It's become a neat footnote in Yankees history that Andy Pettitte was already thinking about retirement back when Bernie Williams was insisting he could still play center field.
Who would have guessed that Pettitte would hold his farewell news conference before Williams made it to the podium? Not Pettitte, who incredulously asked on Friday, "Bernie never retired?"
More than four years after his last at-bat in a Major League game, the 42-year-old Williams finally sounds ready to acknowledge that his playing career is complete.
"I think one of these days I'm going to make it official," Williams said. "It's redundant, but after five years, I think I'm pretty much done."
It was 17 minutes and 30 seconds after Pettitte began speaking to a packed room of reporters at Yankee Stadium when Williams took his assigned seat two rows from the stage, drawing laughter as Pettitte acknowledged him in mid-sentence.
"Always strolling in a little late," Pettitte said.
As Williams listened to his former teammate expound on the reasons why he won't be wearing a big league uniform in 2011, Williams said he didn't regret not having a day like this one to say goodbye.
"I think I still have an opportunity to do it, and I think I probably will do it at some point, probably this year, just to get it out of the way," Williams said.
"It's more than that -- I think once you have that introspective look, it doesn't really have to be in front of everybody. You can have it in your house. You can have it with your family, you can have it with your friends."
When Williams does finally take the opportunity to make his retirement official, he said that the circumstances will be much different than Pettitte's, because so much time has passed.
As much as I can appreciate the business aspect of baseball, it was difficult to see Williams all but forced out of the picture. I realize that he was a shell of his former self for the last four or so years of his career, and I wouldn't want the Yankees to designate a roster spot for a player too stubborn to give it up - I suppose I just want to see a player call it a career on his own terms.
I expect that Williams, like Pettitte, will one day have his number retired by the Yankees - an honor that both deserve ... though it will be comical to see Yankees players wearing triple digits sometime in the 2030s or so.