Jorge Posada was a 24th-round draft pick and an infielder when he became a Yankee in 1990. Two decades later, he was a catcher mentioned among Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Thurman Munson in Yankee lore.
On Tuesday at a packed Yankee Stadium press conference, Posada officially announced his retirement, ending a 17-year Yankee career that featured five World Series Championships.
Flanked by his wife Laura and two children on the podium, Posada started welling up with tears moments into his opening statement when he declared he could never play elsewhere, despite a five-year offer from the Mets after the 2007 season and the possibility of going elsewhere for this season.
“I could never wear another uniform,” Posada said. “I will forever be a Yankee.”
“It says a lot that he didn’t go anywhere else,” Derek Jeter said. “It shows you that he wanted to finish his career here.”
Posada delivered those words to the most crowded press conference at the new stadium and to a crowd that included Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera, manager Joe Girardi, pitcher CC Sabathia and former coach Willie Randolph. While thanking his numerous teammates, Posada pointed at Jeter and said:
“Thank you, buddy. Hopefully, you won’t miss me too much.”
None of those men took the podium, but after Posada’s opening statement, Diana Munson, Thurman Munson’s widow, spoke. She had stopped watching baseball after her husband perished in a 1979 plane crash in Ohio, but Posada’s style brought her back to the game after so many years away.
Posada was often compared with Munson and while Munson’s locker at old Yankee Stadium was next to Jeter’s, Posada kept the following Munson quote for inspiration and had the 2009 biography in his locker.
“He said, ‘Batting fourth and being in the lineup is important, but I think the stuff I do behind the plate is more important,’
“I think he and Thurman would have been best buds,” Munson said.
Posada’s 17-year career ends with his 1,574 games caught behind only Dickey and Berra for most as a Yankee. He also is one of five catchers with 1,500 hits, 350 doubles, 275 home runs and 1,000 RBI; the others are Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk and Ivan Rodriguez and the first three are Hall of Famers.
“When you’re building a base team, you’ve got to do it up the middle,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “He’s been a backbone for our team for a long time. He always played with passion, always an offensive guy and made him into a good defensive catcher for a long time.”
His best seasons were 2003, when he batted .281 with 30 home runs and 101 RBI, and 2007, when he batted .338 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI while catching 138 games as a 36-year-old.
That season earned him a four-year contract that saw Posada’s first stints on the DL, including 2008 when he caught just 30 games due to shoulder injuries. The next year, he caught 100 games while batting .285 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI, but the last two he batted .230 while struggling to adjust to being a designated hitter.
Posada’s final moment as a Yankee occurred during the disappointing five-game division series loss to the Tigers that ended with a 3-2 defeat on Oct. 6. Posada led the Yankees with a .429 average and grew emotional in the clubhouse afterwards as he sensed it was the last go-around for him in pinstripes.
“I got really emotional because I knew it was going to be really tough for me to come back,” Posada said. “I knew it was going to be tough for me to play baseball. Had the idea to go somewhere else, but it wasn’t in me. I knew in my heart and knew in my head that I didn’t want to play anymore.”
The emotional scene in the back of the vast clubhouse ended a somewhat trying year for Posada. He took himself out of the lineup in May after being penciled in as the ninth-place hitter and then saw his playing time, especially against lefties reduced before a nationally televised August game in Boston.
In spite of those moves, Posada’s final season was not all bad for a 40-year-old. Despite a .235 average, Posada batted .269 against right-handed pitching and his .814 OPS off those pitchers ranked 25th in the AL (with at least 300 at-bats), but his numbers off lefties were awful as he went 6-for-65.
“Hitting right-handed, I felt like something was wrong,” Posada said. “For sure, something was wrong with my swing right-handed. I can still hit left-handed, there’s no question about it. I feel like I can. I felt like, toward the end, I wasn’t given a chance to do it to come out of the slump right-handed, but I felt good left-handed all year. Things didn’t happen for me the way I wanted them to, but I don’t think that was the reason for my decision.”
In theory, Posada could have been the designated hitter against right-handed pitching this year, especially after the trade that sent prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Michael Pineda. That deal occurred about a week after reports surfaced about Posada’s retirement and that did not seem to sway him towards playing.
“Getting prepared for the season wasn’t there,” he said. “I wasn’t working out. It was a long season and I didn’t want to go through it.”
Posada’s next career in baseball is unknown, but this summer he will be spending it with his children. He did say that he would like to coach at some point, but for now his baseball career is over with a packed house at the new stadium’s press conference room.
