10/10/05 1:14 AM ET
Fans give Bernie his due
Crowd of 56,226 gives center fielder a standing ovation
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Williams, the longest-tenured player on the team, will be a free agent at the conclusion of the postseason. It is unclear whether he will return for a 16th season with the Bombers, as New York may pursue a new center fielder over the winter.
Every time Williams stepped to the plate on Sunday -- four at-bats in all -- he received a standing ovation, serenaded by chants of "Bernie! Bernie!"
"I appreciated all of the support they gave me tonight," Williams said. "To me, it was one of those, 'Just in case you don't come back, we'll show you how much we love you.' The focus was the game and the victory, so that's what I was focused on."
After he recorded his fourth out of the night and returned to the dugout in the seventh inning, Williams received a fifth standing ovation, only this one didn't stop. Jorge Posada, who had stepped to the plate, stepped out of the batter's box and turned toward the dugout, giving Williams a chance to take a curtain call.
"He stepped out and looked at me like, 'Let's go. I'm trying to get an at-bat here,' " Williams said. "I was forced to go out and acknowledge the crowd, which was pretty cool."
Williams received similar treatment on Sept. 25, in the Yankees' final home game. It brought back memories of Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, when fans chanted Paul O'Neill's name in the late innings, recognizing the contributions of the retiring outfielder.
"I think I know how O'Neill must have felt when they did that for him," said Williams, who was in center field that night in 2001. "It felt great, but it was sort of bittersweet, because I was hoping to get a couple of hits and be more of a contributor. It didn't happen that way for me."
"They did a similar thing with O'Neill a few years back," Derek Jeter said. "Our job is to make sure Bernie has more games here."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.