New York's Lou Gehrig shaking hands with Boston Braves outfielder Babe Ruth, 1935

Say the name of any legendary baseball player and the team they played for instantly comes to mind… Yogi Berra? New York Yankees. Hank Aaron? The Braves. Harmon Killebrew? Minnesota Twins.

The image of most of these legends are so strongly associated with a single team that the idea of them playing elsewhere isn’t even considered.  But it happens.  In fact the three players mentioned above – Berra, Aaron, Killebrew – all ended their careers playing for another franchise.

Crazy thought, isn’t it?

They’re not alone, some of the biggest names in baseball history had a season or two playing in an unfamiliar big league uniform, in this weeks article I’ll be taking a look at some of the game’s best ballplayers playing in the “wrong” uniforms.

We’ll start things off with “The Babe”…

Babe Ruth, Boston Braves (1935)

Babe Ruth is forever linked to the New York Yankees, that’s just the way it is and the way it always will be.  We all know he started off his playing career as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and how he was sold to the Yankees just in time to become the greatest home run hitter of all-time.  But baseball didn’t end with the Yankees for the Babe.  After being released by the Yanks just prior to the 1935 season Ruth signed on with the Boston Braves with hopes of one day managing the club.  On May 25, 1935 just a week before retiring as a player, Ruth smacked three home runs in one game for the Braves, his last three homers as a big leaguer.

Babe Ruth as a first base coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers, 1938

In 1938 Babe signed on to be the first base coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers in a last-ditch effort to become a Major League manager, when it was obvious it wasn’t going to happen Ruth left the big leagues for good.

Willie Mays, New York Mets (1972-73)

New York Mets outfielder Willie Mays, 1973

“Say Hey” Willie Mays played 21 seasons with the New York/San Francisco Giants clubbing an astounding 646 home runs with the franchise before being traded a month into the 1972 season back to New York to join the Mets.  Over his one-and-a-half seasons with the Mets, Mays didn’t play his best baseball, hitting .238 with 14 home runs over 135 games. Willie hung the cleats up after his 1973 season with New York at the age of 42.

Ty Cobb, Philadelphia Athletics (1927-28)

Ty Cobb, Philadelphia Athletics 1928

Sure, everyone remembers Ty Cobb in his days with the Detroit Tigers, but do you remember where were you when you heard that he signed on with the Philadelphia Athletics? The Georgia Peach spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers before joining the A’s, and despite being in his forties was still a productive hitter.  While with the Athletics in 1927, Cobb collected his 4000th career hit – an achievement only one other player has matched in the several decades since (the other player also achieving this feat in a “wrong uniform”, you’ll see later).  Cobb retired after the 1928 season following a season in which he had his worst batting average in over 20 years, finishing with a .323 mark.

Hank Aaron, Milwaukee Brewers (1975-76)

Milwaukee Brewers DH Hank Aaron salutes the crowd, 1976

Henry Aaron began his Major League career as an outfielder for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954… 21 seasons, 733(!) home runs, and a franchise shift to Atlanta later and good old Hank missed playing up in The Dairy State… plus the idea of being a designated hitter didn’t seem so bad either.  On November 2, 1974 the Atlanta Braves shipped Hammerin’ Hank back to Milwaukee, this time to join the relatively new Brewers team.  Aaron spent 2 seasons with the Brewers, appearing in 222 games and hitting 22 home runs, deuces were runnin’ wild!  Aaron retired after the 1976 season having amassed 755 career home runs, a Major League record at the time.

Ted Williams, Washington Senators/Texas Rangers (1969-72)

Ted Williams as the manager of the Texas Rangers in 1972

No, Ted Williams never played for a team other than the Boston Red Sox, but the Splendid Splinter did wear the uniform of the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers for four seasons as their manager following his retirement from the Sox in 1960.  In his first season as manager, Ted guided the Senators to a respectable 86-76 record, but it was all downhill from there.  The Senators relocated to the Dallas area for 1972 and the Williams-led Rangers finished dead last in the AL West with a record of 54-100, that was it for Ted – he never suited up in a big league uniform ever again.

