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9 Athletes You Never Thought You Would See In Another Uniform
Yesterday it was announced that Albert Pujols agreed to a $254 million, 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, finally putting an end to months of speculation about the future of baseball’s greatest slugger. And while I’m glad that the sports world can now finally move on, I must admit that it will be a little strange seeing Albert Pujols wear anything other than a Cardinals uniform from here on out. Some guys become so intertwined with the team and city they play for that it’s just hard to imagine them playing anywhere else. Pujols was one of those guys.
Nevertheless, this is hardly the first time a franchise’s most iconic player has packed his bags (willingly or unwillingly) and headed to a new town. So today, for your reading pleasure, I’ve put together a list of 9 athletes you never thought you’d see wearing another uniform…but did. And no, LeBron is not #1, because I don’t think anybody ever expected he would spend his whole career in Cleveland…except people in Cleveland.
Our younger readers may find this hard to believe, but in the mid-1990s the Baltimore Orioles were good, vying with the Yankees for supremacy in the AL East. Their best pitcher and most popular player was Mike Mussina, a clutch starter and perennial All-Star. But in 2001, Moose figured, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” So he signed a deal with the hated Yankees. As far as O’s fans were concerned, he may as well have burned an American flag and strangled a litter of puppies with his bare hands on live television.
Wade Boggs won 5 batting and had 7 consecutive seasons with 200 hits. Consequently, he was the face of the Red Sox franchise during the 80s, and everyone figured he would play his whole career in Boston. Then the Red Sox let him walk away after a down 1992 season and the Yankees signed him to a three year deal—probably just because they knew seeing Boggs in pinstripes would drive Boston fans mad.
Bobby Hull was not only the Chicago Blackhawks’ best player for 15 years; he was also one of the NHL’s biggest superstars in the 1960s, racking up goals at a pace no one had seen before. To Hawks fans, the thought of the Golden Jet leaving Chicago was unthinkable. It was also unlikely, since NHL players (and all pro athletes) didn’t have the ability to move around in the early 70s that they do now. However, Hull was tired of being paid so little while owners got rich off his talents. So when the Winnipeg Jets of the upstart World Hockey Association offered him a ridiculous (at the time) $1,000,000 contract he jumped on it.
Ray Bourque played 21 seasons for Boston and was the most beloved hockey player in Boston since Bobby Oar. And yet when their captain requested a trade during the 1999-2000 season, no one was angry. Quite the contrary, team management and pretty much everyone in Boston wanted him to leave so he could have a chance of finally winning a Stanley Cup. So while it was surreal to see a man synonymous with the Bruins wearing an Avalanche jersey, Boston fans were elated when Bourque finally hoisted the Cup in 2001?
In the history of pro sports, has there ever been another case of a franchise icon leaving a team with so little resentment?
“Do I want to be in St. Louis forever? Of course. People from other teams want to play in St. Louis, and they’re jealous that we’re in St. Louis because the fans are unbelievable. So why would you want to leave a place like St. Louis to go somewhere else and make $3 million or $4 more million a year? It’s not about the money. I already got my money. It’s about winning, and that’s it.”
That’s what Pujols said in a 2009 interview. Obviously, things change.
There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of rage coming out of St. Louis as a result of Albert Pujols’ departure. Instead, it seems that most people are just mourning a lost opportunity. It isn’t often that an athlete has a chance to be a legend in his sport as well as a beloved icon for a team and a city. There could have been a statue of Pujols out in front Busch stadium right next to the one of Stan Musial, but not anymore. And baseball fans just doing like being reminded so bluntly that their “pastime” is a business.
Perhaps no other team in sports is more closely linked to its home town than the Green Bay Packers. Hell, the team is actually owned by the people of Green Bay. So the connection between the city and its quarterback, Brett Favre, was pretty special. That’s was made it so bizarre to see Favre wear a Jets jersey and then—good Lord—a Vikings jersey. It just wasn’t right.
Joe Montana is regarded by some as the greatest quarterback the NFL has ever seen. Along with Jerry Rice, he was synonymous with the San Francisco 49ers. But like the Packers with Aaron Rodgers, the 49ers realized in the early 90s that their next superstar quarterback—Steve Young—wasn’t going to wait around for an aging legend to realize his time was up. This resulted in the bizarre sight of Joe Montana in a Chiefs jersey.
Johnny Unitas wasn’t just the image of the Baltimore Colts. He was the embodiment of the idea of a what a quarterback should be. He played for the Colts from 1956 to 1972, winning 2 NFL championships, 1 Super Bowl, a bunch of MVPs, and made 10 Pro Bowl teams. But after the 1972 season, Johnny Freaking Unitas left the Colts and joined the San Diego Chargers for one lousy season. It was just unthinkable.
Michael Jordan made the Bulls. He won 6 championships with daaaah Bulls. Between 1987 and 1998, about 50% of the world’s males between the ages of 7 and 27 had a poster of Michael Jordan—in a Bulls jersey—on their bedroom wall. When Jordan retired for a second time in 1998 after another NBA Championship threepeat, it seemed like the prefect ending to a storied career. He would be a Bull forever.
Then Jordan became part owner of the Washington Wizards and decided, what the hell, why not just suit up and play a bit. It was great for basketball fans in Washington, but for everyone else it was just too weird to see Jordan in that turquoise jersey.