NEW YORK (BVM) – In baseball, even the best hitters go through slumps throughout the year. But for Bernie Williams, these were a rare occurrence.
As one of the most clutch and consistent hitters throughout the 1990s, Williams is always a guy that the Yankees wanted up in a big spot.
Prior to him becoming a star in the Bronx, he was actually born there. But very early in his childhood, his family moved to Puerto Rico.
While Williams grew up on baseball, it also looked like his future could be on track for a period of time.
Williams participated in the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships as a 15-year-old. Not only did he participate, but he thrived.
He won gold in the 200 and 400-meter runs and was part of the winning 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relay teams.
But a year later, he was discovered by a New York Yankees scout who was enamored with all of the tools that Williams possessed.
When Williams became eligible to sign on his 17th birthday, New York offered him a contract.
Williams spent five years in the minor leagues adjusting to advanced levels of pitching before finally getting a shot with the big league club in 1991.
Williams’ 1991 season was like a yoyo with frequent shuttles between AAA Columbus and New York. He ultimately finished the year hitting .238 in his time in the MLB.
The 1992 season was much of the same, but Williams finally took over the full-time centerfield role in 1993. He hit .268 that season.
While Williams was a capable player early on in his career, owner George Steinbrenner pushed to use him as a trade chip.
The Yankees decided to hold on to Puerto Rican outfielder and were rewarded with a breakout year in 1995. Williams hit .307 that year with 18 home runs.
He kept it up in 1996, hitting .305 and also slugging at a .535 clip.
As good as his regular season was, Williams’ 1996 postseason was much more memorable.
He played terrific in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, then stepped up his game in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles. He hit .474 in the series and hit a walkoff home run in Game 1.
Williams was named the ALCS MVP.
The Yankees went on to win the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in six games.
Williams continued to improve his numbers in 1997, hitting .328 on the year. He would make his first All-Star appearance and win his first Gold Glove.
The 1998 Yankees went on to have one of the best regular seasons ever with a 114-48 record. And Williams was one of the key reasons why.
Williams put together the best year of his career with a league-leading .339 batting average with a .575 slugging percentage. The Yankees would once again win the World Series that season.
He was rewarded that offseason with a seven-year contract worth $87.5 million.
Williams continued to excel in 1999, racking up over 200 hits, and then would hit 30 home runs with 121 RBIs in 2000.
From 1997 through 2001, Williams was an All-Star every season. Throughout the length of his seven-year contract, the Yankees made the postseason every year.
The last year of Williams’ contract was 2005, but unfortunately, it was not a great one. He hit .249 that year while only slugging .367.
He was brought back by the Yankees in 2006 as a depth outfielder and contributed a lot in his small role.
Williams had 462 plate appearances and hit .281 that year.
The Yankees opted to not bring back Williams for the 2007 season and Williams would never play in the major leagues after that.
Williams places top 10 in nearly every Yankee offensive category.
In 2016, the Yankees retired his No. 51. He also has a plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.
He was only on the Hall of Fame ballot for two years before he was taken off due to having less than 5% of the votes.
Where is he now?
Now 54 years old, Williams is very active on social media. He is constantly trying to create awareness for diseases such as liver cancer and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
I’m going to bat for the #OneLiverToLove initiative to help people living with #livercancer feel seen and supported in their experiences. Learn about the bases of liver health today: https://t.co/oKxwnoFGry #ad pic.twitter.com/fW3Prd10EI
— Bernie Williams (@bw51official) August 29, 2022
Outside of his positive impact on the community, Williams has also taken his music passion more seriously. He has released two jazz albums following his retirement and won a Latin Grammy award in 2009.