Despite back pain, Crede made an impact

Despite back pain, Crede made an impact

Despite back pain, Crede made an impact
CHICAGO -- There probably won't be a grandiose press conference at U.S. Cellular Field when Joe Crede officially announces his retirement.

In fact, the idea brought a chuckle from Crede when the topic was mentioned at SoxFest.

"I'll just fade away and that will be it," said a smiling Crede, as part of a conversation with MLB.com during the final day of festivities at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago. "I don't think my career warrants a press conference for retirement."

Crede laughs at the idea of handling his retirement because the American League Silver Slugger winner and Gold Glove-caliber third baseman hasn't completely left the game.

Sure, the 33-year-old hasn't played since Sept. 13, 2009, and had a promising career cut short because of three back surgeries. He also ended a comeback attempt with the Rockies before it truly started prior to Spring Training last year because when his workouts were amped up to get ready, the back didn't respond.

"I didn't want to go through everything I went through with the surgeries," Crede said.

And dealing with those surgeries caused pain Crede wouldn't wish on his worst enemies.

"That's been some of the most miserable time in my life, going through that surgery," Crede said. "Feeling the way I felt after surgery is one of the things I would never wish upon anyone. Anybody that does that surgery nowadays I know what they are going through and I feel for them. It's no fun at all."

Plenty of fun existed for Crede during his return to Chicago as part of the representation from the 2005 World Series champions at SoxFest. Friday's player introductions featured huge ovations for current players such as Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, but the reception for Crede was equally as loud.

Although Crede doesn't have any postseason Most Valuable Player hardware in his house, the White Sox probably don't break their 88-year title drought without Crede's contributions. Pierzynski deservedly receives plaudits for darting to first base on the famous dropped third-strike call in the ninth inning of Game 2 during the American League Championship Series, and it was pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna who raced around with the deciding run. But it was Crede's double that stood up as the game-winning hit off the Angels' Kelvim Escobar.

Over 45 postseason at-bats in 2005, Crede hit .289 with four homers and 11 RBIs. He accomplished those feats while playing in pain, and not the discomfort that every everyday player deals with over the course of a 162-game regular season and the postseason.

Allow the third baseman to describe the feeling he dealt with on an all-too regular basis.

"A lot of stuff really didn't get out there in the media as far as how I felt a lot of games," Crede said. "I had a lot of games, day games after night games, where I would wake up and I just couldn't get my back loose. I still had that pain down my legs and a lot of numbness and I would go to the field and just feel awful.

"You see your name on the lineup card and the last thing I wanted to do is be like, 'I can't go today.' I wanted to play every day. I always tried to find a way to play every day, and for me it just got to a point where I was playing a lot of those times and I felt the pain and it really hindered what I wanted to do on the field defensively and offensively."

Unfortunately for Crede, that pain didn't stop during his 2006 Silver Slugger effort, resulting in a .283 average, 30 homers and 94 RBIs. It didn't stop in 2008 when Crede was selected as an All-Star and it didn't stop during his final 90-game run with the Twins in 2009.

"Even my last year in Minnesota, I would swing and miss at a lot of pitches and it was just like lightning down both legs," said Crede with an uncomfortable laugh, almost as if he could still feel the pain. "It just sent chills up my spine.

"Hair would stand up on my back from the pain. And I was thinking, 'Man, I've got to play this off like that didn't hurt.' It just was not the way I wanted to be portrayed as a baseball player. I was a guy who really tried to extend his career and just played hurt and kind of really hurt myself more than anything."

Baseball meant more than just pain for Crede. While taking part in this past weekend's seminars focused on the 2005 squad, Crede fully remembered that group's amazing accomplishments as well as the fun it had along the way.

"Camaraderie with the guys is the biggest part that I miss about the game," said Crede, who admits coming "out of his shell" in 2005 and gaining the confidence that he really belonged. "You know, everybody gets on you and then you get on them.

"It's just a non-stop, full-season battle, just being around the clubhouse and stuff," added Crede with a smile. "But other than that, I don't really miss the back pains and stuff that came with it."

Serving as a full-time husband and father to his three children occupies Crede's time now. He's able to look back with great pride over his 10-year career, without regrets and with happiness as to where he is now.

If his back would have cooperated, Crede might not have ended up as a 33-year-old White Sox alum at SoxFest. Yet, that retirement talk remains on hold.

"Will that [back pain] happen if I continue to try to play? I don't know," Crede said. "I'm having a lot of fun right now being able to enjoy life with my kids, and still being able to run around with them is the biggest thing.

"My phone hasn't been ringing at all, but it's not like I'm also sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring either. If that phone rings, I'll probably answer it. I never want to say never."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.