Andy Pettitte joins ‘can’t hang it up’ club

Remember when Roger was just a pitcher?

The list of athletes who couldn’t stay retired often seems longer than the list of ones who could.

NFL running backs Barry Sanders and Jim Brown often get as much love for retiring, and staying retired, as they do for their Hall of Fame careers.

Everyone knows about Brett Favre’s will he or won’t he dance over the years. Now you can add Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte, who unretired this weekend, to a list that includes some duds and some successes. Metro looks at players to have done it in MLB. 

Ryne Sandberg
(1981-’94, ’96-’97)

The Cubs second baseman gets bonus points for unretiring to rub a record in the face of Joe Morgan, the bane of broadcasters’ existence.

Sandberg retired from the Cubs early in the 1994 season. After back-to-back .300 seasons, the future Hall of Famer hit just .238 in his first 57 games of 1994. He walked away at 34 years old, later saying he “lost the desire” to play the game.

He gained the desire back after a year and a half, restarting his career again with the Cubs in 1996. He likely didn’t come back expressly to break Joe Morgan’s record for home runs by a second baseman, but he did and the two have always feuded.

Roger Clemens

(1984-2007)

Looking at Clemens’s biography you might think he just missed a little time in 2007.
Yankees fans can give you 28 million reasons why you are wrong.

The 44-year-old Clemens decided to come back mid-season in 2007 after hanging them up at the end of 2006. (He had done the same the previous year with Houston, but he hadn’t officially retired. And he had officially retired in 2003, but never sat out any games.)

Next May, he made a surprise appearance in the Yankee Stadium owners’ booth, got on the microphone, and announced he would be returning to the Yankees for a pro-rated $28 million.

Clemens wasn’t nearly worth the money (even pro-rated). He was 6-6 in 17 starts with a 4.18 ERA.

Yogi Berra

(1946-’63, ’65)

Usually when you retire to become a manager, you don’t come back to play. But not much about Berra was usual.

Berra took over the reins as Yankees manager in 1963 after two straight seasons of seeing little playing time. But his tenure last just one year as Ralph Houk fired Berra after the team lost in the World Series.

Berra moved to the crosstown Mets and played just four games in 1965.

Dave Stieb
(1979-’93, ’98)

For strange trivia, Stieb’s return after four years is up there. He retired in 1993 after just four starts due to back injuries. Then he did the same thing Andy Pettitte did this spring with the Yankees. Stieb decided to come back to throw batting practice to his former team, the Blue Jays. As it turned out, he was feeling pretty good.

Stieb joined the team for the 1998 season at 40 years old.

Success stories

Baseball’s unretired success stories have been few, but across all sports some
players have had success. MLB’s Manny Ramirez and the NFL’s Randy Moss are about to test their success, just like Andy Pettitte will be in the Bronx.
   
Michael Jordan (NBA)
We’re talking about his first comeback from retirement, not second. After playing baseball for two years, Jordan returned and won three more titles.
   
Kim Clijsters (tennis)
After retiring suddenly in 2007 (and having a child), she returned in 2009 and has won two U.S. Opens and an Australian Open since.
   
Sugar Ray Leonard (boxing)
Leonard retired just about every fight for a time, but his famous return to fight Marvin Hagler resulted in a split-decision win in one of the greatest fights ever.


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