Six-time Gold Glover leaves to little fanfare
LOS ANGELES -- Robin Ventura retired in a fashion fitting for the way he played and behaved during a fine 16-year career -- quietly, with dignity and little fanfare.
"I'm absolutely positive. I've realized that it's time to go, and that's it," Ventura said after the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to St. Louis 6-2 Sunday night, eliminating them from the NL playoffs.
Ventura, 37, played nine years with the Chicago White Sox, two with the New York Mets and 2½ with the Yankees before finishing up with 1½ seasons in Los Angeles -- less than 200 miles from where he grew up.
He was used mostly in a utility role with the Dodgers, hitting .243 with five homers and 28 RBI in 152 at-bats this season. He did hit two grand slams -- raising his career total to 18. That's tied with Willie McCovey for the third-most in baseball history, behind only Lou Gehrig (23 and Eddie Murray (19).
Ventura decided to retire last week, telling teammates this would be it -- win or lose in the postseason.
He leaves with a batting average of 294 home runs, 1,182 RBI and a .267 batting average. A third baseman most of his career, he won six Gold Gloves at third base.
"I've been fortunate in the four years I've managed in the big leagues to be around some very professional people," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said Monday. "Robin Ventura transcends about every possible thing you can think of when it comes to professionalism."
Ventura said the limitations of an arthritic right ankle played a role in his decision. He broke his ankle during spring training in 1997, a gruesome accident on a slide at home plate.
"I knew my ankle has been progressively worse each year," he said. "I knew it wouldn't be fair to Tracy to come back here and, if somebody got hurt, not be able to be more than just a pinch-hitter."
Ventura, who said he might consider returning to baseball in some capacity, attended high school in Santa Maria and was a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State, where he set a national record with a 58-game hitting streak.
Ventura had his best year with the Mets in 1999, hitting .301 with 32 homers and 120 RBI.
Despite his mild-mannered reputation, Ventura is often remembered for a run-in with Nolan Ryan back in 1993.
After being hit by a pitch from baseball's career strikeout leader, Ventura charged the mound. Ryan grabbed Ventura in a headlock and punched him a half-dozen times.
Ventura was ejected and later handed a two-game suspension. Ryan stayed in the game and got the victory.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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