Former Grambling, MLB player passes away

By T. Scott Boatright

Former Grambling State and MLB outfielder Gerald Williams died Tuesday morning at the age of 55 following a battle with cancer.
Williams’ illness hadn’t been made public and his death was announced on Twitter by Williams’s former New York Yankees teammate Derek Jeter.
“Gerald Williams passed away this morning after a battle with cancer. 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,” Jeter’s tweet read.

Williams, a native of LaPlace, right outside of New Orleans, and an East St. John High School graduate, played for Grambling in 1986 and ’87, totaled 102 hits in 287 at bats (.355) in 89 games played for the G-Men, including 20 doubles, six triples and 18 home runs and was also successful in 28 of 32 stolen base attempts at GSU.

Nicknamed “Ice” and was known for his speed and defensive play in the outfield, Williams also pitched for Grambling as a freshman, starting eight games and going 5-2 with 31 strikeouts and a 4.30 ERA.

“I had a good connection with the East St. John coach, so I had a good pipeline of players from there back then and Gerald was one of them,” said Wilbert Ellis, Williams’ college coach at GSU. “He was a hard worker, could hit and had great speed and throwing range. He always wanted to win.”
A 15th-round selection of the New York Yankees in the 1987 MLB Draft, Williams worked his way up through the Minor Leagues before making his MLB debut with the Yankees on Sept. 15, 1992.

After that brief stint Williams was sent back down to the minor leagues for a majority of the 1993 season before being called back up to the Yankees in late 1993. 

Williams played 14 years in the major leagues, spending a total of seven years with the Yankees, but also playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets and Florida Marlins. 

Despite all his moves, Williams knew the decisions weren’t personal but simply part of the game.

“When I was released, I no longer had a team so it gave me freedom,” Williams told the St. Petersburg Times after being released by the Devil Rays in June of 2001. “Most people would look at it a different way, but I felt free. It gave me an opportunity once again to select something that would be best for me, so in an odd sort of way I kind of almost get what I want, huh?”

Williams would soon re-sign with the Yankees for two seasons before moving on to the Marlins and Mets to close out his MLB career.

Over that 14 year pro career Williams, who was nicknamed “Ice” and was known for his speed and defensive play in the outfield, batted .355 with 85 homers while being successful on 106 of 163 stolen base attempts.

“We lost a great one today,” Ellis said. “It’s a sad day.”

Eddie Robinson III, GSU graduate and namesake of his grandfather, legendary Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson, worked for the Yankees for eight years and was a friend of Williams.

“He was already in the Yankees organization when I started working there and when I joined he kind of took me under his wing and helped show me the ropes,” Robinson III said. “And a little later, when Jeter joined the Yankees, Gerald took him under his wings, too.

“The thing I will always remember about Gerald is that smile … that infectious smile. He had a smile that always lit up the room.”