On Saturday, news surfaced that Jorge Posada intends to retire after 17 years in baseball. In that time, he combined two things that rarely go together. He was a longtime New York Yankee, and he was constantly underrated. Players for the game’s marquee franchise usually get at least their share of attention yet, somehow, Posada slipped through the cracks.
In honor of the recently retired catcher, let’s take a look at his career, his best and worst moments, the greatest and most significant games he played in, terrific performances he viewed, and some weird oddities he was on hand for.
One thing I should note: Normally I try to include as many playoff games as I can in these career highlight bits, but he played in 125 postseason affairs. Some notable October moments might get left out to keep this from going too long.
Sept. 4, 1995: Posada makes his big league debut, replacing starting catcher Jim Leyritz in the top of the ninth of a game the Yankees win, 13-3. It’s his only appearance at the major league level during the regular season
Oct. 4, 1995: ALDS Game Two: Though he barely played in the regular season, the Yankees still include Posada on the postseason roster. His only appearance in a postseason game occurs at a key moment. In the bottom of the 12th inning, with the Yankees trailing Seattle, 5-4, the Yankees insert Posada as a pinch runner after the aging Wade Boggs walks. Posada scores a little later, and the Yankees go on to win, 7-5, in 15 frames.
Sept. 25, 1996: In the second game of a doubleheader against Texas, Posada enters the Yankee starting lineup for the first time. He goes 1-for-4 with a run and a strikeout. His single to left off Scott Karl is Posada’s first career hit.
Sept. 11, 1997: In the fifth inning against Baltimore, Posada lays down a sacrifice bunt. In his 7,150 career PA, this is the only time he ever does that.
May 17, 1998: With Posada calling the pitches, David Wells becomes the second Yankee in history to toss a perfect game. He fans 11 Twins as New York wins, 4-0. It’s the only no-hitter Posada will ever catch.
July 17, 1998: Posada enjoys the first of 17 multi-home run games with a pair of solo shots off Seattle in a 5-3 Yankee win.
Sept. 4, 1998: Though it might be the worst game of his career, Posada has one reason to be happy when it’s over. He goes 0-for-5, tying a personal worst with five strikeouts on the day. But the Yankees triumph, 11-6, over Chicago for their 100th victory of the season. No team has ever done it so early in the year. They are 100-38 at the moment.
Sept. 20, 1998: In the top of the first in Baltimore, the Yankees notice that manning third base for the home team is someone not named Cal Ripken. After 2,632 consecutive games played, Ripken opts to end the streak on his terms. Posada and his Yankee brethren go to the top of their dugout and give Ripken a standing ovation.
Oct. 6, 1998: ALCS Game One: Posada gets his first start in a postseason game, and he makes the most of it. In his first at-bat, he smacks an RBI single, the first of 42 postseason RBIs for him. Later, he belts a solo home run, the first of 11 he hits in his playoff career. New York tops Cleveland, 7-2.
Oct. 7, 1998: ALCS Game Two: It’s not a very fun experience for Posada. With the game tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second and one out, Joe Torre calls on Posada to pinch hit for starting catcher Joe Girardi. Rather than become the hero, Posada bounces into an inning-ending double play, and the Yankees lose in extra frames. In extra innings, the winning run scores for the Indians when Yankee Chuck Knoblauch argues an interference call instead of picking up the ball.
April 30, 1999: People are cranky in Kansas City. Three thousand fans show up at Kaufmann Stadium in “$hare the Wealth” T-shirts protesting payroll disparity in baseball. The game refuses to go along with the storyline as the Royals and their $23.8 million payroll stomp the $85 million Yankee team, 13-6, as Posada goes 0-for-3 with a pair of walks.
May 7, 1999: It’s a first. Both teams start Japanese pitchers in a U.S. big league game as Seattle’s Mac Suzuki faces New York’s Hideki Irabu. The latter wins, 10-1. Posada is 1-for-2 with a pair of walks.
Aug. 22, 1999: It’s a strange way to miss the cycle. Posada homers in his first at-bat, triples in his second, and then doubles in his third. But he strikes out in his final trip to the plate and never does get that single as the Yankees top Minnesota, 5-3.
