My second interview with an ex-Yankee is in the books. As you’ll hear (or read) more about, Bernie Williams was in Madison Square Park today campaigning for SoBe. The good people at SoBe got in touch with me a while back and made this interview happen.
Give the phone interview a listen:
Here are some quotes that jumped out at me:
- “A lot of the things I learned with baseball — playing in crowds, performing under pressure and all that stuff — I’m able to incorporate it to my musical career now.”
- “It would be a great honor to have my number retired, but I think what means most to me is just the memories and the relationships that I was able to have in my career. To me, that is the source of my pride and the source of my happiness in my career in baseball.”
- “I was just one part of a great machine of a great team that had different parts.”
- “There is something to be said about playing the game the right way and respecting the game, so I definitely think they should not include performance enhancing drugs in the culture of the game. It sends a bad message, and at the end of the day, you still have to live with your body after you play baseball.”
- “I think you have to be in that Billy Joel, Sting, Bruce Springsteen kind of league to be able to perform at Yankee Stadium.”
I transcribed the entire 12-minute interview below if reading is your thing.
Lenny: I blog about the Yankees on lenNYsYankees.com and my readers have a few questions for you.
Bernie: Is it Yankees.com?
B: Oh, lenNYsYankees.com. Appreciate it.
L: So what’s your involvement with SoBe lately and today’s campaign in Madison Square Park.
B: Today’s campaign I’m teaming up with SoBe. The campaign is called “Try Everything.” It’s basically about trying new things, trying different things, and give yourself the opportunity to try something different because you never know if you’ll like it or not. Basically the concept that we’re trying to promote: if you have all of this SoBe waters and flavors, we’re trying to get people to have an opportunity to try and we’re encouraging people to go to sobe.com.
Actually, my flavor is the green tea and we have a lot of activities today. One of them I was involved with was green tea putting green. Two contestants were with me so they had a great time. We had a nice moment with them. It’s pretty exciting. I’m glad to be a part of this campaign and hopefully we’ll encourage people to change their lifestyles a bit for the better.
L: Did you win? The putt putt competition. Did you win?
B: Yes, I did. It came to a tiebreaker, but I was able to come out on top.
L: Talk about the book “Rhythms of the Game” expected to release in July and if music affected your baseball career.
B: Yeah, music has definitely not only affected my baseball career but my whole life. I was able to make connections with music and all that stuff since I was a little kid. I started playing my guitar when I was 8 years old. I started playing baseball around the same time. Making that connection with music definitely got my brain working in a different manner, and I think I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to make that connection early in my life.
Learning a musical instrument, and the work ethic, the discipline that I built, it matured me as I was training for baseball. I was an athlete when I was a young kid; I played baseball, basketball, volleyball and track, and I was able to incorporate a lot of those things that I learned learning a musical instrument. Now, having played a career, 16 years with the Yankees, I was able to sort of make it full circle, performing as a musical artist on stage. A lot of the things I learned with baseball — playing in crowds, performing under pressure and all that stuff — I’m able to incorporate it to my musical career now.
L: Reader and fellow blogger Andrew Vazzano wants to know: What’s your favorite song to play on the guitar?
B: I like playing a lot of songs. Two songs are very close to me. One that I wrote for my dad, and a lullaby that I wrote for my daughter. I like playing all of them. Usually when I play music, I practice in terms of not really songs, but just work on my feel level so I can play every song I can think of. [Inaudible] I like to learn about music theory, so when I come across a song that I like, I can just think about it and play it on the guitar. I think that approach is a lot more beneficial to me than just learning the song. The way that I’m learning right now gives me the ability to learn every song that I want, and it makes it easier for me as well.
L: You have as long a history as anyone in pinstripes. Your 2,336 hits rank fifth, sandwiched between Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, and you rank in the top 10 in several other all-time Yankees statistics. Reader and fellow blogger John Healy wants to know: Do you believe your number 51 will be retired in Monument Park?
B: To be honest with you I do not know. I’m not really looking to that. I’m not trying to downplay that. I think it would be a great honor to have my number retired, but at the same time it’s something I’ve realized that’s not in my power to decide. The one thing that I can tell you is that I had a great time playing for that team. It was a number of years, there’s a lot of great memories that I have.
That’s the one thing that you can take, it would be a great honor to have my number retired, but I think what means most to me is just the memories and the relationships that I was able to have in my career. To me, that is the source of my pride and the source of my happiness in my career in baseball. To be able to perform, being part of great, four championship teams. No other team that I will play for than the Yankees.
L: How would you define your Yankees legacy?
B: [Laughs] I do not know. I think my legacy is, I think it could be taken that I was just part of a great run that the team had in the mid-90s and even the early 2000s. I was just one part of a great machine of a great team that had different parts. In the mid-90s, we didn’t really have a super superstar carrying the team on his shoulders. A lot of it was sharing the wealth. We had a lot of guys who had really solid numbers and we were able to lean each other and have this great run. I would consider myself just part of that run. When they talk about the Yankees in the 90s, hopefully they’ll say my name as part of that team. I think that’s what people will remember me for.
L: Absolutely right. You played in what is now known as the steroid era. What are your thoughts in general about PEDs in baseball today? Should they be legal, and should they affect whether a player is inducted into the Hall of Fame?
B: For the people that never took any participation [inaudible] or any of those drugs, it makes it harder for them to stand out in this era because it seems so prominent that it just makes it unfair. I was certainly one of those players that never used anything and I’m sort of being compared with people that did. Obviously, my numbers will not come up as comparable in many of the categories.
I do think that at the end of the day, the people that make these comparisons will look at my consistency through the years and they will be able to draw a correlation with my numbers. Year after year, not a lot of spikes and not a lot of downs, just really solid consistent career. Hopefully that will be the criteria that they will use to consider me for anything down the road. I do think that it is unfair.
I think that Major League Baseball is taking great steps to clean the game up, because I think it needs to be cleaned up. There is something to be said about playing the game the right way and respecting the game, so I definitely think they should not include performance enhancing drugs in the culture of the game. It sends a bad message, and at the end of the day, you still have to live with your body after you play baseball. And from what I understand, using these drugs will have repercussions at the end of your career and years after that. I think they are bad for the game and I think they should be abolished. Sending a good message to the kids that you have to play the game naturally and rely on your own strength to play it. Those things don’t have any business in our game.
L: Couldn’t agree more. Lastly, when do you expect your next visit to Yankee Stadium is going to be? As a fan or performer?
B: Performing at Yankee Stadium? I think you have to be in that Billy Joel, Sting, Bruce Springsteen kind of league to be able to perform at Yankee Stadium. I still have a long way to go. But I always go there and I have a great relationship with the organization after my playing career has been over.
I’m always well-received, and I always appreciate it. I feel like I have access to the Stadium anytime that I want, and I always want to keep my relationship with the players and manager, and people there. More than anything it’s kind of a family that I was able to be a part of, and I’m still able to be a part of it. It’s a great thing to have for me, to have this relationship with the Yankees.
L: Hope to see you there.
B: All right man.
Thanks, Bernie, for speaking with me! I really appreciate it. And a big shout out to Zach at Weber Shandwick for making this happen. Thank you!