He played for which MLB team?
There have been thousands of men who have played Major League Baseball since the late 1800s. Only 268 of those players have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of those 268 players, only 54 played for only one team for their entire career. 15 of those Hall-of-Famers made their major league debut after 1970. Those fifteen men played for the same team they debuted with for the remainder of their careers. What does that tell you?
The vast majority of baseball players don’t stick with one team, especially after 1970.
There are certain baseball legends that you associate with one team. That is the only team that they ever played for in your mind. That’s where their legacy was written. People associate Derek Jeter with the New York Yankees. They associate Cal Ripken, Jr. with the Baltimore Orioles. When hearing the names of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, you think of the Houston Astros. The late-Tony Gwynn was Mr. Padre. Robin Yount was the greatest Brewer ever. The same could be said for Mike Schmidt with the Phillies. Those guys DID only play for one team during their Hall-of-Fame careers.
I remember getting my first Reggie Jackson card as a kid and getting excited. Then I noticed it was a card of Jackson on the California Angels. I didn’t know at the time that he played for the Angels!
Willie McCovey is remembered as a San Francisco Giant, not as an Oakland Athletic or a San Diego Padre. Juan Marichal was a Hall-of-Fame pitcher for the Giants. I bet that most of you didn’t know he played briefly for the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Do you think of Greg Maddux as a San Diego Padre? He was a Los Angeles Dodger too. Remember when Wade Boggs starred for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Or how about when Ryne Sandberg played for the Philadelphia Phillies? Not many remember that John Smoltz once pitched for the Red Sox. And the Cardinals. People also forget that Phillies legend Steve Carlton once played for the Cardinals. And the Giants. And the White Sox. And the Indians. And the Twins.
Damn, Steve Carlton got around! He wasn’t the only one…
*EHEM* Rickey Henderson, I’m looking at you…and the NINE teams you played on.
You get the point. Like in most sports, there are several Baseball Hall-of-Famers that once played on teams that may surprise you. Even baseball junkies sometimes forget about these times. Here are another 15 Baseball Hall-of-Famers that played for random teams that you may have forgotten about. In most cases, they didn’t last too long with these clubs.
Pedro Martinez – Philadelphia Phillies
Martinez was at the height of his powers during his time with the Boston Red Sox from 1998-2004. He led the AL in ERA four times, won two of his three Cy Young awards, and a World Series while in Boston. How about the 1999 All-Star game at Fenway Park? Pedro struck out the first four batters he faced: HALL-OF-FAMER Barry Larkin, HALL-OF-FAMER Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire. Somehow Matt Williams reached on an error, got caught stealing, and then Martinez struck out HALL-OF-FAMER Jeff Bagwell. Oh, and this was during the height of THE STEROID ERA. Martinez then signed a 4-year deal with the New York Mets, the final three of which were injury-plagued. After not signing with a team out of spring training, Pedro Martinez signed a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in July 2009. He proved to be a valuable addition going 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in 9 starts. Pedro made some key postseason starts and fared well for the Phillies – including in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series against the New York Yankees. The Phillies ended up losing the series to the Yankees 4-2, but the Hall-of-Famer went out on the top of his game…unlike some others on this list.
Mike Piazza – Florida Marlins
Piazza is arguably the greatest hitting catcher in MLB history. He has hit the most home runs by a catcher with 399 (couldn’t get an even 400, huh?). The 1993 NL Rookie of the Year spent his first seven seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers and Piazza couldn’t agree to a contract extension during the 1998 season. That’s when the Dodgers shocked the baseball world and traded him to the Florida Marlins, who were in the process of an epic fire-sale following their 1997 World Series win. Piazza was a member of the Marlins…for a whole week. He played in 5 games, hitting .278, zero homers, and 5 RBI. The Marlins then traded Piazza to the New York Mets, and the rest is history. Sure, Piazza finished his career playing one season in San Diego and another in Oakland. But who will ever forget that magical week when Mike Piazza was a Marlin?
