A fan favorite since he came up to the Yankees in 1991, Bernie Williams repeatedly was applauded on the overcast afternoon by the sellout crowd of 55,136 yesterday at Yankee Stadium, which raised New York's home total to an AL-record 4,090,696.

The 37-year-old center fielder, whose production has declined the past three years, can become a free agent after the season and may have played his last regular season game in New York.

On the facing of the second deck was a large sign: "BOSS: BRING BERNIE BACK." Fans in the right field bleachers gave him a standing ovation as the game began, starting their roll call with a repeated chant of "Bernie! Bernie!" until he raised his right hand in acknowledgment.

When the Yankees began the bottom of the eighth, fans chanted his name. Sitting in the dugout, Williams wasn't sure what to do and turned to Manager Joe Torre for advice before walking up the steps for a curtain call.

"I was trying to make sure I was within protocol within the team, and trying not to disturb anybody," said Williams, who went 1 for 4 with a single. "They were not going to stop, so I sort of looked at Joe and said, 'Can I do this?' and he said, 'Yes.' It was a great moment, and I appreciate it a lot."

The Yankees drew their 43rd home sellout and averaged 50,502 fans for their 81 scheduled home dates. New York, which finishes with six games on the road, topped the 4,057,947 drawn by the Blue Jays at SkyDome in 1993, the second of Toronto's consecutive World Series championship years. The major league record of 4,483,350 was set by the Rockies at Denver's Mile High Stadium in 1993, the Rockies' first season.

* HARD-LUCK LOSS: Indians CF Grady Sizemore lost Paul Phillips's deep fly in the sun in the ninth inning yesterday afternoon, allowing Angel Berroa to score the winning run for the Royals.

"I saw it. It was right at me," Sizemore said softly after the game. "It just got in the sun. I knew it was going to be in the sun. I tried to wait for it to come out and I just never saw it."

Earlier, Cleveland 1B Ben Broussard was credited with a double in the fourth inning when Kansas City LF Terrence Long lost his high fly in the bright sun.

-- From News Services

Yankees' Bernie Williams, who may not be back next year, responds to the cheers in New York.