Piazza, one of greatest hitting catchers in MLB history, retires

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Mike Piazza is retiring from baseball following a 16-season career in which he became one of the top-hitting catchers in history.

"After discussing my options with my wife, family and agent, I felt it was time to start a new chapter in my life," he said in a statement released Tuesday by his agent, Dan Lozano. "It has been an amazing journey ... So today, I walk away with no regrets.

"I knew this day was coming and over the last two years. I started to make my peace with it. I gave it my all and left everything on the field."

The 39-year-old Piazza batted .275 with eight homers and 44 RBIs as a designated hitter for Oakland last season, became a free agent and did not re-sign. He was not available to discuss his decision, according to Josh Goldberg, a spokesman for Lozano.

"He was one of those hitters who could change the game with one swing. He was certainly the greatest-hitting catcher of our time, and arguably of all time," said Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine, Piazza's former teammate on the New York Mets.

At the urging of former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda, who like Piazza hailed from Norristown, Pa., and was a friend of his father, Los Angeles selected the son in the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft. Piazza went on to become a 12-time All-Star, making the NL team 10 consecutive times starting in 1993.

Upon hearing the news of Piazza's retirement Tuesday, Lasorda made one last pitch.

"I would hope he would go into the Hall of Fame as a Dodger," Lasorda, who entered the hall in 1997, told USA Today. "We're the one who gave him an opportunity. Here we are, from the same town [Norristown, Pa.], watching him grow up, and now we'll be into the Hall of Fame together."

Piazza finished with a .308 career average, 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs for the Dodgers (1992-98), Florida (1998), Mets (1998-05), San Diego (2006) and Oakland (2007).

"It's the end of a Hall of Fame career," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "It was a privilege to manage him for the short time that I did."

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia was a teammate of Piazza's on the 1992 Los Angeles Dodgers and remembered back to Piazza's first season in the majors and what he accomplished.

"To put yourself in the same ballpark with what a guy like Roy Campanella did is saying something and Mike is definitely up there with what Roy did," Scioscia said.

Piazza's 396 homers are easily the most as a catcher, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Carlton Fisk is second with 351, followed by Johnny Bench (327) and Yogi Berra (306).

"If I'm half the hitter he was, I'll have a pretty successful career," said Atlanta's Brian McCann, one of the top-hitting catchers currently in the majors. "He did a lot of great things for the catching position."

Piazza never had a great throwing arm but was praised by pitchers for his game-calling.

"You'd have to really go back and see Mike from the early days of trying to catch to where he ended up, the hard work he put in, the dedication he had to get good enough on the defensive end to where he could get his at-bats," Scioscia said. "He made himself into a guy who could go out there and catch and do the job he needed behind the plate."

Piazza thanked his family, teams and managers, some of his teammates -- and even owners, general managers, minor league staffs and reporters.

"Within the eight years I spent in New York, I was able to take a different look at the game of baseball," Piazza said. "I wasn't just a young kid that was wet behind the ears anymore -- I was learning from other veteran guys like Johnny Franco, who taught me how to deal with the pressures of playing in New York, and Al Leiter, who knew what it took to win a world championship."

He did not bring up two of the more memorable moments in his career: When the Yankees' Roger Clemens beaned him on July 8, 2000, and when Clemens threw the broken barrel of Piazza's bat in his direction in Game 2 of the World Series that October. Clemens denied intent both times.

"Last but certainly not least, I can't say goodbye without thanking the fans," Piazza said. "I can't recall a time in my career where I didn't feel embraced by all of you. Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and Miami -- whether it was at home or on the road, you were all so supportive over the years.

"But I have to say that my time with the Mets wouldn't have been the same without the greatest fans in the world. One of the hardest moments of my career, was walking off the field at Shea Stadium and saying goodbye. My relationship with you made my time in New York the happiest of my career and for that, I will always be grateful."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.