Dave Winfield – Cleveland Indians
Winfield was a major leaguer from the moment the San Diego Padres drafted him in 1973. No, seriously, they put him on the Major League roster the day after he was drafted! His “rifle arm” and power hitting led him to four All-Star games as a Padre. The Yankees then signed Winfield to a 10-year, $23 million contract ahead of the ’81 season, making him the highest-paid baseball player at the time. Winfield made eight All-Star games and won five Gold Gloves as a Yankee. Winfield was then traded to the California Angels in 1990, joined the Toronto Blue Jays and won a ring in ‘92, and played for his hometown Minnesota Twins from 1993-94. Winfield hit everywhere he went until he joined the Cleveland Indians for the 1995 season. The 43-year-old outfielder-turned-designated hitter struggled with injuries. Winfield appeared in 46 games with Cleveland, hitting .191 with 2 homers and 4 RBI.
Jim Thome – Los Angeles Dodgers
Thome is among the most prolific power hitters in MLB history, yet isn’t talked about as much as the others in that club. He started his career in Cleveland, where he hit 337 home runs and helped lead the Indians to two World Series appearances. Thome continued to rake when he joined the Philadelphia Phillies until an injury paved the way for a trade to the Chicago White Sox. He hit 134 homers in parts of four seasons on the Southside. Thome was then a valuable bat in the Minnesota Twins lineup for parts of two seasons before having second stints with both the Indians and Phillies. He played his final season in 2012 for the Phillies and Baltimore Orioles. Thome then retired at age 42 after a brief playoff run with the O’s. Lost in all of this are the 17 games he appeared in as a Los Angeles Dodger in 2009. The Dodgers acquired Thome from the White Sox late in that season. Thome was hitting .249 with 23 homers and 74 RBI at the time of the trade. The Hall-of-Famer was relegated to pinch-hitting duties in LA, getting 4 hits in only 17 at-bats with three RBI. To this day, I still question why the Dodgers even traded for him if they were going to waste him on their bench.
Trevor Hoffman – Milwaukee Brewers
Hoffman was originally a shortstop who was later converted to a pitcher. That was a good career move for the eventual Hall-of-Fame closer. Hoffman made his MLB debut with the Florida Marlins in their inaugural season in 1993. That’s where the one-time MLB career saves leader recorded his first two MLB saves before being traded to San Diego, where he spent 16 legendary seasons as one of baseball’s best closers. Hoffman famously entered save situations entering to AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” in San Diego and recorded 552 saves for the Padres from 1993-2008. He then signed with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009 and made another All-Star game, posting a 3-2 record, 1.83 ERA, and recorded 37 saves in 41 chances. However, the 42-year-old Hoffman struggled in 2010, going 2-7 with a 5.89 ERA and recording 10 saves in 15 changes in what turned out to be his final season.
Yogi Berra – New York Mets
Before Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza came along, Yogi Berra was THE greatest hitting catcher of all time. He’s also one of the greatest all-around catchers baseball has ever seen. Berra played for the New York Yankees from 1946-1963. During that time, he made 15 All-Star Games, hit .285 with 358 homers along with 1,430 RBI, and won three MVP awards. Oh, and there are those TEN World Series Championships he won as a Yankee. TEN. Berra managed the Yankees in 1964 and was fired after losing to the Cardinals in the World Series. He then signed with the crosstown New York Mets as a coach…but also played in four games with the ’65 Mets. Berra officially ended his playing career with 2 hits in nine at-bats over those four games.
Roberto Alomar – Arizona Diamondbacks
As a White Sox fan, I’m inclined to put the Sox as the “random” team Alomar played for. Because Kenny Williams decided to trade for an aging Alomar, who was obviously declining in skill TWO YEARS IN A ROW, I can’t say his time on the Southside was random. Roberto Alomar WAS the best all-around second baseman in baseball from 1990-2001. During that time, Alomar was a 12-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, and won a pair of World Series Championships. He hit .311 with 174 home runs and 921 RBI during those 12 seasons. The Mets acquired the future Hall-of-Famer in 2002 and quickly discovered he was a shell of his old self. They traded him to the White Sox in 2003, and was…meh. Alomar then signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the 2004 season. He showed signs of his past self, hitting .308 with 3 homers and 16 RBI in 38 games, but most of his time with the D’Backs was spent on the DL with a broken hand. The White Sox, of course, traded for Alomar a second time that season and was even worse than before. Alomar never played in the majors again.
