Bern, baby, Bern: Williams to officially retire

Center fielder, who last played in 2006, will have his number retired by Yankees

Bern, baby, Bern: Williams to officially retire

NEW YORK -- Though he played his final Major League game in 2006, having jumped into a successful music career and twice appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, Bernie Williams always enjoyed ribbing his former teammates with the running joke that he had still not officially retired from baseball.

Now, as the Yankees embrace their post-"Core Four" era -- a group that should properly include Williams, if only someone had coined a catchy nickname that rhymed with "five" -- Williams is ready to formally sign his retirement papers. The ceremony will take place on Friday evening at Yankee Stadium.

"I thought he was retired," Yankees manager Joe Girardi joked Wednesday in Detroit. "He's been busy with his music, so he hasn't had a whole lot of time to think about it."

Williams will be joined by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman at the event. The Yanks will unveil a logo related to the retirement of Williams' No. 51 and his Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place on May 24 prior to their game against the Rangers.

Additionally on Friday -- in an on-field ceremony at approximately 6:45 p.m. ET -- the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams. Fifteen percent of net sales from the pins will go to Hillside Food Outreach.

A four-time World Series winner, five-time American League All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner who is the Yankees' all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBIs (80), Williams will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday's 7:05 p.m. game vs. the Mets.

Williams played his entire 16-year Major League career with the Yanks (1991-2006), batting .297 in 2,076 games. In franchise history, the former center fielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBIs (1,257).

Girardi, one of Williams' teammates from 1996-99, said the switch-hitting center fielder meant "a ton" to the Yankees clubs that won four World Series championships between 1996-2000.

"He was a big part of our lineup," Girardi said. "Bernie just found ways to get big hits, found ways to get the job done. He was a great teammate. Everyone loved him. He sat in the corner a lot and played his music, and we all enjoyed listening to it. Just a great teammate."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.