10/18/2003 10:44 PM ET
Williams strikes blow for Yankees
Bernie's first playoff homer this year ties record
Bernie's record-tying homer: 56K | 300K
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Leave it to Bernie Williams to get Yankee Stadium rocking again.
New York's veteran center fielder and cleanup hitter, who has been hearing the whispers about his supposedly waning skills all postseason, struck another blow for his enduring October legacy Saturday night in Game 1 of the World Series.
In other words, maybe he isn't finished after all.
Williams drove a Brad Penny pitch into the right-field bleachers in the bottom of the sixth inning for his long-awaited first home run of the 2004 playoffs.
The solo shot sparked the Yankees against the Florida Marlins and etched his name into the playoff record books once again.
Williams' homer, which came on a 1-and-0 fastball, cut the Marlins' lead to 3-2 and tied Williams for the all-time record for postseason home runs with 18.
His compatriots at the top of that vaunted list?
Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle -- both Yankees, both legends.
He also drove home his 62nd career playoff RBI, putting him second on the list to former Yankee David Justice for the all-time postseason lead in that category.
"He's swinging the bat well," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "And he's doing it at the right time."
Williams, the Yankees' quietest leader, left the clubhouse before talking to reporters about his milestone, perhaps a response to the way he's been portrayed in the papers of late.
The whispers about Williams first started after the Yankees lost Game 1 of the American League Division Series, 3-1, against the Minnesota Twins, in part because Williams misplayed a Torii Hunter single into a triple that kick-started a Twins rally.
It added to what had been a trying regular season for Williams, who was more banged up than at any time in his 13-year big-league career.
He turned 35 in September. Both of his shoulders have been giving him enough trouble that trainers work on them every day, even in the offseason.
He missed 42 games this year because of surgery in late May to repair the medial meniscus in his left knee.
A lifetime .305 hitter, Williams batted .263 in 2003 with 15 homers and 64 RBIs, both well below his career averages.
And after the misplayed ball in Game 1, the New York press box was abuzz with speculation that maybe Williams isn't fit for center field anymore and might not pack enough power to ably man the No. 4 role.
But after a key RBI single in the pivotal eighth inning of the Yankees' improbable 6-5 comeback win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series, it looked like Williams' swing might be coming back.
And in Saturday night's sixth inning, it came all the way back with the homer.
Then, in the bottom of the eighth off Florida rookie left-hander Dontrelle Willis, Williams laced a hard single to left field with two outs. Hideki Matsui followed with a single that pushed Williams to third base, but reliever Ugueth Urbina came in and struck out Jorge Posada to end the threat.
"It was great to see him hit the homer and then get a hit from the right side," Jeter said. "That's a good sign for him."
And a good sign for the Yankees, as second baseman Alfonso Soriano pointed out.
"Bernie has to hit for us to win games," Soriano said. "It's very important for him to keep swinging the bat."
Back in the clubhouse, at least one co-holder of the home run record was willing to talk about it.
Reggie Jackson said that even through the trying times of this season, he never doubted that Williams would regain his stroke.
"It's great," Jackson said. "I thought he'd been close for a while, but he just needed some success."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.