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Former Devil Ray Gerald Williams dies of cancer

The outfielder spent an eventful 1 1/2 seasons in Tampa Bay, but played most of his career with the Yankees.
Gerald Williams, right, played for the then-Devil Rays in 2000 and part of 2001 during his 14-season big-league career.
Gerald Williams, right, played for the then-Devil Rays in 2000 and part of 2001 during his 14-season big-league career. [ SCOTT AUDETTE | Associated Press (2001) ]
Published Feb. 8, 2022|Updated Feb. 8, 2022

Former Rays outfielder Gerald Williams died Tuesday after a battle with cancer, close friend Derek Jeter announced.

Williams, 55, played for the then-Devil Rays in 2000 and part of 2001 during his 14-season big-league career. He started with the Yankees, coming up for the first time in 1992 before being traded to Milwaukee in August 1996, then going back to the Yankees in 2001 after being released that June by the Rays.

Two things stood out from Williams’ stay in Tampa Bay:

• He homered on the first pitch he saw as a Ray, leading off the 2000 season opener at Minnesota against Tampa product Brad Radke.

• He started a big brawl with the Red Sox on Aug. 29, 2000, when he stared at, then aggressively charged the mound after being hit on the left wrist by Pedro Martinez in the first inning, pushing and then punching the future Hall of Famer in the jaw.

(Martinez recovered to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning, allowing a single to John Flaherty. That added to a wild night at Tropicana Field that included a second brawl, the ejection of eight Rays and the threat of post-game trouble as Williams and teammates Robert Smith and Greg Vaughn waited in the tunnel outside the clubhouses for Martinez, but eventually left without incident.)

Williams hit .255 with 85 home runs and 106 stolen bases in his career, including a six-hit game as a Yankee on May 1, 1996, He also was known for making a great running catch to preserve Tampa native Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter for the Yankees later that month.

Williams, nicknamed Ice, became friends with Jeter as they came up through the Yankees system and they remained close, and spent at least some offseasons in Tampa, where Jeter also lived.

“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 said Tuesday in a statement.

Williams, per the New York Times, served last year as general manager of the Tampa Bay Titans men’s basketball team in the independent professional The Basketball League.

The Devil Rays' Gerald Williams, right, knocks Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez back with a punch after being hit by a first-inning pitch, which led to a bench-clearing brawl.
The Devil Rays' Gerald Williams, right, knocks Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez back with a punch after being hit by a first-inning pitch, which led to a bench-clearing brawl. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | Associated Press (2000) ]
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