Yogi Berra, New York Mets (1965)

Yogi Berra at the plate as a member of the New York Mets in 1965

Yogi took over as manager of the New York Yankees in 1964 following an 18 year stint as their everyday catcher, despite leading the Yanks to the seventh game of the World Series in his only season as their manager he was fired following the season for a perceived loss of control of the club.  The Mets seized this opportunity and hired Berra to be a player-coach.  Berra appeared in only four games as a player for the Mets collecting 2 base hits in 9 at bats before retiring to focus on his coaching duties.

As a Houston Astros bench coach in 1986, Yogi Berra sports the classic "rainbow guts"

Berra spent the next 7 seasons as a Mets coach before the unexpected death of manager Gil Hodges in 1972 gave Berra another shot at managing a Major League club.  Under Berra the Mets would go on to win the NL Pennant in 1973 but were a disappointment every other year.  Berra would go back to coaching following his firing from the Mets in 1975 when he re-joined the Yankees eventually becoming their manager for a season+16 games from 1984-85.  Yogi joined the Astros as a bench coach for 1986 where he remained until he retired from baseball in 1989.

Pete Rose, Montreal Expos (1984)

Pete Rose wearing the powder blues of the Montreal Expos in 1984

Coming off an impressive 21-season stretch with the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, which included 6 World Series appearances, 16 All-Star Game selections and over 3900 hits, Pete Rose dusted off his passport and headed north signing as a free agent with the Montreal Expos before the 1984 season.  Pete collected 72 hits in his 95 games played with the Expos, none of them more famous than his 4000th career hit, joining Philadelphia’s Ty Cobb as the only other player to achieve that mark.  After only half-a-season the Expos traded Rose to the Cincinnati Reds where he would act as baseball’s final player-manager for three seasons before retiring to focus on managing and gambling for the remainder of his career.

After his lifetime banishment from baseball in 1989 Pete opened a restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida, where in 1996 he refused to autograph a photo for a 13-year-old straight-A student named Chris Creamer, just terrible.

Harmon Killebrew, Kansas City Royals (1975)

Harmon Killebrew with the Kansas City Royals in 1975

This one still seems strange to me, Harmon Killebrew as a Kansas City Royal?  It happened, albiet it didn’t last long. After 21-seasons of smacking over 550 home runs with the Minnesota Twins franchise, Killer signed up for a one-year deal to be Kansas City’s designated hitter in 1975.  The results weren’t the prettiest, Killebrew ended up hitting only .199 on the season with 14 home runs and 44 runs batted in.  The Royals released Harmon following the season and he retired, joining the Twins as a colour commentator for the 1976 season.

Jose Bautista, Baltimore Orioles-Tampa Bay Devil Rays-Kansas City Royals (2004)

Jose Bautista with Kansas City and Baltimore during his journey 'round baseball in 2004

Certainly not a legend like those mentioned above, I had to throw a current player into the mix.  Jose Bautista had a very interesting debut year in the Major Leagues back in 2004.  Entering the off-season as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jose was selected by the Baltimore Orioles from the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft.  After 16 games with the Orioles, the Kansas City Royals plucked Jose away via waivers.  Thirteen games later and the Royals had sold Bautista to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Twelve games with the Rays and they had traded him to the New York Mets. The Mets being the Mets wasted no time and dealt Bautista within hours, sending Jose back to the team he started the off-season with, the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he was able to remain for the next 4 seasons.

I’ll continue the wrong-uniform fun next week, check back next Wednesday to see more photos and read some more stories.

Check out Chris’s sports logo and uniform website at SportsLogos.Net, or follow him on Twitter at @sportslogosnet

Comments (39)

  1. Frank Thomas, Blue Jay?

  2. Nice handshake Lou.

  3. Poor Jose, he’s finally home where he belongs now. Can’t wait to see if he’s got more in him for this season.
    Trippy to see the Babe with Lou Gehrig in anything but a Yankee uniform!!!

  4. Pete Rose wanted you to pony up some money for that autograph.

    Yogi Berra looked like a bumblebee.

  5. Babe as the 3rd base coach?

  6. I saw Pete Rose in Vegas last May. He’s charging minimum 100 bucks to sign items that he sells to you (picture, baseball etc.).

