Willie Hawkins was a baseball player for the New York Giants in 1953. As the lone Negro on the team, he was admired by the people of the largely black Harlem neighborhood, but to most whites of the time, he was, as he remarked, "just another colored man that can hit a curveball."
Willie Hawkins was part of Benjamin Sisko's visions from the Prophets and the Pah-wraiths. He had pursued Cassie, Benny Russell's wife-to-be, at some point and often hit on her, only half-jokingly. (DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars")
Willie Hawkins was portrayed by Michael Dorn. The role of Hawkins was Dorn's only appearance without prosthetic makeup. Although there was no real Willie Hawkins, the character is probably based on the similarly named Willie Mays, who played for the Giants from 1951-1971 but ironically not in 1953 as he was serving in the military during the latter stages of the Korean War. In one of Sisko's early visions in the episode, when he sees Hawkins on Deep Space 9, his uniform number, 42, is the inversion of Mays' number; it was also the number of Jackie Robinson, the first "Negro" player in Major League Baseball. Also he says that, in a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, he "robbed Snider of a tater [home run]." This is likely Duke Snider, an outfielder with the Dodgers who played at the same time as Mays and was a major rival.
In the episode "In the Cards" from the previous season, Jake Sisko and Nog make a series of increasingly complicated trades to acquire a Willie Mays trading card for Jake's father, a diehard baseball fan. Thus, Mays already had an important tie to Captain Sisko, and one could reason that Sisko imagined Hawkins as an incarnation of Mays.