Bernie gets second crack on Hall of Fame ballot
When you ask Williams if he is ready to confirm his retirement, the response usually nets a slight grin and a vague promise that the day could be coming soon. It still hasn't arrived, in case you're keeping score.
And why should Williams completely shut the door on his playing days, a terrific 16-year career patrolling center field for the Yankees? Yet the Puerto Rico native is already entering his second season on the ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Williams is a long shot for induction, however. Last year, Williams notched just 9.6 percent of the vote, appearing on 55 ballots cast. He was the only ballot newcomer to receive the necessary five percent to remain on the ballot.
Williams was up and down between the Bronx and the Minor Leagues in 1991 and '92 before taking over a starting job with the Yankees in '93, playing his entire career in pinstripes.
His playing days concluded after 2006, with Williams boasting a .297 career average, 287 homers, 1,257 RBIs, four Gold Glove Awards and five All-Star Game appearances. He also compiled a career on-base percentage of .381 and slugged .477.
But the numbers that made Williams a franchise icon were the ones tallied in the postseason, as a major contributor in the dynasty that brought four World Series titles to New York (1996, '98, '99, 2000) during his tenure. The Yankees also lost two other Fall Classics (2001, '03) with Williams in center field.
Williams still owns the postseason record for RBIs (80 in 545 plate appearances) and ranks second in playoff history in other key categories (home runs, total bases, runs, hits, doubles).
"Just to be mentioned in that light, it's great," Williams said. "It always gives you a great sense of accomplishment. But at the same time, you have no control over that decision and what's going to transpire."
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from Baseball Writers' Association of America members to gain election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Shortstop Barry Larkin (86.4 percent) earned his ticket to Cooperstown on the 2012 ballot. Starting pitcher Jack Morris (66.7 percent) and first baseman Jeff Bagwell (56 percent) are the top returning vote-getters from last year's ballot. Results of the 2013 election will be announced on Jan. 9.
Williams appeared in game action for Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, going 0-for-5 with two walks, and has since moved on to a successful music career as a classically trained guitarist that now occupies his time.
"Everywhere you go, you're always reminded of the fact that you were a Yankee and you were part of these great teams," Williams said. "They never let you forget."
There have been calls for a possible Bernie Williams Day in the Bronx, and many have also hoped the organization will eventually retire Williams' No. 51 in Monument Park. Williams said that would be the "icing on the cake" for his career.
"I've had my cake already, which is playing in this organization for 16 years and being part of great championship teams, winning batting titles, Gold Gloves," Williams said. "The competition, camaraderie with my friends ... that was it for me. I think everything else is just not really for me to decide."
As for the Hall of Fame ballot, the soft-spoken star seems to be at peace with whatever might occur.
"My dad always told me, 'You always want to have that goal to get to the Hall of Fame,'" Williams has said. "But as I'm getting older, I know that my joy of the game, a lot of it comes from the relationships I was able to develop. All the memories and experiences I was able to go through that have made a profound impact on my life."