    I did what anyone else would do, and heckled him from behind the slot machines.

  7. Theo Fleury wearing an Avalanche jersey. Wendel Clark wearing a Blackhawks sweater. Brett Hull on the Coyotoes. Gretz on the Blues. Marty St. Louis wearing Flames. Jeff Carter wearing Blue Jackets… was that last one too soon?

  8. There are two more strange ones for me, both from the Braves. Dale Murphy in a Phillies and Rockies jersey, and John Smoltz in a Red Sox and Cardinals jersey. Throw in Glavine for the Mets, too.

  9. Joe Dimaggio as an A’s coach in the 60′s and Reggie Jackson as an Oriole for one season.

  10. Steve Carlton as a Cleveland Indian.

  11. How about one David Steib as a White Sox.

  12. Being from Boston, Carlton Fisk with the White Sox or Mo Vaughn with Angels/ Mets.

    • Fisk actually played 350+ more games with Chicago than with Boston; i hear what you’re saying that it was strange for your team’s legend to leave…but most of the rest of us associate him just as much/more with the White Sox…

  13. I may be without any backing here, but “Charlie Hustle” was made an example of. His exploits in Cinci far outway anything he did away from the field. Commish should have balls extracted. #Slowandpainful

    • Betting on baseball, betting on actual games in which he is competing, dares far far far far far more damage to the integrity of the game than all the steroids combined.

  14. i don’t think you were 11 in 1996, maybe that’s why he refused to sign

  15. Not a fan of basketball and I know this was aimed at baseball, but this is one that has to go in this category.

    Jordan in a Wizards uniform

  16. Charlie Hough, Mike Piazza, Darren Daulton, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Luis Gonzolez as Marlins.

  17. Mike Piazza in a Florida Marlins jersey

  18. For Chicago fans it would have to be seeing Ron Santo in a White Sox uniform.

  19. Funny how three legends wound up coming back and finishing their careers in the cities where they started, but with different teams: Ruth with the Boston Braves, Willie Mays with the Mets and Hank Aaron with the Brewers.

    Some football additions to the list could include Johnny Unitas with the Chargers, Joe Namath as a Ram, Franco Harris as a Seahawk and Peyton Manning with the ???

  20. Babe in a Braves uni is not as strange as him coaching first base for the Dodgers. Berra in a rainbow puke ‘Stros uni and Killebrew playing for the Royals is also weird to see.

  21. This list could go on and on – kinda fun too… Tom Seaver with Boston… George Foster with the White Sox… Phil Niekro a Toronto Blue Jay… Frank Robinson and Angel and Dodger… Eddie Murray an Angel… Orel Hershiser a Met/Indian/Giant… Juan Marichal a Dodger….

  22. Angels: Fernando Valenzuela (only 2 games), Rickey Henderson, Eddie Murray, Hoyt Wilhelm, Frank Robinson, Dave Winfield, Don Sutton
    Dodgers: Gary Carter, Garret Anderson, Rickey Henderson, Greg Maddux, Jim Bunning, Andruw Jones, Jack Clark (as a hitting coach), Davey Johnson, Juan Marichal, Tony Lazzeri, Bobby Bonilla
    These are just to name a few…

  23. How about all the people the A’s have signed in their twilight years recently? Nomar, Piazza, Frank Thomas, David Justice, Eric Karros, Jason Kendall…

  24. I had the exact same experience with Rose! When I was 13, I was there on a summer camp field trip (as weird as that sounds), and he showed up. I was wearing a Reds cap I had (just in case…) and asked him very politely to sign it. Without hesitation or even looking up, he just said “Nope.”

    Even WORSE…I gave the cap to a friend of mine (who was a 14/15 year-old girl), and she came back with a signed hat 2 minutes later. Yes I have an autographed Pete Rose Reds hat, but it just reminds me of how despicable of a person he is.

  25. The Babe in a Giants uniform for an exhibition game in 1923:
    http://forum.sportsmogul.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=8348&stc=1&d=1179781563

  26. I think an NFL version of this would be intriguing. Unitas as a Charger, Namath as a Ram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *