Retirement home: Players opt for team identity
Rodriguez the latest to choose a career-ending landing place
Whether prompted by the great debates over which caps should be featured on some players' Hall of Fame plaques, or a statements like Joe DiMaggio's "I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee," or reasons otherwise, players have been showing a desire to be identified with a team when calling it a career.
When Ivan Rodriguez formally made his retirement announcement with the Rangers on Monday, he became the third player this year to select a former team to identify with upon retirement, though he technically ended his career as a free agent.
"It was an honor to play here for 12 years and be part of an organization since day one," Rodriguez said at his news conference in Arlington. "They gave me the chance to sign back when I was a little kid in Puerto Rico."
Thirty-five-year-old Pat Burrell made his retirement official with the Phillies after signing a one-day contract earlier this month. Former All-Star Mike Cameron did the same with the Mariners. Each had a career that lasted at least 12 seasons and each suited up for at least three clubs. Neither played his final game with the team with which he officially retired.
And for Burrell, who had contracts with the Phillies, Rays and Giants, the final one -- the one-day deal -- was one that weighed heavily on his mind.
"Hesitant isn't the right word -- I just don't like to make a big deal about things," said Burrell, who played his first nine big league seasons, 2000-08, for the Phillies. "But the more I thought about it, it's the right thing to do. I was with that organization for so long, I have such good memories. You realize it's an honor, and I'm very appreciative of the fact they wanted to do this for me."
Players in other sports -- Mike Modano with the Dallas Stars of the NHL, Torry Holt with the St. Louis Rams, Jerry Rice with the San Francisco 49ers and Emmitt Smith with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL -- also signed ceremonial contracts to make their retirements more meaningful to them.
DiMaggio's sentiments -- spoken at the end of the 1949 season, on a day the Yankees honored Joltin' Joe -- came from what he described as overwhelming gratitude for the "world's greatest city" and Yankees fans.
Pudge expressed that same feeling of gratitude toward the Rangers and their fans on Monday.
"It was great moments, great times," he said. "They taught me how to play the game, to play the game the right way, to play the game hard and to play the game all the way to the end. Twenty-seven hard outs, and that's how I played the game for 21 years."
The 13-time Gold Glove Award winner, 14-time All-Star, 2003 World Series champion and 1999 American League MVP had memorable stints with the Tigers and Marlins, but he put an exclamation point on his tenure with the Rangers with Monday's fanfare.
Like Rodriguez, many players express the most gratitude to the first team they played for, or the one with which they had the most success. For Burrell, both factors applied. His time with Philadelphia culminated in a World Series title in 2008.
"I remember getting there as a young player and the teams not being very good. We were short in a lot of areas," Burrell said of his early days with the Phillies. "And then to watch it grow to what it is now and where we finished up when I was there, we went through everything -- the good, the bad. And fortunately for me, we ended on a really good note. All the players and the fans, and the organization and all the people I got to know throughout the years playing at [Veterans Stadium] -- the whole experience was just so much fun."
Cameron, who played for eight teams in a 17-year career, took a different route and retired with the third team he played for. He came up with the White Sox and had a brief stint with Cincinnati before heading to Seattle, where he played for four seasons. He was an All-Star for the Mariners in 2001, the only time he made the Midsummer Classic.
"This is probably the one place I feel like is home for me," Cameron said at a ceremony in Seattle when he officially announced his retirement. "I feel like it's a place where, it's a long way from home for me, but it's also been a special home for me. I felt like it was only fitting for me to slide my way into the Mariner family for the rest of my life."