By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jorge Posada, the catcher who was one of the New York Yankees' "Core Four" as a member of five World Series-winning teams, formally retired Tuesday after 17 seasons with the club.
A fiery competitor who played through a golden pinstripe period along with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, Posada was a powerful switch-hitter and favorite of Yankee Stadium crowds who greeted him with chants of "Hip, Hip, Jorge!" when he came to the plate.
"Ever since I was a little kid all I wanted to do was be a major leaguer," Posada, 40, told a packed news conference across from the team's clubhouse at Yankee Stadium.
"I was able to live my dream and play for the best sports team in the world," he added, calling the Yankees "my family away from home."
The Puerto Rico native was a five-times All-Star and retires with a .273 career batting average, 1,065 runs batted in and 275 home runs in 1,829 games.
He played in the championship seasons of 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009, and with World Series runners-up teams in 2001 and 2003.
An emotional Posada broke down in tears as he thanked his family in Spanish, and again when he began to thank his team mates, many of whom were in the audience.
"Especially Derek Jeter," Posada said wiping away tears. "He helped me stay focused and positive. Hopefully you won't miss me too much.
"Mariano Rivera, my brother," he said addressing the Yankees closer. "I don't think we would have any of those without you," he said, gesturing to the five World Series trophies won during his tenure that were displayed next to the dais.
"And (former manager) Mr Joe Torre for being a father all those years."
Posada became a free agent following the 2011 season but decided to end his MLB career with the team that drafted him in 1990.
"I could never wear another uniform," said Posada.
In 111 years of Yankees baseball that featured the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, Posada finished in the team's top 10 of most offensive categories.
He ranked seventh on the Yankees' all-time with 379 doubles and 936 walks, eighth with 275 home runs and 11th with 1,065 RBI, while compiling a career batting average of .273 in 1,829 games.
Converted to catcher from second baseman, Posada played one game for the Yankees when he came up in 1995 and eight games during the regular season with the team that won the 1996 World Series before working his way in as a regular, eventually displacing current manager Joe Girardi as starting backstop.
With his defensive skills behind the plate deteriorating, Posada was told before last season by Girardi that he would not be used as a catcher.
Struggling to find his swing at the plate, Posada was dropped down to the ninth in the lineup for a game against the Boston Red Sox and pouted, removing himself from the lineup an hour before the game.
After making amends, Posada worked himself back in favor and finished the season strong, leading the team with a .429 batting average (6-for-14) in the Yankees' five-game American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Posada said he did not have any specific future plans.
"I want to spend time with my family," he said, with his wife and young son and daughter sitting alongside him. "I haven't had a summer with them."
(Reporting By Larry Fine, editing by Mark Meadows)