Notable Games in Posada’s career
Sept. 25, 1996 — The Yankees clinched their first division title since 1981 with a 19-2 victory over the Brewers in the opener of a doubleheader. In the nightcap, Posada gets his first career hit, a sixth-inning single off Scott Karl.
May 4, 1997 — Jim Converse of the Kansas City Royals becomes the answer to a trivia question when Posada hits his first home run in a 13-5 win at Kansas City. It also was Posada’s first career three-hit game.
May 17, 1998 — There were several highlights for Posada and the Yankees during their 114-win regular season. One of the significant moments was Posada being behind the plate for David Wells’ perfect game. In his first year as the full-time catcher, Posada is behind the plate as Wells strikes out 11 Minnesota Twins in a 4-0 victory that drew a nearly packed house due to the Beanie Baby promotion.
Oct. 13, 2001 — The Yankees went to Oakland one game away from elimination in the AL Division Series, but Jorge Posada helped extend the series with his bat and glove. His home run off Barry Zito was the lone run of Game 3 and then he helped complete the famous Derek Jeter flip play by tagging out Jeremy Giambi.
Oct. 16, 2003 — The Yankees were five outs away from losing to the Red Sox, but in the eighth inning the bats came alive off Pedro Martinez. Posada was at the center of it. He provided the game-tying double in the eighth inning, a ball that was a bloop hit into center field. It set up Aaron Boone’s home run in the 11th and also precipitated Grady Little’s firing.
May 17, 2006 — The Yankees win a wild 14-13 game over the Texas Rangers, coming back from nine runs without three key hitters. Posada withstands a violent collision with future teammate Mark Teixeira in the sixth and then hits the game-winning, two-run home run in the ninth that matches the biggest comeback in team history.
Sept. 20, 2008 — A shoulder injury kept Posada from playing in the final game at Yankee Stadium against the Orioles. His contribution to the memorable night is catching the ceremonial first pitch from Babe Ruth’s granddaughter, Julia Ruth Stevens.
April 16, 2009 — The home opener at the new stadium was a disappointing 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Posada, though, hit the first home run with a solo shot to straightaway center field off Cliff Lee.
Oct. 11, 2009 — The Yankees close out the Metrodome with a 4-1 win over the Twins. Posada’s role in completing the division series sweep is hitting the go-ahead home run off Carl Pavano.
Nov. 1, 2009 — The Yankees move within one game of their first championship since 2000 with a stirring 7-4 victory over the Phillies. The game is best remembered for Johnny Damon’s instincts on the bases, but Posada contributed to the three-run rally with a two-run single off Brad Lidge.
June 13, 2010 — For the second straight day, Posada hit a grand slam in the fifth inning of a 9-5 win over the Houston Astros. The significance of the hit is that it marked the second straight game with a grand slam, something only Dickey accomplished for the Yankees in 1937.
Aug. 13, 2011 — Six days after being benched by Girardi, Posada returned with a vengeance against the Tampa Bay Rays. In a 9-2 victory, Posada slugged a grand slam and drove in six runs on the same day that Jeter was honored for reaching 3,000 hits.
Sept. 21, 2011 – Pinch hitting for Montero in the eighth inning of a 2-2 game, Posada gets the two-run single in the eighth inning that gives the Yankees their 17th divisional title. The moment is so profound for the Yankees that Jeter is seen standing on the top step with a wide smile and raised hands to celebrate the hit.
What they’re saying around the game on Twitter about Posada
Sad to see Jorge retire, a great friend and teammate. It won’t be the same without him in the locker room.
Just left the press conference for a great player but even greater friend and teammate Jorge Posada! U will be missed.
Jorge Posada, Thank you! Enough said!
Today is a bittersweet day in Yankee History. Its sad to see my friend whose taught so much on and off the field
Torii Hunter (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim):
I just want to say it was a honor competing against Posada for all this years. God bless him and his family in the next chapter of his life.
Kerry Wood (Chicago Cubs):
Congrats to #20 Jorge Posada. Awesome career, I was honored to throw to him for 2 months.
Jermaine Dye (retired outfielder; Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals):
Just wanna say congrats to Jorge posada on a gr8 career. Enjoyed playing against and talking to great guy.
Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles):
Great career by Posada. My best memory I that everytime I get in the box he tells the ump that Jamie Foxx is hitting. I always laughed
David Aardsma (Seattle Mariners):
Congrats on the retirement to Jorge Posada. AMAZING career!
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.