There’s been a lot of talk this week about Ken Griffey, Jr., and the potential (sad) end to his career. Considering the way the club has circled the wagons since the “he couldn’t pinch-hit because he was asleep” story broke, his possible retirement or release might not be as eminent as was originally thought – though you never know with these things. Whatever the case, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit this post – Sometimes the End is Unexpected – I wrote last summer as Tom Glavine was unceremoniously dumped from the game. It turns out Glavine and Griffey aren’t the only sure Hall of Famers with less-than-glamorous ends to their careers. Who knew?
Since 1979, when Willie Mays was elected into the Hall of Fame (with 94.7% of the vote), there have been 31 Hall of Famers selected on their first ballot. Many of these players were able to retire under their own terms, but not all of them. Like Tom Glavine this week, or even Sammy Sosa two years ago, more than a few recent first-ballot Hall of Famers played their last game with no idea that it would be their final appearance in a Major League Game.
With the uncertainty left in Tom Glavine’s career – and with Sammy Sosa’s “retirement” speech earlier this week giving us yet another reminder of how sudden the end can come – I thought it might be interesting to look at how other Hall of Famers ended their careers.
On September 30, 1984, Joe Morgan ended his career as an Oakland Athletic, his fourth team in five years, when he was lifted for a pinch-runner after doubling in the 1st inning. From the AP report the next day:
“Baseball veteran Joe Morgan ended his career without fanfare, or even a farewell, as he slipped out of the ballpark while the A’s closed their season with an 8-2 win over Kansas City.After a first-inning double Sunday, he left the field to a standing ovation from 23,028 fans. His action spoke louder than words, because Morgan made no statement following the game.”
“Seaver was forced to leave the game after four innings with a pulled calf muscle.‘I’ll probably miss my next start,’ said Seaver, who allowed three runs on five hits, walked two, and struck out one. ‘I felt something give, but I stayed on for the next out and maybe I shouldn’t have.’”
“Tom Seaver, convinced that he cannot pitch with the old command at the age of 42 after a nine-month layoff, will appear in Shea Stadium at noon today to announce the end of his three-week comeback and his 20-year career.…Seaver reached his decision after pitching four dull innings in a simulated game at Shea Saturday, a performance that he described as ”so-so and mediocre.” He also said it marked ”no improvement” over his first two appearances. ”The bottom line is I’m not pleased with the way I’m throwing,” he said.”
“The crowd of 9,846, sensing in the Athletics’ final home game that Jackson’s appearance would be his last, gave him a standing ovation when he left the dugout to warm up in the on-deck circle.
Before batting, Jackson waved his helmet to the crowd as the fans began the familiar chant of “Reggie, Reggie.” After his single up the middle on an 0-and-2 pitch from Ed Vande Berg, Jackson left for a pinch-runner to another ovation. When the crowd persisted for more than a minute, Jackson returned and blew kisses to the fans.
‘This was my last at-bat,” said Jackson, 41. “I’d like to be around next year, but it won’t be as a player.’”
“Steve Carlton, one of the best left-handers in baseball history and who was the winningest active pitcher in the major leagues, was released Wednesday by the Minnesota Twins.Carlton, 43, the only pitcher in baseball history to win four Cy Young awards, was 0-1 this year. He has a career record of 329-244.In 9 innings this season, he allowed 20 hits, 18 earned runs and five homers. His earned-run average was 16.76.…“It’s never easy to release a baseball player, no matter who he is, but particularly someone with Hall of Fame credentials,” said MacPhail, who is eight years younger than Carlton.”
“The only melancholy note in all of this was that Sunday marked the end of Dave Winfield’s timeless career. What made it melancholy – rather than part of the celebration – was Winfield’s refusal to acknowledge this was it after 23 big-league seasons.Saturday, there was a postgame news conference in which the usually silent Albert Belle talked of hitting his 50th home run. The reporters in attendance had been told there would also be a Winfield news conference.The assumption was Winfield, who turns 44 Tuesday, would be announcing his retirement. Not so. Winfield wanted to express his disappointment at being left off Cleveland’s 25-player postseason roster.Retirement? His 1995 numbers – two home runs, four RBI, seven extra-base hits and a .191 average in 115 at-bats – were not enough to convince Winny to take the hint. “I have no comment right now on my future plans,” he said. “I will address those at a later time.”"
“With the game on the line in the ninth inning Saturday afternoon, and left-handed hitters Brett Butler, Nelson Liriano and Wayne Kirby on the bench, Dodger Manager Bill Russell called on Eddie Murray to face Colorado right-hander Jerry Dipoto.The 41-year-old Murray, a 21-year veteran, grounded into a double play on a check swing to end the game.Against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, Murray came up with one out in the 10th inning and the bases loaded and grounded into a double play. The Giants went on to win in the 12th.But Russell isn’t about to second-guess his decision to use Murray Saturday.“Eddie is our best hitter in that situation,” Russell said. “You’re talking about a Hall of Famer. He’s been in these situations many times. You know you could get a ground ball and a double play, but that’s not what we sent him up there for.”
“Dennis Eckersley set a major league record with his 1,071st career pitching appearance, breaking a tie with Hoyt Wilhelm. The Boston reliever got a standing ovation as he ran in from the bullpen to pitch the ninth, then gave up Surhoff’s second homer of the game and 22d of the year.”
“The Devil Rays got the tying run to third in the ninth when Mike Jackson walked Wade Boggs and made a fielding error on Jose Guillen’s bunt, but Jackson got the pinch-hitter Terrell Lowery on a game-ending grounder for his 30th save.”
“‘This means I’m officially retired as a player,” he said. “I’m going to share my knowledge with the kids and let them go out and do the playing, and let me sit back and help them accomplish their goals.’…‘I haven’t submitted retirement papers to MLB,” Henderson joked, “but I think MLB already had them.’”