By Jon Weisman
If it was a longshot for Jamey Wright to make a comeback with the Dodgers at age 41, what a sweet longshot it was.
Wright, who allowed 16 baserunners in 6 2/3 Cactus League innings, announced today that he was retiring from baseball, after 19 Major league seasons and nearly 23 years after signing his first professional contract. He had a chance to say goodbye to the sport with his eyes wide open.
“I have no regrets in this game. Everything I got I had to work really, really hard for,” Wright said, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. “What I tell some of the young guys is that the hardest thing to do is staying in the big leagues, and there is no excuse for letting somebody outwork you.”
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Tall and affable, the 6-foot-6 Wright pitched at Dodger Stadium for his second MLB game in July 1996 in which the Dodger starting pitcher was Tom Candiotti, who is now 58 years old. The lineup included Delino DeShields and Raul Mondesi, whose sons have played against the Dodgers this month. (The younger DeShields, in fact, is the Rangers’ leadoff hitter tonight.)
Wright etched his way into Dodger lore when he became the third out of the home team’s first triple play in Dodger Stadium history, on June 13, 1998. More than a decade later, he would spend his 17th and 19th big-league seasons with the Dodgers, with a 4.04 ERA in 138 innings.
For his career, Wright pitched 2,036 2/3 innings for 10 teams, with a 95 ERA+. He ranks 88th in MLB history with 719 career games pitched, and is one of 206 pitchers to allow at least 1,000 earned runs, which is an achievement in its own right. (The pitcher right above Wright’s 1,088 earned runs is Dwight Gooden, with 1,091.) In 2000 and 2001, Wright led the National League in hit-by-pitches, and ranks 17th all-time with 155.
On April 29, 2001, Wright pitched the game of his career, a two-hit shutout for the Brewers at Montreal, with three walks and eight strikeouts. As Stephen notes, Wright is one of 10 players in MLB history with 200 or more starts and 400 or more relief appearances.
In his final professional appearance, Wright pitched Saturday against the White Sox and went out with a perfect ninth inning and a save.
“I am very blessed to be in the clubhouse and be with these guys I missed it last year and I will continue to miss it,” Wright said, via Stephen. “One thing about pitching for 10 different teams, I’ve got more friends than anybody. That’s one of my greatest accomplishments.”
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