Aug. 31, 1999: As far as WPA is concerned, this is the worst day Posada ever plays. He’s 0-for-4 with a walk, but his big moment comes with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 11th when he strikes out. He scores –0.393 with WPA.
Oct. 18, 1999: ALCS Game Five: With the Yankees on top of Boston three games to one, New York wins, 6-2, to claim a second consecutive pennant. Posada points the exclamation point on the victory by smashing a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning.
Oct. 27, 1999: World Series Game Four: For the first time, Posada gets to catch the game the Yankees clinch the world title. New York completes an October sweep, topping the Braves, 4-1. Posada drives in one of the runs with a third inning single. He is behind the plate when Mariano Rivera coaxes Keith Lockhart to fly out for the final out, giving the Yankees another world title.
April 23, 2000: Jorge Posada and fellow switch hitter Bernie Williams make history, becoming the first pair of teammates to homer from each side of the plate in one game. Yankees 10, Blue Jays 7.
May 5, 2000: Stepping to the plate with two on and no outs in the bottom of the ninth with New York trailing Baltimore, 10-9, Posada belts a walk-off home run.
Sept. 8, 2000: It’s ghastly. At the end of a routine Yankee win over the Red Sox, Ryan Thompson hits a liner that smashes into the face of reliever Bryce Florie. Florie has to leave the game with a fractured cheek and broken eye socket. As it happens, Thompson is out on the play anyway. Florie will return to pitch a little in 2001, though. Posada led off the ill-fated inning and was 1-for-4 on the day.
Oct. 14, 2000: ALCS Game Four: With Posada calling all the pitches, the opposing Seattle Mariners are held to just one hit, as the Yankees romp to a 5-0 win. New York pitcher Roger Clemens fans 15. It’s the most punchouts any Yankee pitcher has ever had in a postseason game, and the most Ks any pitcher ever had in a Posada-caught game, regular or postseason.
Oct. 17, 2000: ALCS Game Six: A win gives the Yankees their third straight pennant, but early on it appears that will not happen as Seattle takes a quick 4-0 lead. Posada, however, drives in two with a bases-loaded double in the fourth inning, and the Yankees rally for a 9-7 win and the pennant.
Oct. 26, 2000: World Series Game Five: For the second year in a row, Posada is behind the plate when the Yankees clinch a world title. He was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run in the Yanks 3-1 win over the Mets.
Oct. 13, 2001: ALDS Game Three: It’s one of Posada’s shining postseason moments. With the Yankees facing elimination down two games to none against the A’s, Posada belts a solo home run in the fifth inning, and that proves to be the game’s only run.
Later on, Posada is involved in one of the most famous plays in recent Yankee history. In the seventh inning, Oakland DH Jeremy Giambi is attempting to score form first on a double, to right, when the throw to home is offline. Shortstop Derek Jeter scrambles over from the other side of the infield, gets the ball and flips it to Posada for the out to preserve the slender 1-0 lead. New York ends up taking the series in five games.
Oct. 30, 2001: World Series Game Three: With the Yankees down two games to none versus Arizona, Posada comes up big. He belts a solo homer for the Yankees as they win, 2-1.
Oct. 31, 2001: World Series Game Four: Here’s where the World Series starts to become great. The Yankees rally from a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth courtesy of a two-run Tino Martinez homer and win it the next inning on a Jeter walk-off shot. Posada comes to bat right after Martinez and draws a walk, but he doesn’t score.
Nov. 1, 2001: World Series Game Five: It’s déjà vu all over again for the Yankees. They rally to win in extra innings despite entering the bottom of the ninth trailing by two. This time, Posada kicks off the rally as he doubles to begin the ninth inning.
Nov. 4, 2001: World Series Game Seven: This time, the Diamondbacks rally in the bottom of the ninth to win the game and with it take the World Series to end one of the greatest Fall Classics ever. Posada goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
July 5, 2002: Posada connects for his 100th career home run. It’s a two-run dinger off Esteban Loaiza.
July 13, 2002: It might be the most rewarding battle of his career. Facing Cleveland’s Jake Westbrook with the bases loaded and two outs, Posada quickly falls behind, 0-2. Then he fouls off four more pitches while taking three for balls. Once in a full count, Posada knocks one over the fence for a grand slam; a nice reward for a 10-pitch at-bat.
