Andy Pettitte and 10 Other Baseball Players Who Unretired
Baseball fans were surprised on Friday by the announcement that former New York Yankees’ pitcher Andy Pettitte, who retired last year, would be returning to the team on a one-year contract, even though he’s coming up on his 40th birthday in the spring. However, Pettitte isn’t the first player who left the game only to return. Here’s a look back at how some other players fared when they headed back to the diamond.
Ramirez signed with the Oakland A’s this off-season as part of his hope to get back to the Majors. He abruptly retired during the 2011 campaign after he was suspended for 50 games for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy a second time. When he joins Oakland, he’s expected to compete for the DH spot in their lineup. He hit his first home run in an exhibition game last week.
Clemens left the game in 2003 as one of the greatest pitchers ever to play the game. But he couldn’t stay away for long, returning to play for the Astros in 2006, before heading back to the Yankees for his last season. His final season stats? 6–6 record with a 4.18 ERA. Next month, he will also be returning to court to face a federal perjury trial after being indicted in 2010. It’s all based on his 2008 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform when he denied using PEDs.
It wasn’t much of a real attempt to prove what he could still do, but in 1965 Satchel Paige came out of retirement to pitch a game for the 1965 Kansas City A’s. He was 59 years old at the time, by far the oldest man ever to play a Major League game. He pitched three innings giving up only one hit and no runs. Because Paige pitched in the Negro Leagues, there’s no way to know exactly how many games the pitcher started in his career, but it’s his last one that remains his most famous.
It took Jim Palmer a while to decide on making his comeback with the Orioles in 1991, seven years after he last pitched in the big leagues. He’d actually been inducted into the Hall of Fame the year before. But he never made it all the way back, hanging up his cleats after just two innings during spring training. He quickly realized that the game was something he had long left behind.
Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean spent his post-career years in the broadcasting booth for the St. Louis Browns, but couldn’t help but be critical of the poor play he was seeing on the field below. He could be heard saying, ”Doggone it, I can pitch better than nine out of the 10 guys on this staff!” So the Browns decided to see if that was true and asked Dean, then 37, to suit up for the final game of the 1947 season. The Browns manager protested the stunt by refusing to manage that day. Dean pitched three innings before pulling a muscle and removing himself from the game.
He was the man who would never leave. Ricky Henderson finally retired in 2003 but could be found soon afterwards staging a comeback with the Newark Bears of the Independent League and the San Diego Surf Dawgs of the Golden Baseball League. “Sure, Rickey has never officially retired, but he’s still been trying to make a comeback to the major leagues, which he has yet to do,” says Bleacher Report.
After the 1993 season, Sandberg decided he’d had enough. But he came back with the Cubs for the 1996 and 1997 seasons, some believe, just to break Joe Morgan’s record for home runs by a second baseman, a mark he was able to reach before his second retirement. He batted just .244 in his second go-around. Sandberg was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Conigliaro is most famous for the eye injuries he sustained after a 1967 beaning that led to his retirement in 1971. He couldn’t stay out for long, though, coming back to the league three years later as a DH. The Red Sox kept him until mid-June. He hit .123 with two homers and nine RBIs in 21 games. After the club tried to send him down to the minors, Conigliaro retired again.
Minnie Minoso retired in 1964, but he returned in 1976 to play three games for the White Sox at age 50. Then, in 1980, he came back again, briefly. In addition to playing games in four different decades, Minoso is remembered for his seven All-Star appearances. “Minoso is one of baseball’s great pioneers, a trailblazer for Latin American players in the big leagues and one of the best outfielders and game-disrupters of his generation,” said the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers in December.
Troy Percival made a name for himself as an Angels’ closer, but he resurrected his career with the Cardinals in 2007. From there, the Rays gave him a chance to prove his worth, though he only lasted 14 games for the Rays in 2009 before retiring for good. From there, he turned to coaching, even helping the Angels out. ”Right now, I love what I’m doing. I didn’t even know spring training games had started until I saw something in the paper the other day,” he said in 2010.