Bernie acknowledges playing days are over
Outfielder likely to have formal goodbye at some point in 2011
NEW YORK -- It's become a neat footnote in Yankees history that Andy Pettitte was already thinking about retirement back when Bernie Williams was insisting he could still play center field.
Who would have guessed that Pettitte would hold his farewell news conference before Williams made it to the podium? Not Pettitte, who incredulously asked on Friday, "Bernie never retired?"
More than four years after his last at-bat in a Major League game, the 42-year-old Williams finally sounds ready to acknowledge that his playing career is complete.
"I think one of these days I'm going to make it official," Williams said. "It's redundant, but after five years, I think I'm pretty much done."
It was 17 minutes and 30 seconds after Pettitte began speaking to a packed room of reporters at Yankee Stadium when Williams took his assigned seat two rows from the stage, drawing laughter as Pettitte acknowledged him in mid-sentence.
"Always strolling in a little late," Pettitte said.
As Williams listened to his former teammate expound on the reasons why he won't be wearing a big league uniform in 2011, Williams said he didn't regret not having a day like this one to say goodbye.
"I think I still have an opportunity to do it, and I think I probably will do it at some point, probably this year, just to get it out of the way," Williams said.
"It's more than that -- I think once you have that introspective look, it doesn't really have to be in front of everybody. You can have it in your house. You can have it with your family, you can have it with your friends."
When Williams does finally take the opportunity to make his retirement official, he said that the circumstances will be much different than Pettitte's, because so much time has passed.
Though he didn't know it at the time, Williams' playing career of 16 big league seasons and 2,336 hits effectively ended in Detroit on Oct. 6, 2006, with a seventh-inning strikeout against Kenny Rogers of the Tigers in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
Williams did give baseball another go in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, wearing Puerto Rico's colors, but he was limited to five hitless at-bats.
"I have a totally different life now outside of baseball, and probably the circumstances under which I retired were kind of different to this one, too," Williams said. "I think it will be interesting to sort of sit back and think about all of those years."
Williams has already been welcomed back to throw ceremonial first pitches, and no doubt the Yankees will honor his contributions at some point by holding a Bernie Williams Day in the Bronx. Perhaps his No. 51 can even be retired in Monument Park, assuming he officially retires himself.
"I think that'll be icing on the cake," Williams said. "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.
"The competition, camaraderie with my friends, all the relationships that I developed within the game of baseball, that was it for me. I think everything else is just not really for me to decide."
Williams has moved on to a successful music career that now occupies his time, but he said that since his family still lives in the New York area, he won't ever be past his years wearing pinstripes.
"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."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.