Eddie Murray – Anaheim Angels
Murray is one of seven players in MLB history to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs during his career. He’s one of two switch hitters with over 500 home runs. The other is Mickey Mantle. He had the most RBI (996) in baseball during the 1980s. He spent the majority of his career with the Baltimore Orioles, where he was a key part of their 1983 World Series Championship team. The Hall-of-Fame First Baseman and DH remained an All-Star caliber hitter for the Dodgers, Mets, and Indians during his age 33-40 seasons. Murray then signed with the Anaheim Angels in 1997 at age 41, father time had finally caught up to him. He hit .219 with 3 homers and 15 RBIs in 46 games with the Angels before being released.
Harmon Killebrew – Kansas City Royals
Killebrew was one of the best power hitters of all time. He spent 21 of his 22 MLB seasons with the Minnesota Twins and is arguably the greatest player to have played for the franchise. Killebrew has 559 of his 573 career home runs as a Twin. He let the AL in home runs 6 times, led the AL in RBI 3 times, and was a 13-time All-Star. The 1969 AL MVP’s #3 is retired by the Minnesota Twins. Despite Killebrew’s heroics, the Twins only made three post season appearances during his time in Minnesota, including helping the Twins win the 1965 AL pennant. In his last season as a Twin in 1974, Killebrew hit .222 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI. He was then given the option to join the club as the Twins hitting instructor, and manager of the Twins’ AAA affiliate or be released. Killebrew chose the latter and signed with the Kansas City Royals for the 1975 season. That turned out to be his final year as a player, hitting .199 with 14 homers and 44 RBI in 106 games for Kansas City.
Frank Thomas – Toronto Blue Jays
Thomas is the greatest player to ever play for the Chicago White Sox. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in a number of offensive categories, including home runs (448), runs scored (1,327), and runs batter in (1,465). He’s a two-time AL MVP (he should have won a 3rd in 2000), five-time All-Star, the 1997 AL Batting Champion, and won a World Series with the Southsiders in 2005. Most importantly, Thomas was never under suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs and was the only active player in 2007 to voluntarily agree to be an interview for the Mitchell Report. Thomas was unceremoniously released by the White Sox following the 2005 season but quickly signed with the Oakland Athletics for the 2006 season. All Thomas did have a big bounceback season hitting .270 with 39 homers and 114 RBI in leading the A’s back to the postseason. He then signed a two-year-$18 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of the 2007 season. Thomas had a solid 2007 season for the Blue Jays in hitting .277 with 26 home runs (which included his 500thcareer home run) and 95 RBI. The 2008 season in Toronto did go well for “The Big Hurt.” The Blue Jays released Thomas after 16 games (.167 average, 3 home runs, 11 RBI). He then signed with Oakland for a second stint and the remainder of the season. The 2008 season was the final in Thomas’ 19-year playing career.
Tom Seaver – Boston Red Sox
Seaver is arguably the greatest New York Met ever, having been a driving force in their ’69 World Series win. He was the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year, a 3-time Cy Young winner, a 12-time All-Star, and a member of the 300-win club. Seaver spent parts of 12 seasons with the Mets, parts of 6 six seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, and parts of three solid seasons with the Chicago White Sox at the end of his career, where he recorded his 300th win. What some people forget is that Seaver was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1986, his last year playing in MLB. Seaver was added to a Red Sox squad that made a run to the World Series. Boston eventually lost to his former team, the Mets, in 7 games. Seaver ended up getting injured and was not able to pitch in that World Series. Some Red Sox fans still reminisce in saying, “if Tom Seaver was healthy….”
Randy Johnson – Houston Astros
“The Big Unit” was the most intimidating pitcher of his era. He was a 6’10’’, effectively wild left-hander. Johnson started his career with the Montreal Expos but began to emerge as one of the game’s best pitchers while with the Seattle Mariners. Johnson cemented his legacy with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he won 4 of his 5 Cy Young Awards and won a World Series. The dude also made a bird explode with a single pitch! Johnson later played for the Yankees and won his 300th game as San Francisco Giant. Some forget about the Big Unit’s 1998 campaign, which was a tale of two seasons. After a 1997 season where he was the AL Cy Young runner-up, Johnson, and the Mariners couldn’t agree to a contract extension in 1998. It looked as if contract talks affected the tall left-hander. He went 9-10 with a 4.33 ERA before the Mariners traded him to the Houston Astros. Johnson started 11 games for the Astros and was nearly perfect. The Big Unit went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and helped lead Houston to the postseason. The Astros were eliminated in the Divisional Series, and Johnson signed with the Diamondbacks during that offseason.
