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Outside the Lines:
Hanging 'em Up


Here's the transcript from Show 58 of Outside The Lines - Hanging 'em Up

Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Story reported by: Mark Schwarz, ESPN
Guests: Tim Raines, Montreal Expos; Pat Jordan, author.
Coordinating producer: Jon Ebinger.

Announcer - May 6, 2001.

It's a scene played out in real life...

Lou Gehrig - I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Announcer - As well as in Hollywood.

Unidentified Male - You're like the old boys; they were gold, had that special pride. When they were done, they were done; nobody had to show them the door.

Announcer - But there's little romance in retirement when major leaguers confront the realities of age and pride.

Tony Gwynn - I just love what I do. I mean -- and I know I can still do it.

Will Clark - If I was going to go out, I was going to go out on top.

Orel Hershiser - It is a very difficult decision. I think everybody -- it's in your blood, you've been doing it since you were a little kid.

Announcer - Today on Outside The Lines - how and when baseball legends decide to hang them up.

Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance.

Joining us from ESPN studios - Bob Ley.

Bob Ley, host - Steve Carlton tells the story of sitting on the Philadelphia Phillies team bus stuck in traffic, watching the civilians rush by with their workaday worries. The Hall of Fame left-hander turned to his younger teammates, and said - "That out there is the real world. You don't want to be out there."

But sooner or later, every athlete must return to that world. The question is whether he steps or is pushed. Like the civilians outside that team bus, those of us who cannot hit major league pitching or reach 90 on a radar gun lack a true understanding of the singleminded focus needed, and the pride that is found, in mastering those feats -- which make retirement all the more wrenching, and hardly as poetic as Lou Gehrig's moment, or as idealized as a Kevin Costner movie.

When six in every 10 major leaguers will earn at least $1 million this year, with the median salary having more than doubled in four years, it's apparent there is good money to be made hanging on. But there is also that elite status at the top of a profession.

And, as Mark Schwarz reports, the dwindling chance to make some more memories.

Unidentified Male - Jordan -- open!

Mark Schwarz, ESPN Correspondent - Few of our heroes can orchestrate their exit as masterfully as Michael Jordan.

Unidentified Male - Chicago with the lead!

Unidentified Male - Here, right now...

Unidentified Male - There's a drive to deep right center...

Schwarz - As dramatically as Ted Williams.

Unidentified Male - Home run, Ted Williams!

Schwarz - As eloquently as John Elway.

Unidentified Male - They have just announced that the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII is John Elway.

Schwarz - Too many of the great ones leave, instead, like Willie Mays - without some of their dignity.

But who would dare to nudge an icon off the stage before he agrees it's time to go? According to Tony Gwynn, almost everybody.

Gwynn - In our business, when you turn 35, man, I mean, you know, it's like they're trying to run you out of the game. They're not trying to keep you, they're trying to run you out of it...

Schwarz - Who?

Gwynn - You know -- people who make the decisions. People who, you know -- front office people, general managers -- you know, Peter Gammons, Harold. You know, those guys sit there and they criticize what we do, or talk about what we do. And that's when you start to hear the talk -- oh, he's lost a step; oh, his bat speed's gone; oh, he's lost some velocity.

You start to hear those things, and the passionate player doesn't believe it. The passionate player just goes right on about his business.

Unidentified Male - Right fielder, No. 19, Tony Gwynn.

Schwarz - Gwynn was at his customary .333 before pulling a hamstring two weeks ago. Last fall, team doctors had advised the Padres that Gwynn would likely land on the disabled list this season. Their concern was his fragile left knee.

But Gwynn disagreed, and convinced management he was worth re-signing.

Larry Lucchino - There are certain benefits of the doubt that he is entitled to. And, believe me, he got that this year from several of us in the front office, because the medical assessments were not optimistic. Despite what the doctors tell us, we have to remember that the superstar athletes are different than the rest of us.

They are thoroughbreds; they are players who are exceptional people and who have exceptional drive and exceptional staying ability. And we shouldn't apply the same standards that we apply to normal human beings to these extraordinary athletes. And I feel that way about Tony Gwynn.

