Bronx, N.Y., January 24, 2012 – Jorge Posada made it official Tuesday morning, announcing his retirement as he sat with his family in front of a crowd of worshippers at Yankee Stadium. Team officials, players, ex-players, broadcasters, members of the press and, most important of all, a group of his most passionate fans listened to Posada explain what his 21 years toiling in the franchise, 17 of them in the big leagues, has meant to him, and how bringing it all to a graceful conclusion makes him feel.
There were honorary guests aplenty, but none who spoke more poignantly than Diana Munson, widow of one-time Yankee Captain Thurman Munson, who perished in a plane crash more than 32 years ago. Understandably off baseball following that tragic event, Diana related how a young Yankee catcher had convinced her in 1997 how important a place Thurman’s memory and the respect the late Bombers catcher held for the game played in his career. The Yankee widow, explaining how she thinks Jorge and Thurman would have been “best buds,” attributed her return to the game, to once again checking the boxscores, to “[having] loved two Yankee catchers in my life.”
Following a moving tribute to the retiring Yankee backstop from a member of the Jorge Posada Foundation, dedicated to helping children stricken with Craniosynistosis, as young son Jorge Jr. was, a number of longtime season ticket fans gave voice to the love and respect they have for Posada, acknowledging how lucky they feel to have witnessed him and a few of his decade-plus teammates not only play together before them, but at such a high level. Jorge played on five world championship teams, and his team made the playoffs every year he has played but one.
In the Q-and-As that followed and in post-announcement interviews Jorge acknowledged that it hasn’t always been easy, citing a 1994 broken leg, and feeling that he lost his catching job in 2011 without ever being given a chance to compete for it, but the confident husband and father of two insisted that at no time since he first was signed by the pinstripers did he ever feel he would not make it. He credited his father with being his main inspiration.
A number of career highlights were mentioned and shown, including his first career hit in 1996, his initial home run (of 275) in 1997, his grab and tag out at the plate after Derek Jeter’s great “flip” in the 2001 ALDS, his game-tying double in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, his having hit the first home run in new Yankee Stadium in 2009, grand slams on back-to-back days in 2010, and a key two-run single in one of the two games the Yanks won in the recent 2011 ALDS.
My favorite Jorge highlight came in the old Stadium in May 2006. In a game where the Yanks trailed the Texas Rangers 10-1 in the third inning, Posada followed up three separate rbi at bats with a loud fourth one: blasting a two-out, two-run home run that carried the team all the way back to a 14-13 victory. It was my favorite Jorge walkoff.
Until today. Walk off proudly, Jorge. You are a champion in every sense of the word.
Screen grabs of live stream of press conference via YES Network/MLB