Sunday, May 24, 2015
A SONG FOR THE UNSUNG YANKEE
The Core 4 got the headlines. It was fair, I mean they were certainly deserving of them. The Captain, The Sandman, Lefty and his trademark glare, and Hip Hip Jorge! They were Yankees for the ages, champions in every way, shape and form. But there was one who came before them all. There was a player that truly ushered in the Dynasty Years. He was introverted, often awkward kid from Puerto Rico…we called him Bernie.
Bernie Williams will take his rightful place in Monument Park this season. His number, 51, will be hung up never to be worn again. In an era that give us so much to cheer for it seems so strange that we sometimes forget about Bernie Williams. He was a career New York Yankee, won a batting title and 4 World Championships. He was a switch hitter with insane bat speed and power…and yet, the pop from his swing or the sweet sounds of a classical guitar is all you’d ever hear from the great center fielder.
I got to meet Bernie during my time hosting at the MLB Fan Cave. It was arguably the best day I spent in the joint. Williams was shy and reserved, so I think I startled him when I gave him a bear hug and said, “Thank you, Bern. Thanks for all those memories!” He relaxed and seemed to realize the goofy Irish punk hugging him wasn’t crazy, but really just saying what every Yankee fan wanted to. Bernie was one of our guys. He was classy, soft spoken and believed that anything less than a win was unacceptable. Joe Torre used to say that Bernie seemed like he was on another planet. He was unfazed by everything happening around him. His game was truly like music. It is graceful, living above the world below it. It is consistent and strong, with a heartbeat and soul. That’s how this under the radar Yankee Legend patrolled the grounds in the Bronx.
During his visit that day Bernie noticed a Gibson guitar hanging on the wall. One of the PR guys mentioned to him that I was the singer in a punk band. A curious Bernie said, “I don’t know about the punk stuff, but I’ll play something and you sing, Mike.” He played “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”. I mustered a bit of courage (Strange that I could sing without a thought in front of a Warped Tour crowd, but this was a whole other story) and sang while Bernie Williams played guitar. That is something I will never forget.
When Williams got ready to leave I asked if he’d sign the guitar (I hoped to snag that one for a few reasons…it was a Gibson for crying out loud!) He declined saying, “Nah, this is a nice guitar.” He instead chose a bat; very similar to the model he used as a player, and signed it for me. It hangs in my office, but the memory of the day I met the great Bernie Williams I carry with me always.
Congratulations to you, Bernie. You did it the right way. You are a Yankee for the ages and the player that started something very special for the greatest franchise in Sports. Thanks again, #51.
** Here’s one for Bernie! It is great to have him BACK! Back in the New York Groove to stay! **
Senior "Features" Writer
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