Sunday October 20th, 2019 10:28PM

Hanging up No. 29: Rangers retire Adrián Beltré's jersey

By The Associated Press
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Adrián Beltré got one more tap on the top of the head from Elvis Andrus, and a visit by the person who brought the four-time All-Star third baseman up to the major leagues as a teenager.

The Rangers retired Beltré's No. 29 jersey on Saturday night after he spent the last eight of his 21 major league seasons in Texas.

Among the special guests on the field was Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who was the interim general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers when Beltré was first called up by them in 1998 for his big league debut at age 19 — and never went back down.

Lasorda was still their manager when he first went to the Dominican Republic to see Beltré, who was only 15 when he first signed with the Dodgers as an amateur free agent in July 1994. Lasorda said he talked to Beltré many times over the years and told him he had "all of the ability in the world, just don't mess it up."

Beltré went on to collect 3,166 career hits, the most ever by a foreign-born player, and 477 homers. He was a .286 hitter with 1,707 RBIs in 2,933 career games. The five-time Gold Glove winner played 2,759 games at third base — only Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson had more.

After Beltré had slipped on a gift from his former teammates that had been presented by Andrus — a plush long blue robe with Beltré's name and number on the back — the Rangers shortstop made another playful tap on the head before running away. Beltré doesn't like being touched there, and Andrus was usually the prime instigator after Beltré homered or had other big hits for Texas.

Beltré's jersey is the fourth retired by the Rangers, plus the No. 42 retired by MLB in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson.

Two years ago, just a couple of weeks after Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Texas retired the No. 7 worn by the perennial All-Star catcher. The other numbers retired by the Rangers are the No. 26 of the late Johnny Oates, the manager who led them to their first three AL West titles over a four-year span in the late 1990s, and the No. 34 of Nolan Ryan.

Among several video messages played during the ceremony were from Hall of Fame third basemen George Brett, Mike Schmidt and Chipper Jones. All of them told Beltré they would see him in Cooperstown when he becomes eligible for election in 2024.

"You had more fun than anybody I saw play the game of baseball," Brett said.

"Five years from now you will be first ballot ... can't wait to sit behind you when you're making your speech," Schmidt said.

Beltré played for the Dodgers until 2004, and then played for the Seattle Mariners (2005-09) and Boston Red Sox (2010) before joined the Rangers on a $96 million, six-year free-agent deal in 2011. He appeared in his only World Series in his first season with Texas.

The ceremony was held between games of a day-night doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics.

"The way he played the game and how he enjoyed it, that's probably what I remembered most, other than thorns he's stuck in my side during games," said A's manager Bob Melvin, who watched the ceremony from the visitor's dugout. "He's just such a great personality for the game. We'll all miss him."

The umpires working the A's series include crew chief Gerry Davis, who two years ago ejected Beltré from a home game the same week the Rangers third baseman was closing in on his 3,000th career hit. When Davis motioned for him to get closer to the on-deck circle, Beltré instead dragged the large plastic mat marking the circle closer to him and got tossed.


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