yankees did not permit Bernie to retire on his own terms. He was pretty much forced off the team when the Yankees decided to go younger in the outfield with Melky Cabrera in 2007. I will always feel that Bernie deserved a Yankee roster spot at the beginning of that season.

Today is also the birthday of this former Yankee reserve catcher , this one too and this 1997 20-game-winning pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1991 NYY 85 374 320 43 76 19 4 3 34 10 5 48 57 .238 .336 .350 .686
1992 NYY 62 293 261 39 73 14 2 5 26 7 6 29 36 .280 .354 .406 .760
1993 NYY 139 628 567 67 152 31 4 12 68 9 9 53 106 .268 .333 .400 .734
1994 NYY 108 475 408 80 118 29 1 12 57 16 9 61 54 .289 .384 .453 .837
1995 NYY 144 648 563 93 173 29 9 18 82 8 6 75 98 .307 .392 .487 .878
1996 NYY 143 641 551 108 168 26 7 29 102 17 4 82 72 .305 .391 .535 .926
1997 NYY 129 591 509 107 167 35 6 21 100 15 8 73 80 .328 .408 .544 .952
1998 NYY 128 578 499 101 169 30 5 26 97 15 9 74 81 .339 .422 .575 .997
1999 NYY 158 697 591 116 202 28 6 25 115 9 10 100 95 .342 .435 .536 .971
2000 NYY 141 616 537 108 165 37 6 30 121 13 5 71 84 .307 .391 .566 .957
2001 NYY 146 633 540 102 166 38 0 26 94 11 5 78 67 .307 .395 .522 .917
2002 NYY 154 699 612 102 204 37 2 19 102 8 4 83 97 .333 .415 .493 .908
2003 NYY 119 521 445 77 117 19 1 15 64 5 0 71 61 .263 .367 .411 .778
2004 NYY 148 651 561 105 147 29 1 22 70 1 5 85 96 .262 .360 .435 .795
2005 NYY 141 546 485 53 121 19 1 12 64 1 2 53 75 .249 .321 .367 .688
2006 NYY 131 462 420 65 118 29 0 12 61 2 0 33 53 .281 .332 .436 .768
16 Yrs 2076 9053 7869 1366 2336 449 55 287 1257 147 87 1069 1212 .297 .381 .477 .858
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

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