ANAHEIM -- Every team has one player that becomes its identity, and for the Angels, that will likely be Tim Salmon. The 15-year-veteran and 1989 Angels draftee held a press conference on Thursday to officially announce his retirement at the end of this regular season, which concludes on Sunday with a game against the A's. "This is the end of the road, the point where you have to jump off that train," Salmon said. "It has been a great ride."
Salmon took the microphone after the assembled media were treated to a video montage of the player's highlights as Angels spokesman Tim Mead referred to him as "perhaps the greatest Angel of them all." A lofty title to live up to, considering Salmon's competition is Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, Troy Percival and current teammate Garret Anderson. But Salmon is that rare player in the age of free agency to remain with one team throughout his career, and that stood out on Thursday for the man who will retire as the franchise's leading home run hitter. Salmon hit No. 299 on Wednesday. "From a fan's perspective, it is important to see those players grow up with an organization," Salmon said. "As a fan of other sports, I know what it means to have those players from year to year." Salmon's road with the organization began as a third-round draft choice out of Grand Canyon College in Phoenix. Salmon was also drafted in 1986 -- in the 18th round by the Braves -- but he did not sign. The outfielder quickly rose through the ranks. In 1992, Salmon enjoyed his best Minor League season as he hit .347 and led the Pacific Coast League with 29 homers and 105 RBIs with Edmonton to win Minor League Player of the Year honors by The Sporting News. That was a prelude to 1993, when Salmon won the Rookie of the Year Award in the American League, still the lone Angels player to be so honored. Salmon helped fuel the Angels' run to the brink of the American League West title in 1995 only to lose in a one-game playoff to the Seattle Mariners. Salmon had his best big-league season that year, hitting .330 with 34 homers and 105 RBIs. With a magic run in 2002, Salmon and the Angels reached the World Series for the first time in franchise history where they bested the Giants in seven games. Salmon hit .346 in the series that included two homers in Game 2. But his career was also marked by injuries, and it was problems with his left shoulder and left knee that interrupted his 2004 season. Surgeries to his knee and shoulder washed out the 2005 campaign, but he returned to win a job this past spring after accepting an invitation to Spring Training. In the process, Salmon was able to return on his own terms and retire as he had hoped. "One of the goals I had was to come back and enjoy this game and if I could come back and play the game as I was accustomed to playing," Salmon said. "I wanted to make sure that when I left the game, I had that joy and appreciation. I wanted to experience that one more time." Getting that opportunity had impact beyond the Angels. "I was here when he first came up, and I respect him tremendously because he respects the game," A's manager Ken Macha said. "You have to look at loyalty from both sides of the situation, too. He's been here his whole career. I'm sure he's had chances to go elsewhere. From their side of it, they probably could have cut him loose last year, but they brought him back and that speaks volumes about the organization and the player." Salmon has no immediate plans for the future, aside from embracing his role as a stay-at-home husband and father for his wife and four children when his ride is through after Sunday. He added that he wants to take a break for about a year before deciding on a second career, but the Angels plan to hold Tim Salmon Day on April 3, 2007. But for the next four games, one last time, Salmon hopes to return the favor. "This year has been special," Salmon said. "To come back and experience the praise and support of the fans this year has been great. They've been here for the highs and the lows. They've always been here for me."
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.