Age and nagging injuries finally caught up with Mike Schmidt, one of the greatest home run hitters ever, who kept his vow to retire when he no longer could play up to his expectations.
"My skills to make the adjustments needed to hit, to make the routine play on defense and to run the bases aggressively have deteriorated," a tearful Schmidt said Monday in an emotional farewell to baseball."Realizing this, I have decided not to keep on playing, but to retire effective immediately."
The Philadelphia Phillies' third baseman announced his decision hours before his teammates lost 1-0 to the Padres at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Schmidt, 39, said his retirement is not related solely to major shoulder surgery he underwent last September, his arthritic knees or minor injuries that have plagued him the past few seasons.
"I'm not saying that I have any (physical) problems that other people don't get when they reach 39 or 40," Schmidt explained. "I always did have (nagging injuries) throughout my career. I think it just got to the stage where it got the best of me."
Speaking in hushed tones, Schmidt said his baseball career "has been blessed with many special memories" and resulted in cherished friendships.
"You may not be able to tell, but this is a joyous time for me. I've had a great career," Schmidt said.
"Over the years, I've set high standards for myself as a player and I always said that when I couldn't live up to those standards I would retire.
"I left Dayton, Ohio, 18 years ago with two bad knees and a dream of becoming a baseball player. I thank God it came true," said Schmidt, who then broke down in tears.
With many teammates and coaches present, Schmidt took several minutes to compose himself while Phillies president Bill Giles lauded the slugger's approach to the game.
"In my opinion you are the greatest third baseman of all time," Giles said. "I don't think Mike Schmidt ever cheated us one day in effort. Michael worked his tail off throughout his career."
Giles said Schmidt would throw out the ceremonial first ball Saturday night when the Phillies host Montreal, and that his uniform would be retired at a later date.
Schmidt, who hit 548 home runs and won 10 Gold Gloves as the National League's top third baseman, has struggled with a .203 average and six home runs in his 17th major-league seasons.
"I feel like I could ask the Phillies to keep me on to add to my statistics, but my love for the game won't let me do that," he said.
Schmidt really doesn't need to add to his career stats, anyway.
His home run total ranks seventh on the all-time list and his 10 Gold Gloves at third rank second to Brooks Robinson's 16 for the Baltimore Orioles.
Only Babe Ruth, Harmon Killebrew, Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle reached 500 homers in fewer at-bats than Schmidt.
He had only two hits in his last 41 at-bats, however, and led the Phillies in errors with eight, including costly miscues in the club's last two games at San Francisco - both losses.
"This is something I've been mulling over and praying about for a week or so," Schmidt said. "I gave it some time to turn around on the field. I looked for signs and reasons every night to continue as a player but I just couldn't find them.
"When I didn't make some plays the last couple of weeks that I used to make with ease and made outs on some pitches I should have hit, I just lost confidence in my skills as a player."