Aug. 26, 2002: Posada is the start of a new era. Today’s 10-3 Yankee victory over the Rangers is the first ballgame to be available as streaming video on the internet. Posada goes 2-for-5 with a double.
June 11, 2003: For the first time in nearly a half-century, the Yankees are no-hit. It happens in bizarre fashion against the Astros. Starting pitcher Roy Oswalt has to leave after one frame, but five relievers hold off the Yankees for the rest of the game. Posada receives one of the three walks on the day, but obviously goes hitless.
Sept. 10, 2003: Posada has maybe his best game ever with a career-best seven RBIs by going 3-for-4 with a walk and a grand slam in New York’s 15-5 win over Detroit.
Oct. 11, 2003: ALCS Game Three: Right after Posada scores a run for New York, all hell breaks loose. After he comes home on a Hideki Matsui ground rule double in the fourth inning to give New York a 3-2 lead, Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez plunks the next batter, Karim Garcia. Benches empty and—rather memorably—aged Yankee coach Don Zimmer foolheartedly charges Martinez, who easily pushes the old man to the ground. New York holds on to win, 4-3.
Oct. 16, 2003: ALCS Game Seven: Posada, for one, approves of Boston manager Grady Little’s decision to bring Pedro Martinez out for the eighth inning and then keep him in despite allowing a pair of doubles and a single to the first four batters he faces in the frame. That allows a completely tanked Martinez to serve up an easy pitch for Posada to swat for a game-tying double. New York goes on to win the game and take the pennant on a walk-off home run by Aaron Boone.
July 1, 2004: It’s one of the greatest regular-season games in Yankee-Red Sox history, and New York wins, 5-4, in 13 innings. Most famously, Jeter makes a diving catch into the stands for a great defensive play. Posada is a key contributor to the win, going 2-for-4 with a pair of walks, double and solo home run.
Oct. 9, 2004: ALDS Game Four: The Yankees take the series from Minnesota with a 6-5 win in 11 innings in which they came back from a 5-2 deficit late in the game. For Posada, it’s a personally forgettable game as he goes 0-for-5 with three Ks. According to WPA, this is the worst postseason game of his career, as he scores a –0.319. He comes to the plate with a runner on third in the eighth and ninth innings and fans both times.
Oct. 17, 2004: ALCS Game Four: The Red Sox begin their quest to become the first team to rally from a three-games-to-none deficit in this game. Posada does his part, going 2-for-4 with a pair of walks, but Boston ties it with a run in the bottom of the ninth and wins it on a David Ortiz homer in the 12th.
Oct. 18, 2004: ALCS Game Five: Boston keeps its season alive with a late comeback and extra-inning win. Again, Posada has a nice game, going 2-for-6 with a walk, but Boston wins, 5-4.
Oct. 19, 2004: ALCS Game Six: Curt Schilling and his bloody sock holds Posada hitless as Boston wins, 4-2, to even the series. They’ll win handily the next night to clinch the pennant.
June 21, 2005: The Yankees explode for 13 runs in the eighth inning against Tampa. Posada, the ninth batter of the inning, belts a home run and a little later Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, and Hideo Matsui hit three consecutive homers. New York wins, 20-11.
Aug. 20, 2005: Posada pastes a ground-rule double off former teammate Orlando Hernandez for his 1,000th career hit.
May 16, 2006: In a wild, 13-12 win over the Rangers, Posada has what WPA deems the best game of his career. He’s 2-for-3 with a walk, a pair of sacrifices and—last but not least—a walk-off two out, two run homer in the bottom of the ninth. Posada’s WPA score is 0.930.
April 17, 2007: It’s a milestone for Posada, his 200th career home run. He knocks a two-run dinger against Cleveland’s Jake Westbrook.
May 20, 2007: The longest hitting streak of Posada’s career peaks at 15 games. He’s .473/.517/.764 during his run with seven doubles and three homers.
Aug. 4, 2007: With Posada looking from the Yankee dugout, Alex Rodriguez achieves an impressive milestone, getting his 500th career home run. Posada walks twice and scores twice as well as the Yankees enjoy a 16-8 laugher over the Royals.
