NEW YORK -- There is no longer any need to worry that Bernie Williams' No. 51 jersey will be retired before he is.
The former New York Yankees center fielder, who has not played in a major league game since Oct. 1, 2006, will officially sign his retirement papers in a news conference at Yankee Stadium before Friday night's game against the New York Mets.
The decision by Williams to make his retirement official averts the potentially comically awkward situation of the Yankees' retiring the number of a player who technically is still active; the club plans to honor Williams with a number retirement ceremony and a plaque unveiling in Monument Park on May 24.
In 16 seasons and 2,076 games with the Yankees, Williams batted .297, and ranks third in franchise history 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). Williams was a five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001) and four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000). He won the American League batting title in 1998 with a .339 batting average.
But it was in the postseason when Williams really shined. Never considered a member of the Yankees' "Core Four," Williams contributed mightily to four Yankees world championship teams (1996, 1998-2000). Williams is the Yankees' all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBIs (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121).
He was named the 1996 ALCS MVP after batting .474 (9-for-19) with 6 runs, 2 homers and 6 RBIs in the Yankees' five-game series win versus the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS versus Boston, he hit a memorable 10th-inning, walk-off home run to win the game for the Yankees.
Following the news conference on Friday, Williams will throw out the first pitch before the game with the Mets.