Unidentified Male - This is hard, and through he wickets of Cal Ripken at third.

Schwarz - At the end of April, the Orioles announced Cal Ripken's days as an everyday player were over in Baltimore. His ex-teammate, Will Clark, was so determined to avoid such a public demotion that he called it quits after last season.

Clark - That's exactly why I made the decision -- because I didn't want to have to hear something like that, or I didn't want to have to hear, you know, hey, listen, in order to get playing time on this team you're going to have to become a left-fielder or a right-fielder or something like that.

Schwarz - Clark's abrupt departure stunned many, given his ultracompetitive nature and the fact he led the Cardinals into the postseason with a .345 batting average.

Clark - I just happened to see Steve Carlton after the end of a very illustrious career and, you know, he came over to the San Francisco Giants and spent, I think, two months with us and, basically, the reason was for money. And, you know, I didn't want to see, you know, the end of a great career being played that way. And so we, you know -- I made a promise to myself that, you know, if I had a chance to go out, and go out on top after, you know, I had had enough time in the big leagues that I was going to take advantage of it.

Schwarz - An avid outdoorsman, Clark decided that, after three elbow surgeries, he would set his sights on wildlife and family life.

Clark - That's a little knock on the old door saying, hey, listen, some reality's setting in here. And, you know, do you want to have the use of your elbow for the rest of your life, or do you want to, you know, just play another year or two for no apparent reason other than just to try to win a World Series ring?

Schwarz - After five surgeries, Gwynn's been told he'll likely need to have his left knee replaced.

Will you walk away from the game, Tony, or will you limp away?

Gwynn - At this stage of the game, I'll probably limp away. But it won't be a pronounced limp -- no, it'll be just kind of like a little slide, you know.

Schwarz - Gwynn is not the only 40-something outfielder on the Padres. 42-year-old Rickey Henderson is back for his second stint in San Diego and the chance to chase history. Last month, he broke Babe Ruth's career walk record; and now he's aiming at Ty Cobb's all-time runs mark.

But does the presence of two graying greats hinder the development of San Diego's young outfielders-in-waiting?

Unidentified Male - We wouldn't be doing this if there wasn't a sense that Rickey Henderson can contribute to this team, even at his advanced age. And, indeed, he is serving as a real catalyst.

This is not a philanthropic organization -- the San Diego Padres. We're not out there to do just a series of good deeds. We're mindful of those records Rickey's setting, but he wouldn't be here setting them if we didn't think he could make a contribution.

Schwarz - For Ripken, popularity has never been an issue. But recently, productivity has become a concern. He batted just .176 in April, and now the iron man has become the occasional man.

Gwynn - I think with Cal, you know, he got off to a slow start. Now, they tell him he's not going to play every day. If he would've gotten off to a great start, they wouldn't have said anything.

Schwarz - How would you complete this sentence - I'll know it's time to retire when...

Gwynn - I don't know if I can. The answer to that question might be, I'll know it's time to go when the Padres tell me it's time to go.

Schwarz - Gwynn is being realistic. As driven as stars like he and Ripken are to leave the game on their own terms, time and management aren't always that accommodating. Legendary Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said - "Baseball is the greatest game of all because you can't just run out the clock."

But even for the greatest, the clock will run out eventually. The question is - Will today's stars realize it in time?

For Outside The Lines, I'm Mark Schwarz.

Ley - And when we continue, I'll be talking with Tim Raines, who has returned to major league baseball at the age of 41, and author Pat Jordan, who pitched in a professional minor league game at the age of 56.

Ley - How do players decide when to hang them up?

Joining us this morning - Tim Raines, in his 20th major league season. He returned this year after missing more than a season battling lupus. He is with the Montreal Expos, where he played his first 10 seasons in the bigs, and he joins us this morning from Montreal.

Pat Jordan pitched in the minors way back for three years. It was the basis for his seminal work, "A False Spring." And his recent book, "A Nice Tuesday" chronicles his struggle to return to the minors and pitch for one game at the age of 56.

