Wagner's illustrious career comes to end
Legendary closer heads to retirement with 422 saves
ATLANTA -- Billy Wagner will head back to his family in Crozet, Va., without the World Series ring that he chased for the past 15 years and with the memories created this summer, when he spent the final season of his remarkable career playing for the same Braves organization that he loved so much during his childhood.
"This year has been nothing but great for me," Wagner said. "I thank God I got to retire as a Brave. It's the greatest honor I could ever have -- to be on the favorite team of my childhood. About the only thing [better] would have been if I could have snuck Dale [Murphy's] number on. That would have been about it."
The kid that was once deemed too small by many collegiate coaches and scouts still seems intent on walking away from the game after enjoying one of the finest seasons in his career. If he sticks with this plan, he has every reason to walk tall and be proud of all that he accomplished.
Wagner ranks fifth on Major League Baseball's all-time saves list with 422 -- two shy of John Franco's record for left-handed pitchers. The seven-time All-Star's 1,196 strikeouts stand as the most ever recorded by a left-handed reliever.
"There's no reason to talk about it," Wagner said. "I know what I've done. You really only achieve something when your team achieves it. If you're looking for individual satisfaction, you're in the game for the wrong reason. Unfortunately I've played 14 years and I've accomplished nothing, because I have nothing to wear home. It's tough, but I just thank God that I got to meet so many great people and got to experience this fantasy world."
Dating back to his 1995 Major League debut with the Astros and continuing through the stints he enjoyed with the Phillies, Mets, Red Sox and Braves, Wagner longed for the opportunity to be able to wear a World Series ring home.
His final chance ended in cruel fashion. When he suffered a left oblique injury in Friday's win over the Giants in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, the Braves were left without the veteran closer they needed to carry them through the postseason. Their bid to persevere died Monday night with a Game 4 loss.
"You can't help but know that it's not always going to end the way you want it," Wagner said. "You hope for the best. I've had 14 great years and played with numerous great players and been in so many great places. I wouldn't change a thing."
Wagner signed with the Braves in December and proved that he could indeed still serve as a top-flight closer. He converted 37 of his 44 save opportunities and produced a career-best 1.43 ERA in 71 appearances.
"When you retire, you don't want to have any regrets or anything left," Wagner said. For me, I've done everything that I can do and I feel like I want to be a part of it. I've got my kids at home that I need to go raise more than I need to look at records and championships. That stuff will melt, but my kids are important."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.