Oct. 5, 2007: ALDS Game Two: New York has suffered harder losses in the postseason, but they may never have endured such a weird loss. The Indians beat them, 2-1, in extra innings, with the key moment occurring when an eighth-inning bug infestation rattles Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain, and he surrenders the game-tying run. Posada is his catcher on the night and goes hitless for New York.
Oct. 8, 2007: ALDS Game Four: In the last game Joe Torre ever manages for the Yankees, Posada is the last batter to come to the plate. Cleveland closer Joe Borowski fans him on three pitches, ending the Yankees’ season and Torre’s tenure with the team.
April 1, 2008: The Yankees set a new big league record by winning their 11th consecutive home opener as they top Tampa, 3-2. For the eighth time in that span, Posada is the starting catcher. New York will lose their next one to end the streak.
April 16, 2009: Posada becomes the first Yankee to hit a home run at the New Yankee Stadium. In debut day for the new park, Posada goes deep in the fifth inning, but that’s about it for New York as the Yanks lose badly, 10-2.
June 2, 2009: Yesterday, New York set a record by playing its 18th straight game without any of its players committing an error. Today the streak ends when Posada makes an error. Despite that, New York wins handily over Texas, 12-3.
June 20, 2009: In the third inning, hurler A.J. Burnett and backstop Posada play catch. Burnett strikes out the side against the Marlins on the bare minimum nine pitches. Florida has the last laugh, winning 2-1, though Posada scores the only Yankee run.
Aug. 31, 2009: Against Baltimore, Andy Pettitte flirts with perfection, retiring the first 20 batters before Adam Jones reaches on an error. Pettitte allows three hits but gets the win. Posada does a better job calling pitches than hitting them today, as he goes 0-for-4.
Oct. 19, 2009: ALCS Game Three: According to WPA, it’s Posada’s best postseason game ever, yet the Yankees lose anyway. In the eighth inning, with New York trailing, 4-3, Posada swats a solo homer to tie it. (Damn shame a pinch runner had just been caught stealing or New York would’ve won the game). However, California wins it in 11 frames, 5-4. Posada’s WPA: 0.258.
Nov. 4, 2009: World Series Game Six: With Posada behind the plate, the Yankees take their first World Series crown in eight years, beating the Phillies, 7-3. Posada is 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.
June 13, 2010: The old man is on a role. For the second consecutive game, Posada mashes a grand slam home run. It’s the ninth of ten such blasts in his career.
July 23, 2010: With a first-inning double, Posada joins the 1,000-RBI club. He gets another one later in the day as the Yankees steamroll the Royals, 7-1.
July 9, 2011: Derek Jeter joins the 3,000-hit club in style, going 5-for-5 with a double, stolen base, and home run. Posada isn’t nearly as effective, going 0-for-4, but the Yankees win, 5-4 over Tampa.
Aug. 25, 2011: It’s a historic game for the Yankees and an odd game for Posada. The Bronx Bombers belt a record three grand slams in one game en route to a 22-8 beating of the A’s. With their huge lead, the Yankees get creative and in the ninth inning call on Posada, who had the day off, to play second base. It’s the only time he plays that position.
Sept. 28, 2011: The last regular-season game of Posada’s career is one of baseball’s greatest regular-season contests. New York plays Tampa, and the latter needs a win to hopefully clinch the AL wild card. Early on, it looks impossible as the Yankees hold a 7-0 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. Then Tampa rallies furiously for a stunning 8-7 win in 12 innings. Posada didn’t start but enters the game later as designated hitter to rest starting player Robinson Cano. Posada is 0-for-3 with a walk.
Oct. 2, 2011: ALDS Game Two: In the bottom of the ninth with the Tigers comfortably ahead of the Yankees, 40-year-old Jorge Posada, in his 481st career postseason PA, gets his first October triple. He only has 10 regular-season ones. New York loses anyway.
Oct. 6, 2011: ALDS Game Five: The Yankees lose to Detroit, 3-2, and with it ends Posada’s career. He’s 2-for-4 with a strikeout, and in his last at-bat grounds out.