The Yankees To Retire Bernie Williams 51
Earning a place in the Monument Park at Yankees Stadium is no easy task. More so than maybe any other team in any other American sport, the Yankees have been driven by star players. The Monument Park includes names like Gehrig, Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Jackson, and more recently, Rivera and Torre. The Yankees history of iconic players is twice as long as many of the teams that currently make up Major League Baseball and their list of former star players is a who’s who of Cooperstown. That’s what makes the retirement of Bernie Williams number 51 such a special event. May 24th, 2015 is Bernie Williams Day at Yankees Stadium, and the Bronx Bombers are set to honor one of the best center fielders of the last 30 years. Here is why you should care.
Bernie Williams was part of one of the most spectacular runs in the history of MLB. Between 1996-2000 the Yankees won 4 World Series in 5 years. While discussions of the Yankees teams from the 1990’s often focus on Jeter, Clemens, and Pettitte, Bernie Williams shone all by himself. During the 1996 World Series run, Williams was practically impossible to get out. He averaged over a .460 batting average in both the ALDS, and ALCS, and his walk off home run in the 11th inning during the ALCS, helped spark the Yankees first title since 1978.
In 1998, Bernie Williams became the first player to ever win a Gold Glove, MLB Batting Title, and a World Series in the same year. His consistency at the plate, left him with records and numbers that no one in the Majors has replicated in the decade since he retired.
One more hit today and Jose Altuve will have 10 consecutive multi-hit games. Nobody's done that since Bernie Williams in 2002. Wow.
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) May 3, 2015
Bernie Williams was a switch hitter. He hit home runs from both sides of the plate, in the same game. While Jeter was clutch, Bernie was unstoppable. His ability to hit from both sides of the plate made him practically impossible to pitch to, and pitching to Williams with runners on base seldom ended well for anyone but the Yankees. If you took Derek Jeter away from those Yankees teams, you would have left the team without a face. If you took Bernie away? You would have left the Yankees without their heart.
While the greatness of the 1990’s Yankees teams have led to more retired numbers recently, it is not common for the Yankees to retire numbers and it is special every time it happens. Only three numbers have been retired since 2000, and only 6 numbers have been retired since 1987. The Yankees monument park is a bit crowded, but only because the team has been atop the baseball universe for decades. When the Yankees retire Bernie Williams #51, it will be one of the rarest moments in baseball.
Because it’s Bernie
While Jeter was the captain, and Clemons the controversy, Bernie was, well, Bernie. He was quietly fierce, clutch beyond measure, and could he cover seemingly endless ground in center. Bernie Williams was one of a kind, and as of May 24th, 2015, he will forever be the Yankees #51.