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Bernie to be honored Sunday

Ex-Yanks great 'proud, grateful and very honored'

NEW YORK -- Bernie Williams had been long excluded from the Yankees' proverbial "Core Four" of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Marino Rivera, even though Williams was an important part of their last championship era.

So before Williams was set to officially retire before Friday's game against the Mets, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wanted to coin a term that included Williams in the group.

"To set the record straight," Cashman said. "Bernie is part of the Fab Five."

Video: [email protected]: Bernie Williams throws out first pitch

Williams was not a part of New York's World Series winning team in 2009, when the phrase was born, although he said it never bothered him to be excluded.

"It was more fun for me to hear all the back-and-forth, 'He's part of it, no he's not part of it, he's part of it, no he's not,'" Williams said. "So I thought it was more funny than anything else."

This season officially marks the first in the post-"Core Four" era for New York with no member of that championship era remaining as an active player. The Yankees are embracing this, with Monument Park plaque dedication ceremonies for Williams, Pettitte and Posada to come later this season. Williams is set to get the first nod. However, the only issue was that he had never actually retired, even though he had not played in a game since 2006.

"You don't show up for nine years and you're over 40," manager Joe Girardi, one of Williams' former teammates, said with a laugh. "You've got to believe that the guy's done. But it's Bernie being Bernie."

Video: Bernie Williams on his retirement with Jeff Nelson

Williams had to go through the formality of signing a contract with the Staten Island Yankees before signing his retirement papers moments later. Finally, 8 1/2 years after his final game, Williams is officially retired.

"I don't think it was that important to me at the time," he said. "I think it was funny to not have that chapter closed in my life and just keep doing the things that I was doing and not really thinking about retiring. … But they're making me do this right now."

Williams was joined by Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman, before they unveiled a logo related to the retirement of Williams' No. 51 and his Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place May 24 before a game against the Rangers.

Video: Bernie Williams on his pursuit of a jazz degree

The Yankees offered Williams a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training before the start of the 2007 season, but Williams refused to return unless he received a guaranteed deal. He said it took about two or three years before baseball was fully out of his system and has since enjoyed a successful music career. He is a full-time student at Manhattan School of Music, pursuing a degree in jazz performance.

Williams won four World Series in his 16-year career, all with the Yankees, and is the club's all-time postseason leader in homers (22) and RBIs (80). He made five All-Star Games, won four Gold Gloves and was a career .297 hitter. He ranks in the top 10 in club history in doubles, hits, games played, runs scored, home runs and RBIs.

"I would have never thought a moment like this would happen," Williams said. "I'm extremely proud, grateful and very honored."

Jamal Collier is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
Read More: New York Yankees