Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Uniformity


Before I start, let me just say this.

I have a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for players who spent their entire careers with one franchise.

With the way the game is changing these days, it looks as though the Chipper Joneses and (most likely) Mariano Riveras of the world will become an extremely rare breed in the years to come, quite possibly hovering on the brink of extinction.

It feels good to point to my Red Sox binder and say, "That's where all my Carl Yastrzemski cards are."

Or point to my Reds binder and say, "Every single Johnny Bench card I own is in there."

That being said, though, I've long had a fascination with players who jumped around a bit during their big-league tenures.

Because of my team-centric organizational setup, I've become fairly well-versed as to what uniforms my "binder guys" wore throughout the course of their career and when they played for those franchises.

As far as my many player collections go, the jerseys have always been just as important as the stats. I'm probably in the minority with that way of thinking, though.

Now, along with that idea, I've always been interested to hear what teams baseball fans associate with certain players.

Some are no-brainers. Despite his brief stint with the Phillies as a rookie in 1981, Ryne Sandberg is and will always be a Chicago Cub to pretty much every fan out there.

Other "jersey association" cases are fairly easy for me as well, although they do require a slight hint of deliberation. Although he spent quite a few of his later years with the Reds and White Sox, Tom Seaver is a New York Met in my mind.

Some, however, aren't that simple. Many "association" cases have required a great deal of thought over the years.

That's what this post is all about.




The case of Carlton Fisk required quite a bit of consideration on my part.

To kids of the 1970's, I'd imagine that Fisk is a Boston Red Sock, first and foremost.

On the other hand, fans who grew up during the '80s might better remember him as a member of the White Sox above all.

In many cases, these "associations" are a generational thing. Mr. Fisk here is a great example.

Trouble is, I wasn't a part of either of those generations of the game. I was one when Fisk retired in 1993. As a result, I like to think that I'm tackling this situation in an unbiased way.

Given my Chicago ties, I'm inclined to go with the hometown club on many of these decisions.

Fisk is a rare exception. Although I appreciate his years with the South Siders, my mind can't help but picture Fisk in a Red Sox cap.

I like to think my love for '70s baseball cards played a role in that.

Fisk was one of the more "cardogenic" players of the decade.




Like Fisk, I have to go against my hometown bias with "Goose" Gossage.

Although he'd pitch for nine teams throughout the course of his career, the White Sox and Yankees are probably the most well-known of the bunch. I guess you could throw his tenure with the Padres into the mix, too.

Gossage did indeed break into the bigs with the White Sox in 1972. Due to his pivotal role with those dynasty Yankee teams of the late '70s, though, I've always associated Gossage with the Bronx Bombers more than any other franchise.

Something about those pinstripes just suited him well.




Although he enjoyed a 16-year career, Dave Kingman never spent more than four consecutive seasons with one franchise.

He enjoyed two separate stints with the Mets. On top of that, he also famously played for four different teams in 1977 alone.

Kingman traveled quite a bit after the Mets dealt him early in June of '77. I'm still waiting for a company to create cards of him both as a Padre and an Angel. I have the Yankees one covered, though.

Obviously, his constant switching from city to city makes Kingman's case a daunting task.

Many fans probably picture him as a San Francisco Giant. At the same time, I'd bet quite a few others see him as a Met.

Personally, I see him as a Chicago Cub.

I guess my hometown bias showed with this one.




Perhaps the toughest "association" case I've come across thus far has involved none other than Dave Winfield.

While he enjoyed solid years later in his career with clubs like the Angels and Blue Jays, it all boils down to two teams for me.

The Padres and Yankees.

In terms of sheer tenure, they're nearly identical. Winfield spent eight years in San Diego, followed by eight and a part of a ninth (split with the Angels in 1990) with the Yankees.

He broke in and made a name for himself with the Padres, but likely achieved "superstar" status in the Bronx.

So, which to choose?

It's basically a toss up.

For me, the Padres just edge out the Yankees.

Again, I think the baseball cards had something to do with that decision, though.




For better or worse, the topic of "uniformity" is alive and well in baseball's recent history.