Tim, good morning. Why are you back in the majors? Why did you come back?

Tim Raines - Well, for a number of reasons. One, you know, I left the game not on my own terms and I felt that I still have some baseball in me, regardless of being diagnosed with lupus. I had an opportunity, if I got healthy enough, to come back, I felt like I had enough skill in me to continue to play at a major league level.

Ley - Then, of course, there's your son, too, right?

Raines - And that as well. I mean, I think, you know, when an opportunity for a father and son to play in the big leagues at the same time kind of intrigued the both of us. And, you know, all I needed to do was, you know, get healthy enough to play at their level. And hopefully that he would come around as a major league player to get there at the same time.

Ley - Pat Jordan, what do you make of what is, in some cases, almost an inelegant death watch on the careers of some of these big-leaguers? Not Tim Raines, who's on the DL currently with a jammed shoulder -- but you've got Cal Ripken struggling at the plate, Tony Gwynn with a hamstring problem, and people like us talking about it out in the open.

Pat Jordan - Well, you know, the problem is that some guys can still do, occasionally, what they always did. They just can't do it as often. And, you know, at 56 I pitched one inning and I got three guys out. But I don't think I can pitch nine innings every four days.

And sometimes the guys deceive themselves into, yesterday I got two doubles. And then they go for three weeks without hitting, and they still remember that day when they got two doubles. And so the good days get farther and farther between, and they still deceive themselves that they can bunch those good days together.

I mean, a great athlete is never going to be lousy. I mean, you know, Cal Ripken's always going to get some hits every once in a while; and you can use that to keep yourself going.

Ley - Tim, can you look yourself in the mirror and be objective about how well you can still play?

Raines - Well, I think so. I think, you know, a lot of times experience plays a big role, as well. You know, I think knowing that you've done this time and time again for a number of years -- and I think the key is, can your body continue to do it?

You know, I think having the experience of knowing that you face a guy that throws 97 miles an hour and you feel like you can still get the bat head out to make good contact and be confident in doing that. I think a lot of times when you have younger guys, they're not real sure of what type of talent they have.

So it's a situation of being able to do it day-in and day-out. And sometimes, you know, at an older age, a lot of times you can't do that. But knowing mentally that every day you're still going out on the field that you've got a chance to do something good and thinking positive all the time, I think, plays a big role.

Ley - Larry Lucchino of the Padres -- this is the CEO, one of the guys who had to make a decision on whether to offer Tony Gwynn a contract for this coming season -- Tony's playing on a one year deal. And he talks about the issue of players who have been great for so many years and coming back, perhaps, not with a full set of skills.

Lucchino - If you look at some of the great heroes in sports, you will see that some -- many of them ended up with a less productive final year or two than they might have liked. But people tend to find that obliterated by the mass of their accomplishment, the sum total of their work product over the course of their career.

Ley - What about that, Pat -- the image that some athletes leave on the stage?

Jordan - Yes -- going back to something there about Tony Gwynn that I saw -- you know, one of the greatest pitchers I had ever seen was Warren Spahn, and he was a very smart man. And changed the kind of pitcher he was as he got older so that his records never changed on into his late 30s.

And I see Tony looking like he's a little overweight. Probably at 30 he could carry that weight. And the idea that he can still carry that weight on into his 40s may be something that he should have adjusted to earlier on to avoid those knee injuries. And I think that guys think that they can keep doing the same things that they did at 30 out into their 40s, but they have to make subtle adjustments over the years.

If they want to keep pitching at 40, maybe they have to be like Nolan Ryan, who always stayed in fabulous shape. And, you know, a guy like Paul O'Neill is always in great shape. And I think that's one of the problems with guys as they get older.

Ley - But you mentioned Warren Spahn -- after the Mets released him in the early '60s he was down in Mexico pitching in his mid-40s, still trying for a comeback.

Jordan - Well, you know, Warren Spahn told me in spring training one year -- he said, when I start to go, they'll talk about my control. They'll say I suddenly got wild. He said, and the reason I'll have gotten wild when I'm 44 is because I won't want to throw the ball over the plate anymore because I know I can't get them out with that stuff. He said, and I'll be nibbling too much.

