The most successful franchise in baseball history, the New York Yankees, have always shown a great interest in honoring its heroes and its storied past. The number of monuments and plaques has grown greatly over the years. The retirement of Williams’s #51 was the 18th Yankee uniform number to never be worn again.
During the 2014 season, four plaques were added to Monument Park to honor Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, and Rich “Goose” Gossage. Four more greats of Yankee history will be honored during the current season.
The first, Bernie Williams, was honored on Sunday night prior to the New York-Texas Rangers contest. Since Williams has not played in the last nine years, this honor was considered by many to be long overdue.
Many blamed the organization for ignoring Williams while paying to others whose ties with the Yankees are of much shorter duration and of much less importance. On the field and in the press conference room to reporters, Williams took the full responsibility for the delay for this long-awaited occasion, “The organization has been on me for years to have this day. I wanted to make sure I would not come back.”
Williams did not officially sign his retirement papers from baseball until one month before this ceremony. He explained the difficulty in reaching this decision, “The process was physically and psychologically. Your abilities diminish. You realize you can’t do it anymore. I found something [music] that I could devote my time to.” He admitted, “I really misjudged the sentiment of the fans and of my own. I really needed to have closure to this aspect of my life.”
The ceremony was moving to the very large crowd of 45,681 who came to cheer Williams. A contingent of Former Yankees joined Williams on the field, the Core 4 (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte) reunited for the first time this season at Yankee Stadium. Pettitte and Posada will be honored in August. Also were present were Gene “Stick” Michael, Roy White, Willie Randolph, David cone, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, and Joe Torre.
Also present on the field were members of Williams’ immediate family, his mother, brother and four children. Williams remarked in his speech, “I know my father is watching in heaven.”
A Congressional Certificate of Appreciation presented by Rep. Jose Serrano, who represents the district in which Yankee Stadium is situated, was read. Gifts were presented by the Yankees. Highlights of Williams’ 16 years in pinstripes were shown on the center field screen.
Yankee broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay did an outstanding job in emceeing the program. Williams thanked deservedly Debbie Tymon and Greg King for their efforts in organizing the program. The Yankees Marketing Department headed by Tymon makes a superlative effort in planning And organizing special events unlike that of any sports organization.
Williams gave thanks to those who benefited him in his career and in his life in his closing remarks, “You guys have been instrumental in my career. I am overwhelmed.