08/28/2002 5:59 pm ET
Fryman to retire after season
Veteran saying goodbye to 13-year career
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
CLEVELAND --Travis Fryman decided not to let anybody push him out of the game. Fryman figured it was better to leave baseball on his terms.
He did just that Wednesday afternoon.
Holding court in the Indians dugout, the 33-year-old Fryman said his skills had deteriorated to a level that was below his high standards. He cited a rash of injuries for most of that decline, and he said he didn't see how he could overcome those injuries and return to his better days.
"Having told lies the last three or four days," he said, laughing. "My conscience got the best of me. But I've made a decision. I'm going to retire this season. I informed Mark (Shapiro) and Joel (Skinner) four or five days ago."
Fryman said the looming strike and the fact the Tigers, the team he broke into the big leagues with, were in town made this the right time to announce what he planned to do after the 2002 season.
"I don't have to lie anymore the rest of the year," he said.
His concern was as much about lying to himself as it was about lying to people who had asked him about his plans for the future. Fryman, whose contract with the Indians ends after this season, felt he could not overcome his rash of injuries, which ruined his past two seasons.
He talked to his family, his friends and his teammates before coming to a decision. Fryman felt his retirement was best for everybody.
His teammates said he would be missed.
"As a teammate, you hope to play with guys like Travis," said Jim Thome, who played alongside Fryman for five seasons. "You hope you can continue to play with guys like him, because he's the ultimate professional."
It was that professionalism that reality ran square into, and reality came out the winner. Fryman looked at his '02 performance, and he figured he should step aside and let the Indians, a team in a rebuilding mode, put someone else at third base.
He said he first raised the subject of retirement after last season. He talked to Shapiro and told him that the 2002 season would be crucial in his decision to keep playing a game that he'd spent his life being a part of.
Fryman, bothered by shoulder problems this season and last, told Shapiro then that if he could not avoid injuries or play at an acceptable level, he would walk away from the game.
"I've looked at it, I assessed, talked to a lot of different people who come at it from every different angle," said Fryman, a 13-year veteran. "It's a decision that's the right one at the right time."
In praising the game for what it had done for him, Fryman said he hoped he'd given as much back to it. He said he tried to respect the game, respect his teammates and respect himself, and to continue to play at his level of production would, he said, been disrespectful to all three.
"He's the ultimate pro," Skinner said. "He's played the game the way it should be played. I think every young guy who's come up he's tried to teach them the right way to play."
Indeed Fryman has done that, said infielder John McDonald, who admirer of Fryman's.
"He comes to the ballpark every day, and he gives everything he has," said McDonald, who might fill-in some at third as the Indians phase out Fryman down the stretch. "I feel fortunate enough to have been able to play with Travis."
McDonald said he's proud of the fact that he let Fryman teach him how to play baseball, and he vowed not to forget those lessons.
None of the Indians will.
"We have the ultimate respect for him," Thome said. "He's done his job the right way."
Fryman said he hoped that would be his legacy, that people in Cleveland would remember him as a ballplayer who did put every bit of himself into helping their Indians win games and three AL Central championships, though no World Series titles.
Yet he said he's leaving the game without regrets. He's accomplished more than he ever thought he would.
"My career was better than my dreams," he said.
But his was also a solid career. He was an AL All-Star five times and won a Gold Glove once. Going into the 2002 season, Fryman's career average was .278 with 19 homers and 88 RBIs.
Those numbers will take a dip after statistics from this season (.214, 9 homers, 47 RBIs) are added to his totals. It's been a horrid year from the start, and Fryman didn't see his performance improving greatly in any seasons that might come.
So he walked away from the sport he loved. He walked away on his terms. He walked away without any real plans for the future, aside from playing the role of husband and father. He said he'll give himself a year or two to think about what's next beyond looking at for his family.
For the near term, Fryman's future does not include suiting up after this season with the Indians or anybody else. His career in Cleveland is behind him.
"It's not what I hoped for when I was traded here," Fryman said. "But three of my worst years in my career have been here -- and two of my best years. It certainly was not what I intended when I was traded here, but that's just the way it happened."
Justice B. Hill, a senior writer, covers the Indians for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.