10/02/2002 03:36 am ET
Williams shines at playoff time
In select company with 17th postseason homer
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Reggie Jackson will always be Mr. October. But if anyone has the right to at least rent out that moniker, it is Bernie Williams.
The Yankees center fielder struck his 17th career postseason homer Tuesday night, sinking the Angels while he was at it.
His three-run bomb in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the Division Series snapped a 5-5 tie and paved the way for an exhilarating 8-5 victory for the Yankees.
It was the 17th playoff homer for Williams, tying him with Cleveland's Jim Thome on the all-time list. The only two players with more? Mickey Mantle and Jackson.
Need we say more?
Williams, as calm a baseball player as you will ever see, has a way of making something happen when the stakes are the highest. He has been a Yankee his entire career, which began in 1992. One day he'll be out there in Monument Park with past career Yankee center fielders Joe DiMaggio and Mantle.
The switch-hitting Williams had never faced Angels right-hander Brendan Donnelly before. While that didn't make for an ideal situation, Williams turned it into an ideal result. His blast came on a 2-2 pitch that went sailing over the fence in right-center.
"It was my first time facing him so I didn't really have an idea how to approach him," said Williams. "You don't want to be down 0-2, but I was anyways. After I had two strikes on me, I said, 'just cut down on your swing and put the ball in play'."
Instead, he put it out of sight.
Williams wouldn't take special pleasure in climbing his way up the chart of postseason home run legends. It isn't his way.
"I'm not going to downplay it, but for me, it's not the time to think about what I've done," Williams said. "I think I've just got to keep focusing on the things that are ahead of me."
There will come a day Williams will be able to look back on all the great moments he had. But for now, he's content to just keep adding to the list.
"It was a great thing for us to come back with two outs and nobody on," Williams said, "Because I think it's going to set the tone for the whole series."
Williams, with his understated greatness, helps set the tone for this Yankee team.
"Bernie's so important for us," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You hardly notice him because he's in there every day. You take so much for granted with Bernie. You could just see the determination with him. He's been so big for us, whether its been postseason or during the season."
There was no post-game tale from Williams about trying to go deep in that situation. This isn't a Ruthian man by any stretch. He was merely trying to get a piece of the ball and find a hole somewhere.
"I wasn't swinging hard at all," said Williams. "I was just trying to put it in play."
Instead, he put it out of play, just like he's done many times before in October.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at Ian.Browne@mlb.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its