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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Sterling career ends
Rays second baseman Roberto Alomar, a 12-time All-Star, makes his retirement official.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published March 20, 2005
ST. PETERSBURG - Roberto Alomar's spirit was willing. His body, well, that was another story.
Arguably baseball's greatest second baseman retired Saturday, his attempt to secure a spot with the Devil Rays sabotaged by the passage of time.
"When your body doesn't allow you to play, there is nothing you can do," Alomar said at Progress Energy Park.
"My back, my legs were not the same, my eyes. I couldn't play no more. I have no excuses. I did it for 17 good years and have no complaints. It's time for me to move on."
Alomar, 37, a 12-time All-Star, finished with 2,724 hits, 10 Gold Gloves and World Series titles with the Blue Jays in 1992 and '93. He played 2,379 games. As he walked out of the clubhouse after offering best wishes, the Rays gave him a standing ovation.
Alomar said he wants to remain with Tampa Bay, and general manager Chuck LaMar said a position could be created in the next few days.
"It's foolish to think that as a young organization with as many prospects as we have, we can't benefit from what he can show those players," LaMar said.
Despite a statistical decline the past few seasons, the Rays hoped Alomar would solidify their infield when they signed him to a $600,000 contract. They also wanted him to mentor Jorge Cantu as his successor.
But Alomar struggled. He missed a week with a sore back and in five games was 0-for-11 with three errors. In one inning Friday against the Blue Jays, he made two errors, struck out and took himself out of the game.
It appeared the last straw but Alomar said he contemplated retiring for more than two weeks.
"I knew my body was not going to allow it," he said of playing. "In the morning you feel sore. You try to go out there and push yourself one more time, but I knew I was done.
"I don't want to be embarrassed on the field. I don't want to embarrass my teammates, Chuck, Lou (Piniella, manager). I don't want to do that. They're great people and they deserve to have somebody else at second base. They have some good young talent here. Hopefully, they can go out and do their job."
Alomar said he wants to enter the Hall of Fame representing the Blue Jays because of the championships and because "that's where I learned to play the game."
He recalled playing All-Star Games with brother Sandy Jr., and hitting the winning home run off Oakland's Dennis Eckersley in Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS. He spoke of his close relationship with his father, Mets bench coach Sandy Sr., and the way he "felt like a kid" on the field.
He even spoke of overcoming the stigma of spitting at umpire John Hirschbeck, now a friend, during a heated argument over balls and strikes in 1996.
"I wish it never happened," he said. "I hope that's not how people remember me."
"I always respected him on and off the field," said Phillies slugger Jim Thome, Alomar's teammate from 1999-2001 with the Indians. "He was a great player and a great teammate. You wanted to make your game equal to his which you couldn't do."
Asked what he wishes for his legacy, Alomar, who will throw out the first pitch in today's game with the Yankees, said, "I'm going to say a guy who went out there and worked hard every day to be one of the best."