When Bernie Williams made his Major League debut, I wasn’t even born. By the time he hit his 100th home run, I was only two. When he stepped into the batters box, for his 4,500th at bat, I was just starting Kindergarten. So how could it be possible that Bernie Williams is my favorite player of all time? The answer lies on a warm July afternoon in Motown, at Comerica Park in Detroit:
It was to be the last event of my family’s two week long trip together. The Yankees were in town to take on the Tigers, and the crowd, as to be expected with a Yankee game, was a sellout. The forecast was sunny. It was a perfect day for a ballgame.
This was the third Major League ballgame that I’d ever attended. (My first Yankees game.) Although it was sure to be an exciting match up, between two great teams, I wasn’t really that excited.
I didn’t really know the names of any of the players on either team. (Not even the stars like Jeter, A-rod, and Ordonez.) I felt out of place. Like I was the only person, out of the 41,000 fans in attendance, that wasn’t enjoying themselves. Baseball is supposed to be enjoyable—America’s Pastime. But I wasn’t enjoying myself at all.
When the first pitch was thrown, to start the 7:05 game, the sun was the only thing on my mind. As a matter of fact, it was the only thing I could see from my section 142 seat. It was nearly unbearable, as I had no sunglasses, and had to squint just to make out tiny shadows, that moved around like I imagined baseball players would. But I really couldn’t tell one team from another.
I wasn’t having a good time before, and I certainly wasn’t having fun now. I found myself thinking, “Is this baseball? Is this the game they call America’s Pastime?” I was confused.
It was the third inning when I finally had the wool, or in this case the sun, pulled from my eyes. I could finally see, both physically and metaphorically. I began to understand why the game of baseball is so great.
Although the third inning brought about my new view towards baseball, it wasn’t until the ninth inning that I became sick with the illness that is baseball fever. An illness that has spread about the nation for the past century, like a pandemic. Though this pandemic doesn’t bring death, but life, in the form of joy. Joy for the game of Baseball.
But what was the cause of this joy? What led me to become a baseball fan for life? The answer: Bernie Williams. Not just the player, but the ambassador. The ambassador who through one swing of the bat, became my favorite player—for life.
A home run to right field by Bernie. That’s the one event that sticks out in my mind from that game.
Even when Mariano Rivera came in for the save, in the bottom of the ninth, my mind was on Bernie’s home run. I couldn’t describe it then, and I still can’t describe it now. But something inside of me clicked on. My baseball switch, I suppose. It was amazing.
I felt like a new person. And in a sense, I was. I was no longer just a kid at a baseball game. I was an actual fan. A fan just like the other 41,ooo in attendance. It was great.
I had no camera, to capture the moment, but it didn’t matter. I can still see the ball flying over the wall, to this day. Everytime I close my eyes, I see it. Like a million dollar painting, stored in my head. Forever.
So there you have it. Bernie Williams is my favorite player of all time, because of that one home run. Although he hit 287 home runs in his career, it took just that one to make me a fan. (Like I said, I can’t explain it.)
So, thank you, Bernie. For not only making me a fan of your’s, but a fan of the game, that I now can’t get enough of. In a weird, distorted, unexplainable, sort of way, you changed my life—for the better.