Jorge Posada's final curtain call

Updated: January 8, 2012, 1:09 PM ET
By Buster Olney

The New York Yankees had a lot of veterans, but it was Jorge Posada's responsibility to nudge Orlando Hernandez, and the catcher would do this early in a game or before a game by saying something to offend El Duque. Basically, he picked a fight to get Hernandez's adrenaline going, to get him engaged in the moment at hand.

Posada sometimes did this in the dugout, or sometimes on the mound, and generally, Hernandez responded in the way Posada intended -- other than that time, perhaps, when Hernandez went after Posada with a sharp instrument in the trainer's room. (For the record: Nobody got hurt.)

Posada was the perfect person for this job because of his own stubbornness, a trait that fueled him through his remarkable ascent. He went from a second baseman drafted in the 24th round to a catcher who played in 125 postseason games and served an integral role in four championships. He provided the Yankees with the rarest of weapons at his position -- a switch-hitter who had patience and power from both sides of the plate.

The Yankees were honored at City Hall after the 2000 World Series, and in the midst of that celebration, then-manager Joe Torre stood at the microphone, turned to Posada and asked him for the team mantra, and Posada lifted a fist and motioned. "We grind it!" he said.

Nothing came easily for him. Posada fought to learn a position that did not come naturally for him, fought to gain the trust of his pitchers and even his manager, Torre. After a strong season in 1998, he started slowly in 1999 and sensed that Don Zimmer -- who was filling in for Torre as manager while Torre underwent treatment for prostate cancer -- didn't believe in him. Posada fought through that doubt. He fought through offensive slumps, defensive slumps, heightened expectations.