clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

1996 Yankees 20th Anniversary Retrospective: Gerald Williams

New, 2 comments

Well, there was the time he had six hits in one game.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Background

A native of New Orleans, Gerald Williams was selected by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 1987 Draft out of Grambling State University in northern Louisiana. That same year in short-season ball with Oneonta, Williams absolutely crushed it with the bat, hitting to the tune of a .365/.447/.504 triple slash in 29 games.

The next few years, Williams worked his way up through the farm system before finally making his major league debut on September 15, 1992. He played 15 games that season with three home runs, smacking his first blast off a big name in former All-Star Frank Tanana. However, Williams struggled at the plate in New York in '93, which led to split time between the big league club and Triple-A Columbus.

In 1994, Williams recovered to earn a spot on the major league bench, but he only made it into 57 games before the strike cut the campaign short. Undeterred, he had his best season in pinstripes when baseball resumed in '95, notching a 105 OPS+ with 26 extra base hits in 100 games as the Yankees won the Wild Card. During this time, Williams also became close friends with an up-and-coming Derek Jeter, who always credited Williams for helping him acclimate with his professionalism and kindness.

1996 Performance

Results: 99 G, .270/.319/.433, 15 2B, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 88 OPS+

Williams had two standout moments in the 1996 season, both of which came in May. On May 1st, Williams registered a franchise record-tying six hits in a 15 inning game against the Baltimore Orioles. He was the first Yankee to accomplish that feat in 62 years; to date, he still holds that mark alongside Johnny Damon and Myril Hoag (what a name).

His second big moment, and arguably the "bigger" moment, came just two weeks later on May 14th. In a game against the Mariners, Dwight Gooden was on the mound and Williams was in center field while Bernie Williams (no relation) had the day off. At bat was a young phenom by the name of Alex Rodriguez (some say he went on to have an okay career), and there was a man on base. Oh and did I mention that Gooden was pitching a no-hitter?

That remarkable play gave Gooden his first two outs of the day, and eight innings later, he polished off the ninth no-hitter in Yankees history.

Although Williams hit .327/.409/.573 over the first couple months in addition to those two highlights, the good times would not last. His impatience at the plate got the best of him, as he hit just .220/.231/.309 from June onward in pinstripes, drawing a gruesome amount of three walks in 59 games. When the Yankees had a chance to upgrade the bullpen in late August by dealing him, they agreed to let him go.

Williams was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers on August 23rd along with Bob Wickman in exchange for a package that included lefty Graeme Lloyd. Williams continued his slide, finishing with a .207/.247/.250 batting line in 26 games with Milwaukee. Yeesh, that's not pretty. However, his early season contributions did earn him a World Series ring, which was the first of two rings he'd earn in his career.

What did he do after?

Williams spent the next season with the Brewers before being traded to the Braves prior to '98. It seemed getting regular playing time helped Williams as a player, as he was extremely successful in Atlanta. Over the course of two years, Williams batted .286/.341/.475 with 27 home runs. Williams and the Braves met the Yankees in the 1999 World Series, and though he hit .389, Atlanta ultimately lost to the Bombers in a four game sweep.

A free agent for the first time, Williams signed with the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000, where he set career-highs in doubles (30), homers (21), and game played (146). His most notable moment though came leading off a game against the Boston Red Sox with Pedro Martinez on the mound:

I may or may not have watched him knock Pedro down about seven or eight times in a row. Solid right hook.

It was all downhill for Williams afterward. He started the 2001 campaign batting .207/.261/.332 in 62 games before being released by the Devil Rays. The Yankees picked him up, hoping a return to home would help reinvigorate his career. Unfortunately, Williams was even worse down the stretch, slashing .170/.264/.191. In 2002, Williams was even worse, going hitless in 19 plate appearances over 33 games before being released in June.

Williams played 27 games for the Marlins in 2003, earning him his second World Series ring. After the season, Williams signed with the Mets and spent two years splitting time between Triple-A and MLB before eventually retiring at age 38.

*Season statistics provided by Baseball-Reference