Dave Stewart, arguably the heart and soul of an Oakland Athletics team that went to the World Series from 1988 to 1990, tearfully said goodbye Sunday to a 16-year career.
“It’s real, real important for me to stand tall … like a soldier, a warrior, a chief,” he said, explaining his decision to retire at age 38 in the midst of the season.
Stewart leaves behind a disappointing 3-7 record and a 6.89 ERA this season, which he said was a sign that his time on the mound had ended. With tears in his eyes, he admitted he was not the four-time 20-game winner he once was.
“I’ve always wanted to be the solution to the problem, not the problem,” he said, at times wiping his eyes with a handkerchief. “This is not easy.”
Stewart earned a standing ovation Sunday from the fans at Oakland Coliseum prior to a game against a Cleveland Indians. Wearing a gray suit, Stewart waved to the crowd from the field then hugged teammate Rickey Henderson near the dugout before disappearing into the clubhouse.
Stewart, an Oakland native, grew up only seven blocks from the Coliseum.
With Stewart’s mother looking on, A’s manager Tony La Russa praised the hurler whose stare on the mound often hid his kindness and charity off it.
“He is exactly what all of us want major leaguers to be,” La Russa said. “He’s the teammate who is going to pick up the guy that’s having a tough time and put his arm around him. He’s the teammate that’s going to reach into his pocket to fund a team party because he wants a lot of unity.”
Stewart, with a career mark of 168-129, was named the A.L. playoff MVP in 1990 and 1993. Using a mean split-finger fastball, he was 8-0 with a 2.03 ERA in A.L. playoff games with the A’s and Toronto. He also was named MVP in the 1989 World Series when the A’s swept the San Francisco Giants.”Everybody should notice those shoulders … Those are big shoulders. They carried the ballclub for four or five years for us,” Lansford said.
Stewart was originally drafted as a catcher by Los Angeles in 1975. The Dodgers traded him to the Rangers in 1983 and over three seasons he went 12-22 before being traded to Philadelphia. The Phillies released him in 1986.
It appeared that Stewart’s career was washed up at age 29, until his hometown team gave him another chance on May 23, 1986.
Stewart’s finest year was 1990, when he went 22-11 with a 2.56 ERA. On July 29, he tossed a no-hitter against Toronto.