With Peyton Manning’s retirement official, this week’s Pick-Six is dedicated to some of the greatest retirement stories that have ever happened in sports. Some were prolonged, some were immediate, some were shocking and some were long awaited. Either way, these players were historic in their sports, and deserved to end their careers in the great ways that they did.
6. Peyton Manning
I know it just happened recently, but you can’t hate on the end of Peyton Manning’s great career, especially when it ended with a Super Bowl win. You can say all you want about how he didn’t perform all that well in the Super Bowl, and how his defense won him a championship, but the man was a special player. After 18 years in the NFL, breaking all sorts of records, and winning two Super Bowls, Manning will ride off into the sunset as one of the best the league has ever seen.
5. Barry Sanders
This retirement makes this list mainly because of how sad it was and how soon it came. It’s a shame Barry Sanders got caught in a lose-lose situation in Detroit, both literally and figuratively. He could’ve either stayed in the NFL and continued to lose games on a mediocre Lions team, or retire from his long-term deal in Detroit and lose out on the chance to break records. Sanders chose the latter, leaving many to wonder just how great he could’ve been if he had given he could to the sport. Calvin Johnson is stuck in the same situation in the same city now, which seems to justify Sanders’ retirement even more. Either way, Sanders was one of the greats in the NFL, and it was one of the most memorable retirements in sports history.
4. Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice is arguably the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, and he deserved to go out in a great way. This retirement was a unique one, and put a nice twist on the usual one-day contract retirement we always see in every sport. After Rice finished his 2005 season with the Denver Broncos, he announced he was retiring from the sport, ending an amazing career. In order to make it a perfect exit, the San Francisco 49ers, the team where he truly made a name for himself, signed him to a one-day contract worth $1,985,806.49. To make it even sweeter, every number in that contract’s worth related to Rice’s career. 1985 was the year he was drafted, he wore the number 80, 06 represents the year he retired, and 49 represents the 49ers. It was a fitting end to a legendary career, and was one of the most unique I’ve ever seen.
3. Jerome Bettis
Jerome Bettis’ retirement story is one of the cooler ones mainly because of one of his teammates. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger convinced him to come back to the team for one year after Bettis was considering retirement, and Roethlisberger promised him a Super Bowl appearance if he were to come back. Bettis returned to the team for one last year, and the quarterback came through on his promise. The Steelers played the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship, and all Bettis wanted was to make it to his hometown of Detroit, where the Super Bowl was being played. Pittsburgh made it to Detroit, and ended Bettis’ career with a Super Bowl victory, and he went out of the NFL on top.
2. Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig was a historic player in baseball, and the end of his career is one of the saddest things the MLB, and sports in general, have ever seen. Gehrig was diagnosed with a fatal neurological disease, which is now known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”, and was forced to retire after seven seasons with the New York Yankees. He was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once, an AL MVP twice, and a member of six World Series winning teams. However, nothing will compare to his retirement speech on July 4, 1939, where he said he was “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” despite any health issues he had, and he passed away two years later. Gehrig was a true great in the sports world, and his retirement speech was one of the saddest but greatest moments in sports history.
1. Cal Ripken, Jr.
Cal Ripken, Jr.’s retirement started a trend I personally am not a fan of, but he was truly deserving of going out like the legend he was. Ripken announced in June of 2001 that he was retiring at the end of the season, beginning the “retirement tour”. We have seen Derek Jeter do this already, and are in the midst of Kobe Bryant and David Ortiz’s retirement tours, but Ripken’s was truly one of a kind. He was named All-Star MVP in his last All-Star Game, and was honored with the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award, all fitting for a great career. He may not have been the biggest name the sports world has ever seen, but his retirement was definitely the best I’ve seen.