Although it now seems clear that Jorge Posada made a mistake by pulling himself from Saturday’s lineup, the reactions of many have reached absurd proportions. Words like selfish, arrogant, liar and quitter have been freely tossed around, and some have even suggested that the transgression warranted a severe disciplinary action (a feeling reportedly shared by some in the front office). Based on this response, you’d think the former All Star had committed a felony. In fact, he might have received more sympathy if he had.
The most ironic part of the ill-informed articles questioning Posada’s loyalty is very few players have exhibited a comparable level of dedication to the team. I wonder how many of those who have been so quick to label Posada as selfish and pampered realize just how much he has sacrificed over the years?
Even after he found out that Jorge IV would have to undergo serious surgery. Even after the delicate surgery last August on the then 8-month-old. Posada stayed silent and kept playing.” – Buster Olney, The New York Times, February 7, 2001
During the 2000 season, Jorge and Laura Posada quietly struggled with a very painful reality. Their new born son, Jorge IV, had been diagnosed with craniosynostosis, a life threatening congenital skull deformity that would requires years of surgery to correct. Despite the difficult months leading up the first surgery on August 2, however, Posada not only remained a fixture in the Yankees lineup (he played 151 games including 142 behind the plate), but established himself as one of the team’s best hitters.
When the day of the surgery finally arrived, Posada took one game off to be with his son, but then returned right back to the lineup. Two days after fearing that he would never see his boy again, the weary catcher went 4-5 against Seattle.
Unfortunately for Posada, it wasn’t the last time he’d have to play amid concern for his son. Almost one year later in August 2001, the then 20-month old Jorge IV underwent eight more hours of life threatening surgery. For the second time, his big league dad only missed one game.
The doctors said everything went well. He had a lot of stuff done to his face, to make everything look normal. Hopefully this will be the last one. I told the doctor I can’t go through this anymore.” – Jorge Posada, quoted in the New York Daily News, August 31, 2001
In total, Jorge IV required eight surgeries to correct the condition. Not only did his absence during many critical moments take a personal toll, but it also put great strain on his wife, who was forced to put aside her career and deal with much of the pain alone. The Posada’s finally opened up about their experiences in a poignant book, “Beauty of Love: A Memoir of Miracles, Hope and Healing”, which should be required reading for those who have recently questioned his character.
On February 6, 2001, Posada received the Thurman Munson award, which each year honors a player for his charitable contributions. For a generation of fans, the gritty Munson was the model of what a Yankee should be: tough, passionate, and dedicated…a leader on and off the field. Over his much too short career, Munson was all those things. However, that didn’t stop him from also asking out of a game.
If they want somebody to play third base, they’ve got me. If they want somebody to go to luncheons, they ought to get George Jessel.”– Graig Nettles, quoted by AP, April 17, 1978
According to Sparky Lyle’s “The Bronx Zoo”, both Munson and Graig Nettles begged out of the lineup on April 15, 1978, one day after being fined $500 for skipping out on a charity luncheon. Although both players cited an injury, Lyle’s book makes it clear that Nettle’s and Munson’s absence from the lineup was a protest. Ironically, the media speculated that the players might have been suspended, but both Al Rosen and Billy Martin dismissed the notion. If the truth had been revealed, the Boss would have probably exploded.
Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada have been compared to each other in many ways. Both men were not only All Star catchers, but also gritty, passionate leaders who commanded great respect in the clubhouse. Both men also had a renowned temper, and for one game, it got the best of them. Just like Munson’s one-game sit down has become a forgotten footnote in his career, Posada does not deserve to have this incident become even the smallest stain on his overwhelming record of dedication. Unfortunately, ignorance has a short memory. Hopefully, most Yankees’ fan do not.