The Yankees most recent championship teams were built around a group of players that came to be known as the "Core Four." There was the suave leader Derek Jeter, the homespun starter Andy Pettitte and the classy closer Mariano Rivera.
Jorge Posada was the fiery one.
He spoke his mind in a clubhouse of singularly focused players. The catcher called out teammates and pushed the younger Yankees to perform up to their standards.
For that passion and effort, the Yankees on Saturday before playing the Cleveland Indians retired Posada's No. 20 and unveiled a plaque in Monument Park honoring his 17-year career — all in navy pinstripes — in which he was a key part of four World Series championships.
Ever since I could remember all I wanted to do was play baseball. Ever since growing up in beautiful Puerto Rico, everything I did was work toward my goal. I don't think I had a plan B. Baseball was my passion and luckily I had the privilege and honor to play for the greatest franchise in all of sports.
- Yankee Jorge Posada
"Ever since I could remember all I wanted to do was play baseball. Ever since growing up in beautiful Puerto Rico, everything I did was work toward my goal. I don't think I had a plan B," Posada said. "Baseball was my passion and luckily I had the privilege and honor to play for the greatest franchise in all of sports."
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Fans chanted the familiar "Hip, hip, Jorge!" several times during a ceremony, that included a nearly eight-minute speech by Posada made in front of family and many of his former teammates. There will be yet another chance to celebrate Yankees hegemony of the late 1990s and 2000s on Sunday, when Pettitte's No. 46 will be taken out of circulation.
Manager Joe Torre's No. 6 was retired last year, center fielder Bernie Williams' No. 51 was hung up in May. Rivera's number was retired in 2013, and Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill have also been given plaques.
All that's left is a big bash for Jeter, his No. 2 the final available single digit.
Pettitte and Posada teamed up to combine for a 100-51 record as the starting battery for New York, according to a tweet by the Elias Sports Bureau. The two became a tandem in the lowest levels of the minor leagues.
"The years you put in and the friendship you build up, just the trust you build with one another," Pettitte said. "He knew how to push my buttons and get me going. We all know how fiery Georgie could be. I love that."
Taken as a second baseman in the 24th round of the 1990 draft, Posada holds the record for most postseason games as a catcher (119) and won five silver slugger awards as the best hitter at that position.
"Catching for the New York Yankees was such a thrill every day," Posada said. "I got to play the same position as my idols Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard and No. 15, Thurman Munson."
Berra, now 90, wrote Posada a letter that was posted on the videoboard in center field.
"I'm proud of you, kid," Berra wrote.
A five-time All-Star, Posada hit .273 with 275 homers and 1,065. He played a remarkable 1,574 games of his 1,829 big league games behind the plate.
He made his debut in 1995 and eventually took over as starting catcher from Joe Girardi a few years later. Posada then played under Girardi his final four seasons, bristling when Girardi took away his catching duties then pulling himself out of the lineup one day when he saw his name listed as the No. 9 hitter.
But Girardi said this week he had no issues with Posada. In fact, he admired him.
"He was obviously a very skilled player, but he brought an attitude," Girardi said. "It was great to see every day."
Posada's son Jorge Jr. may be as fiery as his dad. After Posada sailed a high ceremonial first pitch that tipped off the glove Jorge Jr., wearing a tailored suit, the son could be seen holding his arms out in a questioning pose, then waving his arms and holding his glove high over his head while Jorge Sr. put his arm around Jr.
Posada Jr. was born in 1999 with a life-threatening skull deformation, craniosynostosis, that required eight operations, but Rivera recalled Posada never wavering in his commitment to the Yankees while going through tough personal times.
"I remember the passion and the determination he had to win, the dedication, going through tough times, adversities, family issues, but he was there," Rivera said. "He was there for us."
Posada took a moment during his speech to acknowledge Indians utility player Mike Aviles, whose 4-year-ol daughter has leukemia. Aviles, watching the ceremony along with several of his teammates, pointed at Posada and tipped his cap.
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