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Bernabé Figueroa Williams (born September 13, 1968) is a former Major League Baseball outfielder and Puerto Rican musician.

Early life and career

Williams grew up in Vega Altamarker, Puerto Rico and as a teen, he developed strong interests in classical guitar as well as baseball. He was also active in track and field, winning four gold medals at an international meet at the age of 15. He was one of the world's best 400-meter runners for his age.

On his 17th birthday, September 13, 1985, he signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees organization.

Playing for the Yankees' AA team in Albanymarker, he continued to develop his athletic skills — particularly in the coveted area of switch hitting. Although viewed as a great prospect by Yankee management, his rise to the Majors was delayed by the solid outfield that the team had developed in the early 1990s.

Nevertheless, he managed to break into the majors in to replace the injured Roberto Kelly for the second half of that season. He batted .238 in 320 at bats. He was demoted to the minors until Danny Tartabull was injured, and Williams earned his stay at center by putting up solid numbers.

Baseball career

Williams had become the regular Yankees center fielder by . Buck Showalter helped keep him with the Yankees through 1995, when George Steinbrenner sought to trade him. Steinbrenner was frustrated by the team's difficulty in placing him in any of the traditional baseball player molds. He had good speed, but rarely stole bases. In center, he was highly capable at tracking down fly balls and line drives, but had a weak throwing arm. He was a consistent hitter, but only had mild home run power. Throughout the early 1990s he hit in the middle of the order as management tried to figure out where his best fit was.


1995 was a breakout season for Williams. He hit 18 home runs and led the team in runs, hits, total bases and stolen bases. Bernie continued his hot hitting into the postseason, leading the Yankees with a .429 batting average in the ALDS against Seattle.


After continuing to improve in 1996, Bernie again showcased his skills to the baseball world in the postseason. He batted .467 in the ALDS against Texas and played a sparkling center field. He picked up where he left off in the ALCS against Baltimore, belting an 11th-inning walk-off homer in Game 1. Ending with a .474 ALCS average and two homers, Bernie was named the ALCS MVP. Bernie collected just four hits in the 1996 World Series but his 4 RBI led the Yankees and a clutch homer in the eighth inning of Game 3 got the Yankees their first of four consecutive wins to capture the team's first championship since 1978.


During the 1998 season, in which the Yankees went 114-48 to set a then American League regular season record, Williams finished with a .339 average, becoming the first player to win a batting title, Gold Glove award, and World Series ring in the same year.

After that season, Williams inked a 7-year, $87.5-million contract with the Yankees, one of the largest in baseball at the time. The Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks were the main contenders for Bernie's services. For the length of the contract, the Yankees made the playoffs every single year, and as a result Bernie continued to add to his postseason statistics, placing in the top 10 of various career postseason categories. He also climbed the Yankee record books, placing him in the elite company of former Yankee greats.


Bernie Williams at bat.
The last year covered by his contract, 2005, proved to be a difficult one. He started 99 games in center field and 22 games as designated hitter, but his already weak arm was highlighted as his fielding and batting abilities considerably weakened. He had a career-worst .321 OBP and batting average on balls in play (.274). As expected, the Yankees announced on August 2, 2005, that they would not pick up the $15 million option on Williams' contract for the 2006 season, opting to pay a $3.5 million buyout instead. In December Williams was offered arbitration by team general manager Brian Cashman to allow an additional month for negotiation. On December 22, the Yankees re-signed Williams to a 1-year, $1.5 million contract.


In , Williams saw a good amount of playing time in the corner outfield spots with both Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield out with wrist injuries, and did spot duty in center field on days when starting center fielder Johnny Damon was given time off to rest, playing more than was expected when he signed his one-year extension with the Yankees in 2006.

Williams played for Puerto Rico in the 2006 MLB World Baseball Classic, joining Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltrán, Mike Lowell, Javier Vázquez, and José Vidro amongst others representing the US Territory island nation in a team managed by St. Louis Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo.

On July 26, 2006, Williams got his 2,300th career hit, becoming the 11th active player in the Majors with 2,300 or more career hits. Bernie continued to climb the Yankees record books by hitting his 443rd career double on August 16, 2006, surpassing then-bench coach Don Mattingly for second-most as a Yankee. For the year, he walked only 7.3% of the time, a career-worst.


