10 baseball greats who didn’t finish their final seasons

When Alex Rodriguez announced on Sunday that he’ll play his final game on Friday and transition into a special adviser role for the New York Yankees, it was far from the first time an iconic baseball player quit before season’s end.

Here are 10 other times it’s happened:

1. Babe Ruth

Final game: May 30, 1935

Ruth’s career didn’t end with him blasting three home runs on May 25, 1935. As recounted in Robert Creamer’s classic Ruth biography, the Bambino played a handful more games before getting in a fight on June 2 with Boston Braves owner Emil Fuchs over not being allowed to attend a reception for the ocean liner Normandie, which had just set the record for quickest Transatlantic voyage. Ruth quit that day.

2. Ken Griffey Jr.

Final game: May 31, 2010

Seventy-five years and one day after Ruth played his last game, Griffey bowed out, going 0-for-1 as a ninth inning pinch hitter in Seattle.

3. Steve Carlton

Final game: April 23, 1988

If only Carlton had retired after the 1984 season. His numbers thereafter: 16-37 with a 5.21 ERA, as he bounced among several teams. After the Minnesota Twins released him on April 28, 1988, friend and former teammate Jim Kaat said, “Steve still thinks he can pitch in the big leagues. I’m sure he’ll go home and make calls to other teams.” But that was it.

4. Mike Schmidt

Final game: May 28, 1989

Schmidt’s body broke down toward the end of his career, though he didn’t want to stop playing. “I went four or five days more than I planned on,” the Philadelphia Phillies great said after announcing his retirement. “I was trying to wipe out those thoughts of retiring. I thought that would be quitting. I couldn’t stop playing the games without the focus on this being the last one.”

5. Jim Palmer

Final game: May 12, 1984

Palmer asked for his release from the Baltimore Orioles after beginning the season 0-3 with a 9.17 ERA. He made his request in hopes of getting to 300 wins elsewhere, before leaning toward retirement to spend more time with his family. Nonetheless, former teammate Brooks Robinson said, “In the right situation, he can still win you 15 or 16 games.” Palmer never pitched again, save for a brief spring training comeback in 1991.

6. Phil Rizzuto

Final game: August 16, 1956

Rizzuto helped epitomize the New York Yankees during his years as their shortstop. But his end with the team came quickly and ingloriously. The Yankees released the 38-year-old just before the pennant stretch of the 1956 season to make room for Enos Slaughter.

7. Gil Hodges

Final game: May 5, 1963

Hodges went on the disabled list with the New York Mets on May 8, 1963 and never came off. The Washington Senators made the former Boys of Summer first baseman their manager on May 22, whereupon Hodges said he didn’t want to play anymore.

8. Dale Murphy

Final game: May 21, 1993

I interviewed the Atlanta Braves great and two-time MVP earlier this year for Sporting NewsOne interesting bit that didn’t make my article: I asked Murphy about why he declined so precipitously after his 1987 season. I figured maybe a mysterious injury. Murphy’s answer: He was just slumping.

9. Juan Marichal

Final game: April 16, 1975

The Dominican Dandy lasted just two starts into the 1975 season before hanging it up. “It’s better to retire before people retire you,” Marichal told reporters the day after his final game. “You have to make that decision before somebody else makes it for you.”

10. Lou Gehrig

Final game: April 30, 1939

Gehrig famously didn’t make it through his final season after being diagnosed with ALS. Less well-known perhaps, he stuck around as a Yankee coach through year’s end.