NEW YORK (AP) _ Chili Davis ended his 19-year career in the major leagues when the Yankees gave him his unconditional release Wednesday.

Davis, 39, had said late in the season that he was leaning toward retirement.

He hit .269 this year with 19 homers and 78 RBIs but slumped in the second half of the season, managing just six homers and 26 RBIs after the All-Star break.

Davis finished with 359 career homers, third-most among switch hitters, trailing only Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504). His 1,372 RBIs were third among active players behind Harold Baines (1,583) and Cal Ripken (1,571).

``Chili exemplifies character and class,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement. ``He was a veteran leader who, along with his offensive skills, brought professionalism and competitiveness to the ballpark every day.''

Davis, who was hurt for most of the 1998 season, was the Yankees' designated hitter. Darryl Strawberry, back from colon cancer surgery, knee problems and a drug-related suspension, figures to be the DH against right-handed pitchers next season, with several players used against left-handers.