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Orlando Hernandez to retire

Aug 17, 2011, 9:28 AM EDT

Orlando Hernandez

Orlando Hernandez hasn’t thrown a pitch in anger in the big leagues since 2007, and he hasn’t thrown a pitch anywhere this year, but he had not announced his retirement.  Until now. At least according to multiple Tweets to that effect, most notably by Jon Heyman.

El Duque pitched nine seasons in the majors, most memorably with the Yankees, for whom he was a key part of their 1998, 1999 and 2000 World Series championships.  He got another ring with the White Sox in 2005.  In those nine seasons he went 90-65 with an ERA of 4.13 while registering 1086 strikeouts to 479 walks.

But Hernandez was obviously more than a line of stats and some World Series rings. One of the most celebrated Cuban baseball players ever, he famously defected in December 1997. The story was that he was on a leaky raft, risking life and limb.  The reality was that he was on a fishing boat with a big-ass engine, and once he reached the Bahamas he was flown to New York on a chartered jet.  Hey, it’s showbiz.

Most famously, of course, and certain to be the subject of lots of one-liners as the morning wears on, was the matter of his age.  He claimed to be 28 when he defected, but hardly anyone believed that.  A few years later it was revealed in some leaked divorce papers that he was born in 1965. While Major League Baseball still lists a 1969 birth date for him, everyone else who matters —, ESPN, etc. — uses the 1965 date.  There have been rumors, however, that he is much older still.  It’s rather academic now, at least until he applies for medicare or wants to access his 401K or something.

Always a fun guy, and the dude that should probably have his picture next to the word “crafty” in the dictionary, El Duque — though he has been off the scene for some time — will be missed.

  1. catsmeat - Aug 17, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    Hmm . . . mid-40s, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues in years, probably terribly out of shape . . .

    Get Brian Sabean on the phone!

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 17, 2011 at 11:23 AM

      I wish I could give one thumbs up for the shot at Sabean, and another thumbs up for the idea of Duque pitching again. I don’t really think this about any other pitcher, but I could watch his windup all day.

  2. pisano - Aug 17, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    A great competitor and a colorful guy. Good luck to him.

  3. yournuts - Aug 17, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    A great ballplayer. He will be missed.

  4. aleskel - Aug 17, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    In his prime, man, was he a blast to watch. The big leg kick, the eephus curveball, the Tiant-like arm angles, just a great pitcher. Also, he was utterly, certifiably crazy. He was paranoid about sign stealing and would go through all sorts of manic signalling to his infielders to try to confuse the opposing team, even though it was meaningless.

  5. scottj27 - Aug 17, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Craig, care to comment on the rumor that you’re officially retiring from high school baseball?

  6. rayray52 - Aug 17, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    El duque was a beast but he’s gotta be close to 60 not 45

  7. lmno7 - Aug 17, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    El Duque… The Duke… Remember the time the ball got stuck in the webbing of his glove, and he just threw the whole glove/ball over to Tino Martinez at 1st to get the out…? He was always fun to watch… AND he got the job done!

  8. brian1413 - Aug 17, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    You are way off on his defection story he left ducked down in a fishing bout after a ride in a car for a few hours. He then landed on an island and was supposed to be picked up and wasn’t and was stranded on an island for a few days. It’s all in a great book call “The Duque of Havana.”

  9. yankeesjetsknicksrangers - Aug 17, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    Good times

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