And I remember watching him pitch once with the Mets -- he was 44 -- and he walked like four guys in an inning. And he just wouldn't -- he would just refuse to throw the ball over because he knew he didn't have it anymore. But he still couldn't quit.

Ley - Tim, what are some of the things that you feel that you have to do differently now at the age of 41 if you're going to stay at a major league peak?

Raines - Well, I have to continue to work hard and, as a matter of fact, work harder than I did when I was much younger. I remember my early 20 years up until 30; I hardly ever worked out at all. I never picked up many weights. But now I'm constantly in the weight room trying to continue to keep my weight down, one, and trying to keep my strength up.

And I think it's very important, as you get older, to maybe play at a lesser weight than you played, you know, seven, eight years ago because, like he said earlier, you know, as you get older, you pretty much have to keep your weight down because if you're heavier, you're not real used to carrying that type of weight and keeping, you know, stronger.

So you will see me in the weight room a lot more than I did when I was earlier in my career.

Ley - And we'll continue with Tim Raines, a future Hall of Famer, and Pat Jordan in just a second.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, as we go to break, take a look at some numbers - Hall of Fame batters who did hang around -- some might say a year too long -- look at Hank Aaron, Carlton Fisk -- career numbers and their final season in the bigs. A dramatic drop-off for Aaron, for Fisk, and for Babe Ruth.

Schwarz - Which is stronger - the need to hold on to the game you love, or the need to not embarrass yourself?

Alan Trammell - Well I think, for me, it's the need not to embarrass yourself.

Ley - Alan Trammell -- his thoughts.

We talked about those Hall of Fame averages -- Hank Aaron, Carlton Fisk, Babe Ruth -- their career averages and then what they did in their final season. Aaron, of course, with the Brewers; Carlton Fisk, his final year; Ruth, the final months with the Braves. You might say Hall of Famers hang around too long.

Ah -- but look at Richie Ashburn - a career .308 hitter who, in his final season with the New York Mets put up a .306 average; Lou Brock, who actually improved in his final season on his career average; and Ted Williams who, of course, his final hit that famous homer at Fenway, and he finished in 1960 with a .316 average.

And we continue with Tim Raines and with Pat Jordan.

Tim, someone's who's been in the game as long as you have, the talk about what the impact is in a major league clubhouse when you have someone who is up there in years, can't necessarily perform exactly as he used to, put up the same numbers -- and how that may impact how a manager handles him and the ballplayers around him.

Raines - Well, I think it's important to know that, you know, you have a player that's played as long as I have, and have done the things that I've done, and is the type of guy that can get in a club regardless of how old his teammates are and can mingle with those guys as well as he always did, even at a younger age.

And I think that's important. I think some of the young guys look up to me. You know, a lot of those guys were just being born or real young, in Pampers or something, when I started playing in the major leagues. But I don't really see it that way.

I see it as a player that's older, but is equal. And I'll go out there and work just as hard as the young guys do and try to show them that I'm out there busting my butt just like they are to try to do the same thing, and that's win ball games.

Ley - But Pat, do you think that changes some of the dynamic -- when you have a great player like a Ripken, like a Tim Raines -- they're going to get a little bit different treatment from the skipper.

Jordan - Yes, you know, they have to respect their past. And, you know, I mean, if a rookie says, OK, I can play today, the manager makes a decision; but if a Cal Ripken says, I want to play today, I mean, it puts the manager between a rock and a hard place.

It depends on the personality of the guy. If he's a good guy, puts the team ahead of his own statistics and his own career, I think a 40-year-old player is preferable to have on your club. I mean, if I was a manager, I'd want a 40-year-old guy who will do anything for their club. If I had a 40-year-old guy who's interested in getting 3,000 hits or, you know, breaking Lou Gehrig's attendance record, then maybe I wouldn't want that guy on my club.

