After 'incredible ride,' Braun retires a Brewer

2011 NL MVP ends career on own terms after 14 years with Milwaukee

September 14th, 2021

DETROIT -- gave it the whole summer to see whether the urge to continue playing baseball met opportunity with the Brewers, but on Tuesday, he finally uttered the words he had resisted.

“I have decided to officially retire as an active player,” Braun said.

The Brewers’ all-time leader with 352 home runs and a six-time All-Star who won the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 2011 NL MVP Award -- before his legacy was complicated by a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs and later a return to high-level production -- Braun announced his retirement Tuesday morning in a video message released by the club.

Braun played his final games in a Brewers uniform in empty stadiums during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but the team is planning a proper sendoff for Braun and his family on Sunday, Sept. 26, prior to the home regular-season finale against the Mets at American Family Field.

“While it’s impossible to summarize my emotions right now, what I feel most is one simple thing: gratitude,” Braun said. “And I just wanted to take the time to say thank you.”

He thanked teammates, coaches, support staff, friends and family for what he called an “incredible ride” from his Major League debut in San Diego in May 2007 to his final games with the Brewers in the 2020 NL Wild Card Series.

“Ryan brought us many unforgettable moments on the field; from playoff-clinching dramatic home runs to nearly 2,000 career hits, he is unquestionably one of the greatest players in Brewers history,” Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said. “Moreover, Ryan has become a good friend to our family, and his commitment of countless service hours and more than $1 million to community causes over the years has impacted many lives.

“Ryan was the first player drafted after I took ownership of the Brewers, and I remember that day very well. Today, we reflect on the impact that Ryan had during his 14 seasons wearing the Brewers uniform. Ryan is our all-time franchise home run leader and one of the great clutch hitters in the game. We were fortunate to have a front-row seat for many of these moments that defined some of the organization’s greatest achievements to date. We wish Ryan, his wife, Larisa, and their family the very best, and look forward to continuing our friendship as they move into the next chapter of their lives.”

Braun is fourth in franchise history with 1,766 games played and second to Robin Yount in doubles (408) and RBIs (1,154). Among players who have logged at least 2,500 Brewers plate appearances, Braun is second to Prince Fielder with a .532 slugging percentage and an .891 OPS.

Braun was part of five of the first seven postseason entrants in franchise history, including the 2008 Brewers team that ended the club’s 26-year postseason drought thanks to CC Sabathia’s complete game and Braun’s go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning of that season’s regular-season finale.

Three years later, Braun hit another go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of a postseason clincher for a team that won the franchise’s first division title since 1982. His career lasted long enough for Braun to make three more postseason appearances with the Brewers from 2018-20 before his club-record contract came to an end after last season.

Braun held off using the word “retired,” even as he remained unsigned going into 2021. Any chance of him returning to the Brewers for another second-half run was diminished when the team traded for switch-hitting infielder Eduardo Escobar just before the July 30 Trade Deadline, giving them the occasional right-handed bat at first base that Braun might have been.

“I think he would have done it if certain circumstances or things kind of lined up or worked out, but it just didn't happen,” said Christian Yelich, who has become Braun’s good friend since being acquired by Milwaukee in January 2018. “He had an unbelievable career, something he should be really proud of. When you start playing this game, you don't really even dream about being that kind of player or playing that long in the Major Leagues.

“He always seemed to enjoy the big moments with the game on the line and coming through for the team. I think more often than not, he was able to do that.”

Brewers manager Craig Counsell -- who was a player, executive or manager with the team for the entirety of Braun’s career -- said he was “thrilled” that Braun could make the decision on his own terms.

“He was my coworker for a long time,” Counsell said. “I always joke with him that, 'Maybe besides your mom and your dad, I have seen you play baseball probably more than anyone in the world.' I was there for every game throughout his career. I got a close seat for a vast majority of them. Watching him play was definitely an honor.”

Counsell also saw Braun at a low point in his career in 2013 when he was suspended for the final 65 games of the season. And Counsell witnessed Braun’s comeback beginning in 2014.

“Ryan kept going,” Counsell said. “I always thought that the way Ryan's last six or seven years went, he should be incredibly proud. ... At that point, he had a story to write; he didn't know how it was going to go. I think he wrote a great story and that he should be proud of that.”

Tuesday’s recorded message included a farewell for now to Brewers fans.

“To the fans,” Braun said, “thank you for showing me and my family unconditional love and always making us feel like we truly belonged to this community. Thank you for packing the ballpark night in and night out for 14 years. You made coming to the ballpark every day a joy, and I cannot imagine a better playing experience than being a Brewer for life. Thank you for the encouragement, support and motivation. Thank you for the memories, the postseason runs, the moments I’ll never forget.”

Braun and his wife have three children, the youngest of whom was born last year. He indicated his family would maintain their ties to his baseball home.

“I look forward to remaining involved in the Milwaukee community and continuing work with the charitable partners I have supported throughout my career,” Braun said. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Brewers, and I am just as excited to continue my life’s journey down a new path.”