Former Yankees, Mets, Devil Rays, Braves, Brewers and Marlins outfielder Gerald Williams passed away today at 55 years of age, former teammate and close friend Derek Jeter announced (via the Players’ Tribune).
“Gerald Williams passed away this morning after a battle with cancer,” Jeter said in his statement announcing the saddening news. “To my teammate and one of my best friends in the world, rest in peace, my brother. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Liliana, and their whole family.”
Williams, originally a 14th-round pick by the Yankees back in 1987, debuted as a 25-year-old during the 1992 season — the first step in what would become a 14-year career at the MLB level. That journey took him to six different organizations and spanned 1168 games. Williams, nicknamed “Ice,” posted a career .255/.301/.410 batting line with 85 home runs, 183 doubles, 18 triples, 106 stolen bases, 474 runs scored and another 365 runs driven in. Yankee fans may fondly remember an impressive first-inning grab by Williams back in May or 1996, which seemed innocuous at the time but wound up proving a pivotal play in what would eventually become a Doc Gooden no-hitter (YouTube link).
Williams and Jeter were teammates for the Yankees’ postseason appearance in 1995, and he returned to the playoffs with Atlanta in both 1998 and 1999. He played a huge role in the Braves’ 3-1 National League Division Series win over the Astros in ’99, going 7-for-18 (.389) with a double, a pair of runs scored, three RBIs and a stolen base in that four-game set. A member of both the 1996 Yankees and 2003 Marlins, Williams received a pair of World Series rings (even though the Yankees traded him to the Brewers in August of ’96).
Williams’ two best seasons came with the ’98 Braves, when he hit .305/352/.504 with 10 homers in a part-time role, and in 2000 with Tampa Bay, when he saw regular action in the outfield. Williams logged a career-high 682 plate appearances in his first of two seasons with the then-Devil Rays, adding in a career-best 21 home runs, 30 doubles, a pair of triples and 12 steals.
Most pro ball players can only dream of a 14-year run at the game’s top level — and that’s particularly true among players selected well down the draft board, as was the case with Williams. We at MLBTR offer our condolences to Williams’ family, his friends, his former teammates and the thousands of fans who took joy in rooting him on over the course of his decade-plus in the Majors.