NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Jorge Posada was watching television when he saw speculation on which teams were interested in signing him as a free agent.
“They put my face on different uniforms,” he said. “And it didn’t look good.”
He began a Yankee and ended as a Yankee, spending his entire career in pinstripes.
Flanked by his wife and children, with five World Series trophies sitting on a table to his right, the five-time All-Star catcher retired at age 40 on Tuesday after 17 major league seasons. He finished with a .273 career batting average, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBIs.
At a crowded Yankee Stadium news conference, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia were among those who watched Posada fight off tears as he sat on a dais with wife, Laura, 12-year-old son Jorge Jr. and 9-year-old daughter Paulina. It was clear the rest of the family also wanted to be Yankees lifers.
“This is so cool,” Paulina said to her dad as she picked up the cardboard in front of her seat with her name and the famous interlocking “NY” logo. “I’m going to keep this.”
Posada joins Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte in retirement, leaving only the 37-year-old Jeter and 42-year-old Rivera from the core group that led the Yankees to four World Series titles in five years from 1996-2000.
“Mariano said this is it. He says one more year. But Derek says he’s got like three more to go. So we’ll see,” Posada said, adding he didn’t expect the great closer to quit after next season.
“I don’t think about it right now. But the time will come,” Rivera said. “Definitely the time will come when I’ll have to just admit it and hang (up) the glove and the uniform and move on. We all go through that.”
Jeter, the Yankees’ captain and leader, expects to outlast Rivera.
“Mo’s still got to go first. He’s a lot older than me,” he said before adding with a laugh: “Mo’s going to be here longer than all of us.”
Shrieking at success and fuming over failure, Posada often was nuclear fission at the center of the Yankees and what became known as the Core Four. While Jeter and Rivera rarely reveal their feelings, and Pettitte does only on occasion, Posada has been a passionate open window into the Yankees, praising, strutting, venting and battling.
“We feel the same way; I’m just better at hiding it. But we feel the same way inside, and I think that’s why we’ve gotten along so well throughout the years,” said Jeter, who first played alongside Posada in the minors in 1992.
He has called him “Sado” for years, since late Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard mispronounced Posada’s name when he pinch ran for Wade Boggs in Game 2 of the 1995 AL playoffs.
In the same room where Pettitte announced his retirement 11½ months ago, select season ticket holders were invited to sit in the audience.
Posada talked with great fervor about the team that drafted him in the 24th round in 1991.
“Every time I stepped through the Yankee Stadium doors,” he began, “I quoted Joe DiMaggio and said, ‘I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.'”
“I could never wear another uniform,” he said. “I will forever be a Yankee.”
Posada’s voice broke up, especially when he spoke in Spanish about his parents. He thanked his teammates, rubbing his chin three times and wiping his eyes. He called Rivera “my brother” and praised Jeter “who helped me stay focused and positive.”
“Hopefully you won’t miss me that much,” he said.
Diana Munson, wife of the late Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, spoke admiringly of Posada, who kept a quote from her husband in his locker: “Batting fourth and being in the lineup is important, but I think the stuff I do behind the plate is more important.” One day at Yankee Stadium, Posada sat next to her and told her about his admiration for the former captain, who died in a plane crash when Posada was 7. She wound up following Posada in the box scores.
“He in fact is the one who brought me back to baseball again. After losing Thurman, I kind of lost my heart for baseball,” she said. “He plays the game I think the way Thurman played it: a lot of grittiness, lot of toughness. … I think he and Thurman would have been best buds. He definitely has the ‘it’ factor. I can’t describe it. I don’t know what it is. But I knew immediately upon meeting him that he had it, and I think the Yankee fans also have realized that, and I imagine they’re as sad today as we all are.”
She was followed by a video of fan tributes and by Lisa and Brett Niederer from Bristol, Wis. She talked about the Jorge Posada Foundation and its emotional support and financial assistance to families affected by craniosynostosis, a disease that causes bones in the skull to fuse prematurely.
Jorge Jr. has had nine operations, and Lisa Niederer was watching on television when the father and son went onto the field together during the introductions for the 2002 All-Star game. Brett, then 2½, was diagnosed with the disease around the start of that year, and they talked about the Posada family’s assistance.
“I knew we were not alone anymore,” said Lisa, who has become a mentor for the foundation.
When the focus returned to baseball, Posada recalled how he started his professional career as a shortstop, was moved to second base and was asked by the Yankees to move to catcher after the 1991 season.
“I felt like it was the worst decision ever,” he said, remembering all the passed balls he allowed while catching top draft pick Brien Taylor. “It was not a pretty sight.”
He went on to have one of the better offensive careers by a catcher. The switch-hitting Posada made the decision to retire during a season that turned tumultuous May 14 when he was batting .165 and was dropped to No. 9 in the batting order against Boston. He asked to be taken out of the lineup, saying he wasn’t ready to play.
Posada rallied to hit .268 for the rest of the season, leaving him with a .235 average, 14 homers and 44 RBIs. And then on Sept. 21, his two-run pinch-hit single beat Tampa Bay to clinch the AL East and earn another huge ovation. He hit .429 (6 for 14) in the five-game loss to Detroit in the division series.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman said that was just a blip in his career — part of Posada’s fiery disposition, the one that drew fans to him, one that he may take with him into coaching or managing — after the Yankees likely honor him with a tribute this year.
That nature caused him to tell his agents not to negotiate with other teams.
“They kept saying that people are asking about you,” Posada said. “I’m like — not interested.”
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