Bernie Williams Induction
By: James Hernandez
As I sat in the front row at the All-Star Clubhouse during FanFest weekend and witnessed Bernie Williams’ induction into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame, I vividly recalled the sound of fans chanting “Bern, Baby, Bern!” as Williams would round the bases after hitting many go-ahead home runs. Gabe “Tito” Avila delivered a heartfelt speech welcoming Williams as the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame’s 65th inductee. “You inspired me like Roberto Clemente inspired me!”, exclaimed Avila. Fans and media gathered in the All-Star Clubhouse to recognize Williams’ accomplishments and contributions to the sport of baseball.
Sixteen years playing in pinstripes for the New York Yankees, Williams had an impressive baseball career as a 5-time All-Star, 4-time World Series champion, 1996 ALCS MVP, and was undoubtedly one of the key contributors in the New York Yankees dynasty between 1996-2000. Seated next to the late, great Roberto Clemente’s wife Vera Cristina Zabala, Williams’ modest demeanor showcased genuine humility while Avila delivered his poignant induction speech. The audience cheered as Williams’ most notable achievements were mentioned. Shortly thereafter, Williams addressed the fans with words which echoed throughout the clubhouse. He thanked Avila and the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame for the induction, “I’m very honored to receive this great award. As a Puerto Rican myself, born in Santurce, I always try to represent my Hispanic heritage as best as I could.”
As a correspondent and a fan, I couldn’t help but reflect on the golden years Williams shared in New York with the likes of Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neil, Joe Torre, Andy Pettite, and Jorge Posada, to name a few. His contribution to the New York Yankees franchise was unquestionable, and shortly after his retirement from baseball, his number 51 was retired by the Bronx Bombers. Today, Williams fields questions instead of pop flys and line drives to center field. Audience members and the ceremony’s host, La Vida Baseball’s Adrian Burgos, Jr., engaged Williams with questions about his baseball career, the World Baseball Classic, his childhood in Puerto Rico, and his successful career as a jazz musician. In his answers, Williams’ humble nature shone through; he even made a point to acknowledge Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, who will be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame this year, “Ivan Rodriguez, the best catcher that I saw in my generation. Con mucho respeto a el señor Benito Santiago, que tambien fue tremendo jugador but I never got a chance to play against him. I did play against Pudge — a great competitor.”
Bernie Williams is truly a class act, and continues to carry the torch for Major League Baseball, Hispanics in baseball, and for his home Puerto Rico. The Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame leaves Mr. Williams with these words in chant: “Thank you, Bernie!”
Posted on: August 15, 2017HispanicHeritageBasebalMuseum