After 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, Roy Oswalt is calling it quits. Given his quiet nature and lack of history making off-field headlines, it should come as no surprise that he chose to retire without fanfare. The 36-year-old starting pitcher’s decision was confirmed on Tuesday, ending a career largely spent with the Houston Astros, who drafted him in the 23rd round in 1996, before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010.
In between that time period, the Kosciusko, Mississippi native racked up 163 wins, 143 of which came as an Astro, struck out 1,852 hitters, and compiled a career ERA of 3.36–numbers that prove his wasn’t just another ordinary career in professional baseball.
Because he pitched most of his games with a team not known for having a sizeable baseball market, the average fan may not have considered Roy Oswalt a household name in his peak years. It bears mentioning, however, that the slender right-hander served as the head of the rotation for three Astros playoff teams, including the only team in franchise history to make it to the World Series since its 1962 inception. The reliable Roy Oswalt went about his business in much the same way he chose to announce his retirement–quietly, and without fanfare.
The 2001 season, Oswalt’s rookie campaign, saw Houston rise from the ashes of a 72-90 effort the year before to finish 93-69, a good enough record to capture the National League Central and face the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the playoffs. While the team was swept in three games, the 24-year-old Oswalt had made his mark by winning 14 games in just 20 starts.
By the time the team made it back to the playoffs in 2004 and 2005, Oswalt was the undisputed ace of the staff, having won exactly 20 games in both seasons and finishing among the top finalists in the annual Cy Young Award voting. He was particularly brilliant in helping the Astros reach the World Series in 2005, pitching a combined 14 innings over two starts against the St. Louis Cardinals in the Championship Series and holding them to just two runs, striking out 12 batters in the process.
Oswalt would go on to win another 60 games after 2005 before he was dealt to the Phillies in 2010. Houston, no longer a contender by this point, exchanged the veteran for prospects at the trade deadline, hoping to give the organizational rebuilding process a boost while also allowing Oswalt a chance at an always-elusive World Series ring.
While the Phillies did make the postseason that year and the one after with their new acquisition along for the ride, neither trip resulted in a championship. Oswalt then returned to the Lone Star State to pitch for the Texas Rangers in 2012, but saw a noteworthy drop in his numbers that led him to encounter problems simply finding a job in 2013. Eventually, he would settle on the pitching-starved Colorado Rockies, only to see his numbers decline even worse in the hitter-friendly high altitude setting.
Although he may lack the longevity and big-game experience to go down as an all-time great, few pitchers in all of baseball were more effective between 2001-2009, a decade that saw Oswalt receive three All-Star nominations and win an even 150 games. Astros fans are not likely to forget his name any time soon, but fans of the other 29 teams may be wise to take note of his retirement as well. In many cases, the retirement of a player as accomplished as Roy Oswalt might receive more attention, but then again, he’s just staying true to his modus operandi–doing it without fanfare.
By Spencer Hendricks