Wilson decides to call it a career

Wilson decides to call it a career

SEATTLE -- The last link to the 1995 Mariners team credited with saving Major League Baseball in the Northwest, announced Monday afternoon that he would retire at the end of the season.

But before he hangs up his chest protector for good, Dan Wilson wants to catch one more inning.

"I am doing my darndest to take the field at least one more time," he said. "It's too early to tell, but there are three weeks left and Mike [manager Mike Hargrove] has been open to the idea of letting me go on the field one more time, if the situation is right."

Still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in May, the 36-year-old might be able start the regular-season finale against the Athletics at Safeco Field on Oct. 2. Team physician Dr. Mitch Storey wouldn't rule it out.

"It's not a definite, but we've talked about it," Storey said. "We wouldn't put him in harm's way and his range of motion is the biggest issue. We'd have to pick the right time and circumstance."

Wilson selected Monday as the right time to announce his retirement plans.

"At the beginning of this year, my wife [Annie] and I decided this would be my last year in baseball," he said, reading from a prepared statement. "On May 4, I tore my ACL and subsequently have missed most of the season. Through much prayer, sweat, and tears, my decision still stands. At the conclusion of this season I am retiring from baseball. The reasons now are same now as they were then."

Wilson said he wants to spend more time with his family -- his wife and four children -- stay active in the Seattle community and remain in the Mariners organization in some capacity, a proposition firmly backed by club president Chuck Armstrong, who announced that there would be a "Dan Wilson Day" held next April at Safeco Field.

"We have come to the end of a generation," Armstrong said. "Dan Wilson is the last connection to a team that saved baseball in Seattle. He will always be a member of Mariners family and we hope to come up with a place for him in the organization."

Dressed casually in a sweater and slacks, Wilson fought back tears several times during a mid-afternoon press conference at Safeco Field. He was taken aback when he stepped out of an elevator and was greeted by applause from more than 100 club employees.

"I can't tell you how powerful that was out there in the hallway," said Wilson, who presented the Mariners' lineup card prior to Monday's game against the Angels.

During the 30-minute press conference, Wilson talked about the high points of a career that included four postseason appearances, one All-Star Game invitation (1996), participating in one of the greatest comebacks in Major League history (1995) and being a part of the 116-win season (2001).

"Clinching [the AL West title] in '01, and walking around the stadium carrying the flag at a time when America was very different, was a spiritual experience, in a way," he said.

Acquired from the Reds on Nov. 3, 1993, along with relief pitcher Bobby Ayala for second baseman Bret Boone and starting pitcher Erik Hanson, Wilson became an immediate mainstay in then-manager Lou Piniella's lineup.

By the Numbers
Mariners catcher Dan Wilson
Where retiring catcher Dan Wilson ranks on the Seattle Mariners' all-time lists:
Extra-base Hits:308Sixth
Total Bases:1,570Sixth
Home Runs:88T 10th

"I couldn't be happier for him," Piniella said. "He was with me for 10 years and he's had a wonderful career. You couldn't speak higher of a man that you could of Danny. He did a lot for the team; he did a lot for the community."

Wilson has been more than a quality player during his career, most recently being selected as the Mariners' representative for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, presented each year for off-the-field charitable contributions.

"He is an unbelievable human being and probably the best teammate I have ever had," outfielder/designated hitter Raul Ibanez said. "I want my son to grow up and be just like Dan Wilson."

Former Mariners catcher Dave Valle, who opened the door for Wilson by signing a free-agent contract with the Red Sox prior to the '94 season, currently is a television analyst and has watched Wilson up close and from afar.

"When I think of Dan Wilson," he said, "the first things that come to mind are integrity and character. The baseball stuff kind of comes along at the back end."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Wilson: "Dan is the epitome of a professional. The way he applied himself and his attention to detail made him one of the best catchers of his era. He played the game the way it was supposed to be played."

The Mariners had just one winning season before Wilson arrived, and enjoyed their greatest success with him.

"I had him in camp in Cincinnati, and the pitchers love pitching to Danny," Piniella said. "They would ask for him. I took notice of that. I remembered it when I went to Seattle."

Wilson started 91 games in 1994 and handled the bulk of the catching duties for most of his career with Seattle, starting more games (1,250) at catcher in club history, and was the starting catcher in 30 of the 34 postseason games.

His .295 batting average in 2002 is the highest ever for a Mariners receiver, but his best overall season was in 1996, when he batted .285 with 18 home runs and 83 RBIs, earning his only All-Star Game invitation. He went 0-for-1 in the Midsummer Classic, played in Philadelphia, but still calls it one of the highlights of his career.

"When I say he's one of the good guys in the game, for me that's the ultimate compliment," Hargrove said. "Very few of us in all walks of life ever say and do the same thing. There's nothing phony about Dan Wilson. He talks the talk and walks the walk.

"Any time somebody like that leaves, we're all worse off for it." Wilson signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract last December, but played in only 10 games before suffering a knee injury while sliding back into first base.

He is one of seven catchers the Mariners have used this season, a list that includes Miguel Olivo, Pat Borders, Yorvit Torrealba, Miguel Ojeda, Wiki Gonzalez and Rene Rivera. Torrealba and Ojeda currently are handling the catching duties.

Jeff Clement, the Mariners' first-round draft choice (third overall) in June, is regarded as the catcher of the future. Clement batted.319 with six home runs and 20 RBIs at Class A Wisconsin following a brief stint with Everett (Wash.).

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.