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Red Sox and Phillies all-time saves leader Jonathan Papelbon says he’ll never retire.
At one point in the classic baseball film, Moneyball serves viewers this painfully accurate truth:
“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t…we don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.”
It applies to athletes, and everyone else. One day, everyone who was once young is old, and there is no going back.
But Boston Red Sox all-time saves leader Jonathan Papelbon is still holding out hope. So much so that he never officially retired from Major League Baseball.
When will Jonathan Papelbon retire? Maybe never
The 2007 World Series champion, who holds the all-time saves records for the Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, is on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year for the first time.
This week, he caught up with WEEI‘s Rob Bradford on the Live BP Show, and declared that, despite last pitching in August 2016, he will never retire:
“Never, never, I’m never gonna retire, it’s never happening. I don’t care if I’m on my deathbed like Ted Williams thinking he could still hit at age 90, I’m never retiring. That’s just a fact, that’s how it goes…
To hell with retiring, no no no no, not happening, dude. Who knows, they may come up with some pill in the future and then all of a sudden I feel like I’m 25 again, so no retirement, dude. But can I still go in the Hall of Fame if I don’t retire, though?”
On a cold afternoon at Fenway Park on September 28, 1960, Williams famously homered in the final at-bat of his career. His 521 home runs, all in a Red Sox uniform, are tied for 20th on the MLB all-time list. They are the most by any player in franchise history, and the Red Sox 500 club is a party of one.
However, Papelbon either wants to ignore or does not know that Williams returned to the game, albeit for a brief cameo. In May 1982, the Red Sox hosted their first-ever old-timers game at Fenway Park, an event several teams used to have, which should absolutely make a comeback.
Williams was 63 by then, and went hitless in the event, though he did make contact a few times. He also made an impressive catch in the outfield he’d once called home. In 1991, he made a non-playing appearance at Fenway’s first of three Heroes of Baseball games.
In 1999, Williams made a bittersweet appearance at the All-Star Game at Fenway. Unable to really walk at that point, he was driven to the pitcher’s mound in a golf cart. That night, a visibly emotional Splendid Splinter did something he had never done in his career, even at his final game: he tipped his cap to the awestruck crowd. The All-Stars surrounded him like children, eager to shake the hand of a living legend and bask in his presence.
By 2002, Teddy Ballgame was gone. He passed away at 83 years old.
Papelbon may never officially retire. He may mask his sadness about the game leaving him behind with jokes about a Benjamin Button-esque revival. But being eligible for the Hall of Fame, as Moneyball so heart-achingly puts it, is him being told he is no longer playing the children’s game.