Bernie Williams was one of the best players of his era. A five-time All-Star and four-time World Series champion, he retired with 2,336 career hits, a lifetime .297 batting average, 287 home runs and four Gold Gloves in 16 brilliant seasons with the Yankees.
And no, he never took PEDs.
“Honestly, quite frankly, I really didn’t think that was going to affect the way that I approached the game,” Williams said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I would assume that it would be easy for players (to get PEDs if they wanted them). You can get anything you want. You can get access to anything that you need, and people are more than happy to provide it for you. But to be quite frank, I didn’t think it affected the way that I played the game. What’s the difference in me between hitting a double off the wall and hitting it out? I was not going to hit that many home runs, and I really tried to hit them when they counted.”
Williams hit 20+ homers seven times in his career, including six consecutive seasons from 1996-2001. He hit a career-high 30 in 2000.
“I knew I was not going to be a 500-home-run guy,” Williams said, “and I took it as a challenge. I said, ‘You know what? You’re still going to have to throw the ball in that little box where I’m going to have to hit it. You’re still going to have to out-run me. I’m still going to have to go out there and catch everything that I can. So I’m going to prove it that I’m still going to be playing your game in this era and still going to be successful – and I’m still going to have a life after the game.’”
Indeed, several players who used PEDs – or who were suspected of using PEDs – have had health and legal issues in recent years.
Williams, 48, was asked if he faults the players who cheated.
“That’s a really, really hard question,” Williams said. “And it’s harder than you would never know.”
But is it? After all, it’s fair to say that PED users indirectly took money from the pockets of non-PED users.
“In hindsight, you realize that you were in a disadvantage in all aspects of the game,” Williams said. “Maybe not the mental aspect, but certainly the physical aspect. You’re competing with people that one year you see the throwing 89, maybe 90, and then the next year all of a sudden maybe 95, 97. You see guys that are hitting maybe 13, 14, 15 home runs a year up to like 25, 30. in hindsight, I think that we should have been more vocal about it in saying, ‘This is wrong. We should do something about this because it’s affecting everybody – not only the people that are doing it but the people that maybe don’t want it and are forced to do it because of certain situations regarding their contracts and things like that.’ But it’s a really, really controversial question because it was so pervasive through my whole era. The people that did not do it like myself get thrown into (the conversation). You don’t know how much of an impact my numbers would have had if you were playing everybody on the same playing field. So it’s one of those questions that I guess time will tell.”