Angels icon Anderson retires after 17 years
Outfielder franchise leader in games, hits, doubles, RBIs, runs
TEMPE, Ariz. -- After 17 Major League seasons, Garret Anderson is retiring with no regrets and one vivid memory that stands alone on the summit: 2002 and a World Series championship for his Angels of Los Angeles, Anaheim and California.
"You're making me show my personal side," the always understated Anderson said when asked on Tuesday, while making the announcement in a conference call, to identify his proudest achievement.
"My proudest achievement can't be anything individual, because I can't share it with anybody. The proudest has to be the World Series.
"A lot of great players never won one. I never got back to one. It's one of the things I hold near and dear. It was seven months with those guys. ... Those memories I'll always keep close to me."
One of the most quietly productive players of his generation, Anderson was characteristically honest when he was asked about the difficulty in giving up the game that was his passion for 21 years as a professional.
"The decision is not totally mine," Anderson said. "There are 30 clubs that made the decision. I wasn't a good fit for them."
After starring for the Angels for 15 seasons, Anderson spent 2009 with the Braves and 2010 as a role player for the Dodgers. He received no Major League free-agent offers, but had a few feelers about taking a Minor League deal and hoping to hook on with a club.
"There was nothing worth considering, no," Anderson said. "At the end of my career, it would have been a Minor League invite -- starting the season at some team's Triple-A [affiliate], waiting for somebody to get hurt. I wouldn't want to go down that road."
The road Anderson traveled always seemed so much smoother than it actually was, given his remarkable grace and calm, relaxed manner. He made an extremely difficult job look easy, and sometimes created the misperception that he didn't care enough.
"I don't think I was misunderstood -- I know I was misunderstood," Anderson said. "I'm sorry for that. I was who I was, going out and playing hard every day. I know I'm a quiet person."
Often overlooked among the premier players of his era, he said he feels that was more a case of where he played than now he played the game.
"Playing on the West Coast hampered that a lot, more than any perception publicly," Anderson said. "At the end of the day, guys are assembling teams on who is putting up numbers. I played a year on the East Coast with Atlanta, and it's a huge difference on the East Coast. On the West Coast, you just don't get the same depth [of coverage from the media]."
Anderson said he was "more at peace with it than I would have been quite a few months ago," that it came to him gradually in recent months that he was ready to spend more quality time with his wife and three children.
"No regrets," he said. "I think all of us as human beings think, 'How could I have been better?' You like to wish you could have been smarter.
"I know I will miss many aspects of the game, the grind of playing every day, hitting with the game on the line, the clubhouse banter, making a good defensive play, the guys, the roar of the crowd after a win, and the friendships made throughout the years."
Anderson, 38, retires as a .293 career hitter with 287 home runs, 1,365 RBIs, 1,084 runs scored and 2,529 hits. He is the Angels' franchise leader in games played, hits, doubles, total bases, runs, extra-base hits and RBIs.
"Garret was an incredible player, one with a calm demeanor and quiet confidence that allowed him to excel in this game," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
"Garret's role in where the Angels organization is today cannot be overstated. He had a tremendous passion to play this game and a deep understanding of how to play to win and that was very important to this organization. We wish him and his family nothing but the best as he begins the next chapter of his life."
"Garret was a student of the game, someone who always came to the park prepared to play," said Angels general manager Tony Reagins. "It is gratifying for me to know he leaves the game among the greatest Angels of all time."
A Los Angeles native raised in the San Fernando Valley, Anderson signed out of Kennedy High School as a fourth-round Draft pick in 1990, electing not to play Division I basketball.
He reached the Major Leagues briefly in 1994 and arrived to stay the following season, batting .321 in 106 games. His power numbers gradually increased until he erupted in 2000 with 35 homers and 117 RBIs, batting .286.
He averaged 30 homers and 120 RBIs over four seasons ending in 2003. He was a driving force behind the Angels' 2002 World Series championship club, finishing fourth in the American League's Most Valuable Player balloting. He also drew votes in 2001 and '03, finishing 21st and 14th, respectively. He led the league in doubles with a career-high 56 in 2002 and 49 in '03.
Anderson always felt that if he'd focused on base hits, in the fashion of Tony Gwynn and Pete Rose, rather than bringing power into his game, he could have approached the magical 3,000-hit mark.
Anderson turned the 2003 All-Star Game in Chicago into his personal showcase, winning the Home Run Derby and then the MVP award in the Midsummer Classic, coming a triple shy of a cycle in leading the AL to a 7-6 victory.
"People are waking up and seeing Garret's talent," Scioscia said that night, having held the reins for the AL. "He's one of the top five hitters in the game and a lot of people don't see it. He's not comfortable with it, but whether he likes it or not, a lot more people are going to know about him now."
Anderson's low profile didn't make him a media star by any means, but it endeared him to people inside the game, such as one of his first professional managers, Dusty Baker. Anderson was an Angels prospect when he played for Baker in the Arizona Fall League in 1992.
"Garret is a players' player in the sense that he's all about playing the game right and not calling attention to himself," Baker, the Reds' manager, said last year. "He was like that as a kid.
"I've watched him grow and evolve. I love everything about the guy. Great player, good family man, good teammate. He's everything you want in a player, a true professional."
Baker was in the other dugout, managing the Giants, when Anderson experienced his crowning achievement in the 2002 World Series, celebrating a Game 7 triumph at Angel Stadium.
"Dusty was one of those players I admired as a kid," Anderson said. "Playing for him as a young guy meant a lot to me."
Asked if he can see himself returning to the game someday, in a uniform sharing his knowledge, Anderson left the door open.
"I've learned to say, 'Never say never,'" he said.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.