LaRoche's revelation latest intriguing Major League exit
By Austin Laymance
Adam LaRoche shocked the baseball world Tuesday with news that he intends to retire after 12 seasons in the Major Leagues. While the decision certainly came as a surprise to the White Sox, LaRoche is not the first player to abruptly walk away from the game.
With that in mind, here's a look at other unexpected retirements in big league history. It's an interesting mix of respected regulars, occasional All-Stars, and some of the game's all-time greats:
Cuddyer stunned the Mets in December when he unexpectedly announced he would retire at age 36, halfway through his two-year, $21 million contract. Cuddyer was dogged by injuries in the final seasons of his 15-year career, and he made his decision to retire shortly after undergoing surgery in November to repair a core muscle injury.
"I just knew I wasn't going to be able to give what I expect myself to give out on the field," Cuddyer told reporters. "I knew I could still bring leadership, and still bring qualities that can contribute. But I take a lot of pride in playing the game the right way, and playing the game the way that I know I was capable of playing. I didn't feel like I could bring that anymore. And with great humility, I made the decision."
Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey shocked the baseball world when he suddenly retired at age 40 on June 2, 2010, during his second stint with the Mariners.
A 13-time All-Star with 630 career home runs, Griffey was batting .184 with no homers and seven RBIs when he announced his retirement in a statement released through the Mariners. Afterward, the future Hall of Famer got in his car and drove home to Orlando, Fla., in a bizarre end to a 22-year career.
Griffey said to The Seattle Times that he previously had told Mariners management "that if I become a distraction or feel that I would be a distraction, then I would retire, because that's the one thing that I didn't want."
Meche walked away from the $12 million remaining on his contract with the Royals when he retired in January 2011 following a 10-year career as a starting pitcher. For Meche, the decision was not about finances but rather his doubts that his cranky right-shoulder would hold up through another season.
"A lot of people might think I'm crazy for not trying to play and make this amount of money," Meche told reporters, "[but] I don't think I'm going to regret it."
McGwire hinted at retirement after the Cardinals were eliminated from the 2001 postseason, telling reporters, "It comes down to what I can do physically. My body is pretty worn out. And my mind is definitely worn out."
A few weeks later on a Sunday night in November, McGwire faxed his letter of resignation to Rich Eisen of ESPN, who broke the news on SportsCenter.
McGwire was 38 at the time of his retirement and walked away from a two-year, $30 million extension with the Cardinals. The slugger ended his 16-year career with 583 homers.
Schmidt stunned those closest to him when he retired at age 39 on May 28, 1989, midway through a West Coast road trip with the Phillies. The future Hall of Famer was mired in a slump and had been contemplating retirement, when suddenly an omen appeared.
Schmidt booted a routine grounder in a tie game against the Giants, and the next batter hit a grand slam.
"Mentally, I had sort of been thinking about it," Schmidt recalled to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "'Might this be the end? What other sign do I need?' I was looking for a jumping-off point. ... After the game, I walked into the clubhouse and it was like I was in a fog. I showered real fast, paid the clubhouse guy and went out and sat on the bus all by myself for 30 or 40 minutes to contemplate my next move."
Koufax made a surprise announcement about his retirement at age 30 on Nov. 18, 1966, following another stellar season with the Dodgers that saw him win the National League Cy Young Award for the third time in four seasons and help his team reach the World Series.
Koufax's decision to hang up his spikes came as a result of chronic arthritis in his pitching arm that he felt could be further damaged by continuing to pitch. Following his retirement, Koufax became the youngest player ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 36.
In perhaps the most well-known speech in North American sports history, Gehrig announced his retirement before a packed house at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939.
The Yankees were honoring Gehrig between games of a doubleheader against the Washington Senators, only two months after the future Hall of Famer found out he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Following a lengthy ceremony featuring numerous gifts and speeches from New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Yankees manager Joe McCarthy and Gehrig's old pal, Babe Ruth, it was time for The Iron Horse to address the crowd of 61,000.
"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got," Gehrig said into the microphones at home plate. "Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.