Ken Griffey, Jr. – Chicago White Sox
“Junior” is my favorite baseball player of all time and was a cultural trendsetter. He is best known for being one of the best players in baseball in the 1990s and arguably the greatest player to play for the Seattle Mariners. Griffey was later traded to his “hometown” Reds and spent parts of 9 injury-riddled seasons in Cincinnati. Junior ended his career back in Seattle from 2009-2010. His career accolades include being one of five players with 600 home runs, a 13-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, a 7-time Silver Slugger, and the 1997 NL MVP. Griffey only reached the postseason three times during his legendary 22-year MLB career. One of those times was in 2008 with…the Chicago White Sox. As a Sox fan, I was ecstatic that they acquired Griffey, even though it was probably a year or so too late. The White Sox are notorious for acquiring legends well past their prime. I didn’t care. I got to see Ken Griffey, Jr., of all people, in a White Sox uniform. He didn’t make much of an impact at the plate (.260 AVG, 3 homers, 18 RBI in 41 games), but did help the White Sox win game 163 in the “Black Out Game” to clinch the AL Central against the Twins with one last defensive gem…
Willie Mays – New York Mets
“The Say Hey Kid” spent 21 of his 23 seasons of his MLB career with the Giants organization: first in New York and then in San Francisco. Mays is arguably the greatest centerfielder ever to play the game. He was a 20-time All-Star (was selected 24 times), World Series Champion in 1954, the 1951 NL Rookie of the Year, 12-time Gold Glove Winner, and two-time NL MVP. Mays had 3,293 hits, a lifetime batting average of .301, hit 660 home runs and drove in 1,909 runs. He also holds the MLB record for putouts by an outfielder with 7,095. Mays played for the Giants until May 1972. The legendary outfielder got off to a rough start in his age 41 season in San Francisco, batting .184 with 3 RBI in 19 games before being traded to the New York Mets. Mays fared better in New York for the remainder of the ’72 season (.267 average, 8 homers, and 19 RBI in 69 games). The 1973 season was the last for Mays after hitting a career-worst .211 with 6 home runs and 27 RBI in 66 games.
Babe Ruth – Boston Braves
George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr. managed to make this list. He didn’t make it as a member of the Red Sox but as a Boston Brave. “The Babe” became a legend during his 15 years as a Yankee. He hit 714 homers, drove in 2,214 runs, owns the highest Slugging and OPS numbers in the history of the game, and somehow won only ONE MVP award during his baseball career. Seriously, just one??? Who chose the MVPs back in the day? Check out Babe Ruth’s stats on Baseball-Reference and explain to me how Babe Ruth, arguably the most legendary slugger of all time, won just one MVP award (1923). And it wasn’t even in 1927 when he hit a then-record 60 home runs in a season! OK, Lou Gehrig was more deserving in 1927 (47 homers, 173 RBI). But you’re gonna tell me that George Burns (no, not THAT George Burns) and Mickey Cochrane were more deserving? After the 1934 season, Ruth contemplated retirement at age 40 but was convinced to join the Boston Braves. In addition to playing, he was promised a VP and an assistant manager role with the Braves. The additional roles never materialized, and Ruth was being used as a box-office attraction. Ruth finally retired after Memorial Day in 1935. He batted .181 with 6 homers and 12 RBI in 28 games as a Brave.
*Editor’s note: It has since been brought to my attention by a reader that players were only eligible to win the MVP award once from 1922-1929. Oops. Babe Ruth won in 1923, so that’s why he was ineligible in ’26 and ’28. The rule was lifted after the 1928 season. Still, I don’t agree with that rule and believe Ruth was snubbed of two MVPs. *
How many of these situations do you remember?
Photo credit: Flickr