After two years of inactivity, Williams returned to action playing for the Gigantes de Carolina in the Puerto Rico Baseball League (formerly LBPPR) interested in gauging his condition prior to a possible participation in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. reported on December 30 2008 that Bernie Williams had injured his quad while playing for Carolina and may not be able to play in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico.

On February 19, 2009 Williams worked out with the Yankees at the team's spring training complex. Williams hinted that if he performs well in the World Baseball Classic he might consider returning to the Yankees, or perhaps another major league baseball team. Williams, a fan favorite with the Yankees during the Joe Torre era, still has several friends and former teammates in pinstripes. If he were to re-sign with the Yankees Williams would compete for the center field position , which is currently not filled by a veteran player.


Williams greeting fans during a pregame musical performance at the Yankee Stadium in 2009
Williams' contract expired at the end of the season. He was hoping to return to the Yankees in 2007, and was willing to accept a role as a back-up outfielder and pinch hitter. The Yankees, however, were short on roster space, but offered Williams an invitation to spring training as a non-roster invitee, giving him a chance to compete for a job. Williams, however, wanted a guaranteed roster spot and declined a non-roster invitation to camp.After having sat out the entire 2007 season, Williams's career appears to be over. Although the Yankees have not retired his number, 51, it has also not been re-issued since his contract expired. He has said, "I may never retire officially.”

On September 21, 2008, Williams made his first return to Yankee Stadium since 2006 for the ceremonies preceding the final game at Yankee Stadium. He was the last former player to be introduced and received a standing ovation.

In March 2009 he played for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, going 0-for-5 with two walks; after the series concluded, he expressed interest in playing in the Major Leagues again.

On April 16, 2009, Williams was part of the pregame ceremonies of the New Yankee Stadium when he played his rendition of, "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."

He announced in November of 2009, he will be returning to the game of baseball. He is expected to compete for the 2010 Yankees center field job.

Career statistics

Bernie Williams (Updated as of December 28, 2007)
Career 2076 7869 1366 2336 449 55 287 1257 147 .297 .381 .477

As of 2007, he holds career postseason records for games (121), doubles (29), runs batted in (80) and extra base hits (51). On October 5, in Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series, Manny Ramírez broke Bernie's post-season home run record of 22 when he hit a walk-off home run off then-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's closer Francisco Rodríguez.

Standing on Yankee all-time lists as of the beginning of the 2008 season:
  • 2nd all-time in doubles
  • 4th all-time in walks
  • 5th all-time in hits
  • 5th all-time in extra-base hits
  • 6th all-time in home runs
  • 6th all-time in RBIs

Music career

In addition to his accolades on the baseball field, Bernie is also a critically-acclaimed musician. A classically trained guitarist, playing and composing music is Bernie’s first true passion with influences that include jazz, classical, pop, Brazilian, and Latin sounds. He is currently studying guitar and composition at the State University of New York at Purchase.

His major label debut, The Journey Within, was released on June 22, 2003. In addition to playing lead and rhythm guitar, Williams composed seven songs for the album. Tracks like “La Salsa En Mi” and “Desvelado” mix Bernie’s love of jazz with the sophisticated Latin rhythms of his Puerto Rican heritage.

The first single was a remix of his “Just Because”, featuring David Benoit. Other highlights include Williams’ heartfelt tribute to his father, “Para Don Berna”, a reworking of the Baden Powell song, “Samba Novo”, and “La Salsa En Mi”, featuring background vocals from 2003 Grammy Winner Ruben Blades and salsa legend Gilberto Santa Rosa. Also joining Williams is an all-star ensemble of musicians including multiple Grammy-winning banjo player Béla Fleck, keyboardist David Sancious, percussionist Luis Conte, bassist Leland Sklar, guitarist Tim Pierce, and drummers Kenny Aronoff and Shawn Pelton, among others.

Bernie's second major album, Moving Forward, was released on April 14, 2009 under the Reform Records label. The album features fourteen tracks and includes some collaborative tracks with other artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, Jon Secada, and Dave Koz.

On September 17, 2009, Bernie Williams was nominated for a Latin Grammy for his latest album, Moving Forward.

Personal life

Bernie married wife Waleska on February 23, 1990. They have 3 children; Bernie Jr., Beatriz, and Bianca. One song on Bernie's 2009 release "Moving Forward" is named after Beatriz (Lullaby for Beatriz).

See also


  1. Bernie Williams Considers Playing Again ESPN, March 28, 2009

External links

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