By Kent Larsen
Wally World Closes: Baseball Veteran Joyner Retires
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA -- In an emotional press conference Saturday afternoon,
on his 39th birthday, LDS baseball player Wally Joyner announced his
retirement after 16 years playing first base for four different major league
teams. The announcement was accompanied by a videotaped farewell to the fans
that was played after the first inning of Anaheim's game that day. Joyner's
retirement officially closes "Wally World," the nickname fans gave to the
area of the stands where Joyner hit many of his home runs in his first two
very productive years.
Those 16 years make up one of the better careers among the Mormons that have
played in Major League Baseball. While overshadowed by Hall-of-Fame great
Harmon Killebrew and two-time MVP Dale Murphy, Joyner's career stats are not
bad. He recorded more than 2,000 hits and 200 home runs and a career batting
average of .289. He also recorded just 99 errors over that career, for a
fielding percentage of .994.
Joyner's retirement comes after his performance declined and Angels' Manager
Mike Scioscia Friday relegated Joyner to a backup role in favor of younger
players who were hitting more. Joyner had returned to the Angels for this
season as a kind of "last hurrah," ending his career where it started and
where fans still remembered his dramatic home runs. Joyner had volunteered
to return when the Angel's regular first baseman, Mo Vaughn, injured his
wrist and was out for the season. That gave him the chance to be an every
day first baseman again, instead of filling the backup role he had been
given in Atlanta.
But his plans to postpone his retirement until August ended with a prolonged
slump over the past month that left him just 3 for 32. Scioscia then benched
him Friday in favor of Scott Spezio, who was hitting. Without playing full
time, Joyner didn't see the point any more, "His at-bats were going to
diminish, and as his playing time decreases, his ability to produce
decreases," Scioscia said of Joyner. "Wally said he didn't want to be a
pinch-hitter, and that's where his role was leaning toward. That wouldn't
have been a fit for him."
Knowing what was coming, Joyner talked to his wife after Wednesday night's
game against San Francisco, in which he went 0 for 3. "I met my wife
[Lesley] after the game and said, 'Are you ready?' " Joyner told the media
Saturday. "She said, 'Yeah,' and I said, 'I mean, are you really ready?' We
talked about things and figured it all out." Lesley Joyner then gathered up
her three daughters after school on Friday and drove all night so that the
family could be together with Wally on his last day.
After battling injuries and declining performance in the past two years,
Joyner said that making the decision actually made him feel free from
pressure for the first time in a couple years, "The last 1 1/2 years have
been work. The pressure is off. The game is fun again, because I can watch
it and boo with everyone else." He also said that his retirement is both a
sad time and a happy time, "It's a sad time, it's an exciting time. I don't
know what lies in my future, but I've had a great opportunity, made the most
of it, made some great friends, and I'm looking forward to not putting on
the uniform anymore. I felt great on deck and great walking back to the
plate, but that time in between wasn't fun anymore."
But Joyner then became emotional when he reached the sad part, "You guys are
getting to me," he said, wiping away tears. "The reason I'm so emotional now
is a few of the people I love most are here--my family, which drove all
night to be here, my agent and friend, Barry Axelrod, my business advisor,
Michael Watkins, and just as important . . . I can't even look in that
direction, . . . My teammates. . . . So, I get to have my family back, I
get to have fun, but what's ending is my relationship with my teammates."
Looking back on his career in the videotape shown during Saturday's game,
Joyner echoed the thoughts of many baseball players over the years, "I've
been pretty lucky," Joyner said. "I've had a great life, the opportunity to
play a game that I love. I've been able to entertain and to be entertained,
to laugh and to be laughed at. The great thing is I was able to come back to
where I started. A lot of us don't have that opportunity."
Joyner Enters the World of Retirement
Los Angeles Times 17Jun01 S2
By Mike Digiovanna: Times Staff Writer
Baseball: First baseman in his second stint with Angels picks occasion of his 39th birthday to end 16-year career.
Former Coug Joyner Retires as an Angel
Salt Lake Tribune 17Jun01 S2
Career Stats for Wally Joyner
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