Ley - Tim, what do you make of the fact that you've got a team -- for example, the Newark Bears in the Atlantic League. You've got Ozzie Canseco, Jose Canseco, Jack Armstrong, Jim Laherer (ph) -- it's all a clutch of guys that have played in the majors, some of them for big, big money, playing in a class-A independent league looking for a shot.

Raines - Well I think, you know, if you have a chance to try to get back in the major leagues and you feel like there's something you need to do to give you a chance to get back, then, you know, power to those guys because, you know, I think the worst thing to do is to give up and then, say, a couple years later, say, hey, look, I might have -- you know, if I would've went back out there and worked my butt off to get back to the major leagues, maybe I could have done it.

So you kind of take that maybe away. And I think guys that have played in the major leagues and have played for a while, you know, believe that they can come back, then why not try to do that? But I think you really have to put your heart and soul into trying to come back. And if there's a chance, then why not give it your all and hope that it works out?

I mean, if it doesn't, it doesn't. So, you know, at least you can say, I gave it a chance.

Ley - Pat, you're a writer; do you see romance in a situation like that, or tragedy?

Jordan - No; you know, I think the idea that other people looking at you and saying your career has ended on a tragic note because you're hitting .190 -- I mean, if it gratifies you to demand a punctuation point on your career with a .190 average before you'll quit, it's up to you.

I mean, some guys can live with it. Some guys don't care whether, my final year I hit .190 and people said I wasn't the ballplayer I was for 20 years. As long as they can say, this one last year proved to me I can't hit anymore, or I can't pitch anymore. I mean, if I was a pitcher in the big leagues today, I'd quit when I couldn't get anybody out; but I wouldn't care how old I was.

Ley - Tim, we've got about 15 seconds. When it's time to make the decision, do you think you can make it for yourself, when it's time to go?

Raines - Oh, I think so. You know, I think, you know, prior to going to spring training this year I felt that if I wasn't in shape enough or felt like I can do this, I wouldn't even talk about doing it.

It's one thing I think we all have in common, is we don't want to go out there and embarrass ourselves. I think if it got to a point to where I feel I couldn't do what I was trying to do, then I'd probably walk away myself. They wouldn't have to tell me that.

Ley - All right; you put the numbers up. Your son, by the way, hitting .400 with an RBI triple yesterday in class-A -- double-A.

Thanks to Tim Raines and to Pat Jordan; thanks, guys.

And we will have news of a chat with one of our panelists ahead as we continue Outside The Lines.

Ley - The attempt to organize college football players to press for demands beyond their scholarships drew some emotional e-mails to our in-box following last Sunday's programming.

A viewer in Mesa, Arizona writes - "What these student athletes and those who support suggestions of organizing refuse to accept is that they are students first, athletes second. To say they're being exploited is going overboard; Children in Third World countries who produce the expensive shoes these athletes wear, at no cost to them, are the ones who are being exploited. You're in school to get an education, not to improve your draft status."

From Bardstown, Kentucky -"I usually enjoy the show, but Sunday the 29th the topic was ridiculous! Feel bad for scholarship athletes? I don't think so. They go to school free, get their books free, live free, get tutoring privileges that 99 percent of students don't get, they get special considerations when missing classes; I don't feel pity for them when there are single mothers working full time and going to school. Give me a break!"

Well, the interactive Outside The Lines is online at Type the keyword OTLWEEKLY to access our site, with more information on today's guests, a complete streaming library and transcriptions of our Sunday morning programs and a place for your e-mail -- your suggestions and criticisms and comments

And you can chat with author Pat Jordan tomorrow on Follow the chat link from the front page to ask your questions of the author of "A False Spring" and "A Nice Tuesday." That's 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific -- Pat Jordan chatting online at

Announcer - Outside The Lines is a presentation of ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. For more, log on to

Ley - This program re-airs over on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. Eastern. And tonight, after "Baseball Tonight," the A's and the Red Sox at 8 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Bob Ley; we will see you next Sunday morning.

Ahead - Conversations with Vince Carter and Pedro Martinez -- Pam and Rece with "SportsCenter."

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 When is the right time to hang 'em up? ESPN's Bob Ley tries to answer the age-old question.
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