Much like Nolan Ryan (someone who I may have to feature in a possible sequel to this post), Randy Johnson was an unquestioned "ace" in the bigs for a long, long time.

Despite brief stints with the Expos, Astros, and Giants at various points in his career, the association issue with the "Big Unit" pretty much comes down to either the Mariners or Diamondbacks.

His Arizona accolades are nothing short of amazing.

He captured a mind-boggling four straight Cy Young awards from 1998 to '01. He won his only championship in Arizona, sharing co-World Series MVP honors with Curt Schilling in the process. Let's not forget that perfect game against the Braves in '04, either.

Still, some of my earliest baseball memories involve seeing highlights of the "Big Unit" mowing hitters down in a Mariners uniform. That's what made him such a "hero" to me as a young fan of the game.

Because of that, he's a Mariner in my book.




Although I own over 600 cards of the guy, I'm still not entirely sure which uniform fits Vlad Guerrero the best.

For now, it's the Expos. Again, some of my earliest traces of baseball fandom come from Vlad's days in Montreal.

Yet, other times, I find myself picturing him in Angels garb. 

I still can't decide.




I'm not ready to determine a surefire "association" with most of today's players just yet.

To me, Mark Teixeira is still a Texas Ranger. That may well change after his "big market" tenure with the Yankees is over, though.

The case of Roy Halladay seems to get more and more interesting with each passing day. While I still currently picture him as a Blue Jay, that Phillies jersey is starting to become a bit more ingrained into my memory.

Who knows?

Maybe people like me will be telling our kids, "That's Roy Halladay. He used to pitch for the Phillies, you know."

At this point, though, it's still up in the air.

Still, one thing is for certain.




I will never associate Dale Murphy with the Colorado Rockies.

But that's another topic for another day.

8 comments:

The Underdog Card Collector said...

Good man, including The Goose - Padres mention. Frankly, I choke a bit each time I see him in a Yanks uniform on a card. It's been this long and I just can't get used to it.

...though, I can manage the paradox and admit that's a stellar card.

Naturally, I'm very happy about the Winfield conclusion. We nearly had a breakdown over here at The Underdog HQ reading that section of the post. ; )

...but, what

is

up

with

that

card?!

I never get used to it, no matter how many other elements are perfect (the helmet!!!).

AdamE said...

I live in AZ and I myself see Johnson as a Mariner. To be fair though I wasn't here when he was.

JediJeff said...

Pudge did play more games in sox of white than sox of red.

Swing And A Pop-up said...

I think in the case of some of these it has to do with the market they were playing in. Whenever you see Fisk in highlights it's either hitting a home run in game 6 or punching Thurman Munson (in either case he's wearing a Red Sox uni). Gossage was at his best with the Yankees. What team comes to mind when you think of Alex Rodriguez? Jason Giambi? Fred Lynn?
This was a great idea for a post. My thoughts on Nolan Ryan? Angels.

Backstop Cards said...

Interesting post. I always have a hard time associating Winfield with the Padres because of my age. I always associate him with the Twins, since he played there in '93 and '94, some of my prime card collecting days.

But I've always associated Goose with the Friars, not sure why (well, probably because I'm a Padre fan, but not sure of any other reasons).

hiflew said...

Fisk - White Sox

Goose - Padres

Winfield - Yankees

Kingman - probably Mets but I usually think of the 4 team saga before any specific team

Johnson - Mariners

Vlad - probably the Angels because his best Expo years were my years away from the game and collecting


I think the "one team" guys has dwindled, but there are still quite a few like Jeter, Rollins, and of course Helton. There are a few more that may join that club later on like Rickie Weeks, Felix Hernandez, and Joe Mauer. I like that it is an exclusive club, only the best of the best need apply.

gcrl said...

Check my blog in a couple days for some missing kingman cards...

tourist504 said...

I am old and hardheaded. Hence:

The Big Unit is a Mariner

A-Rod is a Mariner

Pudge Rod is a Ranger

Vlad is an Expo

Despite that he is from Cincinnati, his Dad played almost entirely for Cincinnati, and he played for 8 years in Cincinnati, Griffey Jr. is a Seattle freakin' Mariner!

Good post. This could probably produce a sequel. Lots of players fall into this category.