Former MLB OF Gerald Williams dies at 55

February 9th, 2022

, whose 14-year career in the big leagues included two stints with the Yankees, died on Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 55.

Williams’ death was announced by , the Hall of Fame shortstop and Marlins CEO. One of Williams’ closest friends, Jeter released a statement via the Twitter account of The Players’ Tribune.

“Gerald Williams passed away this morning after a battle with cancer,” said Jeter, who founded the Players’ Tribune in 2014. “To my teammate and one of my best friends in the world, rest in peace, my brother. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Liliana, and their whole family.”

Nicknamed “Ice,” Williams was a right-handed hitting outfielder from New Orleans, La., who attended Grambling State (La.) University and made his Major League debut with the Yankees in 1992, playing parts of five seasons in the Bronx before being traded to the Brewers in August 1996.

Bernie Williams, one of Gerald Williams’ Minor League roommates and a teammate for several years in New York, said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by the news.

“Through thick and thin, we had each other’s backs,” Bernie Williams said. “We used to talk and dream about how it would be like to play in the big leagues. He had more power, he was faster, and definitely had an exponentially better throwing arm than me, so we used to joke around about him being called up by the Yankees first.

“We played side-by-side in the big leagues for a little while, so our dream did come true. He was a stand up individual with great character and integrity throughout his whole life. Even though our lives went in separate ways, I always considered him a true friend and a mentor. I will miss him a lot.”

Gerald Williams was known as an above-average defender. Earlier in that ’96 season, he had raced toward the center-field wall at Yankee Stadium and contributed a catch that helped Dwight Gooden pitch a no-hitter, with Williams completing a double play after robbing the Mariners’ Alex Rodriguez of what would have been an extra-base hit.

Milwaukee traded Williams to the Braves after the 1997 season, and Williams played against Jeter and the Yankees in the ‘99 World Series. The close relationship between Jeter and Williams was cemented in 1993, when Jeter was a 19-year-old experiencing his first big league Spring Training.

Williams had been one of the first Yankees to take the nervous teenager out to dinner, an invitation that came -- according to Jeter’s 2001 book, The Life You Imagine -- shortly after an older infielder instructed teammates not to help Jeter pick up batting practice balls. Jeter did not mention the player, but he noted that the hazing soon stopped, reasoning that Williams had intervened.

“I felt like I had been the last kid on the playground waiting to be picked for a game, and finally someone had selected me,” Jeter wrote. “From that first meal, I knew that Gerald was someone whom I would befriend. He speaks softly and thoughtfully and is more like a philosopher than a baseball player.

“You could sit down next to Gerald on a plane, take a three-hour flight, talk the whole time, and never, ever guess that he played baseball. Gerald would talk to you about politics, religion, health care, the judicial system, anything. He is a person who thrives on life. He always finds positives and has told me that he doesn’t think he could ever overuse the word positive.”

In 2014, Williams was among a select group of friends and teammates who appeared at Yankee Stadium for Jeter’s uniform number retirement. That afternoon, Williams was asked to recall his impressions of the young shortstop.

Gerald Williams (center, clapping) was among those on the field during Derek Jeter Day.

“What I noticed that actually jumped out, it was easy to see … he never wanted to take a play off,” Williams said. “Whatever it was, he wanted to make sure he gave it his best every time and always felt like he could do more. He wasn’t really satisfied with a lot of things. I think that’s pretty good for people to witness.”

Williams played 1 1/2 seasons with the Devil Rays, a tenure best remembered for his role in a 2000 benches-clearing fracas after being hit on the left hand by Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox, then rejoined the Yankees in 2001-02.

He completed his career in part-time outfield roles for the Marlins and Mets, retiring after the 2005 campaign. In 1,168 Major League games, Williams compiled a .255/.301/.410 slash line, slugging 85 home runs with 365 RBIs and 106 stolen bases.

“If I had to make a model out of the type of person to have as a friend, a person you can lean on or joke with, it would be Gerald,” Jeter wrote in 2001. “He is a wise man, a candid man, a positive man. If you have friends with those traits, consider yourself lucky.”