Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Uniformity, revisited

A few months ago, I wrote one of my personal favorite posts in this blog's history.

In a topic I dubbed "Uniformity", I sought to find which uniforms I associated with a few of the game's many multi-team greats.

As I mentioned last time around, some choices are pretty much no-brainers. I can't imagine many fans associating Elston Howard with the Red Sox, or Roger Maris as a Cardinal. They're both Yankees, first and foremost.

With other guys, though, it's not that easy.

It's a tough call in determining the proper "uniformity" with some of my favorite players. And, depending on one's allegiances, it's a choice that probably differs from fan to fan.

Of course, I'd also like to note my inordinate respect for "one-team" greats once again. The single-franchise tenures of guys like Carl Yastremzski or Joe DiMaggio are part of their legendary status in the game's history.

But, for the sake of this post, let's take a look at another handful of tough choices in the world of "uniformity".

As I've found, they certainly make for some nice discussion.

Frankly, I'm floored that I didn't feature Mr. Nolan Ryan in my initial "uniformity" post.

He may well be the king of this category.

One could very well associate him with three different uniforms. He enjoyed wildly successful stints with the Angels, Astros, and Rangers during his legendary career. (Perhaps a few hardcore New York fans might best view him in a Mets jersey as well.)

For me, it's a tough choice. I was only one year old when Ryan retired in 1993, so I can't say I particularly remember much from his playing days.

However, I think his recent front office affiliation with the Texas franchise has led me to see him as a Ranger. Most clips I've seen of the "Ryan Express" feature him as a Ranger as well.

Plus, given his Southern drawl, Ryan just seems like he was born to play for a Texas team.

And, yes, the guy was in fact born in Texas, to boot.

Chalk one up for the Rangers here.

A lot of the time, I'll associate someone with a uniform they wore during their so-called "best years".

Statistically, the late Gary Carter enjoyed his prime seasons with the Expos in the '70s and early '80s.

But, while I can certainly appreciate his days north of the border, "The Kid" is cemented in my memory as a New York Met.

His persona seemed to fit the perennially great Mets teams of the '80s so well. The fact that Carter was one of the unquestioned leaders of those squads was no coincidence.

To me, the Mets blue fits him far better than any other jersey he wore during his Hall of Fame career.

Last time, the topic of bigger media markets was brought up in relation to the discussion of "uniformity".

I certainly agree with that.

By and large, Reggie Jackson's ten seasons with the A's outweighed the rest of his career. He won three straight World Series titles with the franchise from 1972 to '74, as well as capturing his only career MVP award with the A's in 1973.

Still, although he only spent five seasons with the Bronx Bombers, I'd bet most fans see him as a Yankee.

New York is probably the biggest media market in sports. Given the legendary hot dog nature of "Mr. October", his Yankee days were more publicized than the rest of his career combined. (Including his well-known feud with Billy Martin.)

So, while I don't like admitting it, the media did indeed influence my decision here.

Reggie Jackson is a New York Yankee.

Oh, and by the way, see how much better those '82s look without that intrusive facsimile signature?

It certainly makes for a much cleaner card, in my opinion.

Still, the bigger media markets don't always bias my opinions on "uniformity".

Jim Abbott enjoyed a couple of mainstream seasons with the Yankees in the mid-'90s. A tenure which famously saw him throw the most inspiring no-hitter ever tossed in big league history, I might add.

Prior to his Yankee days, though, Abbott broke in with the Angels in 1989. He did so, in fact, without playing a game in the minors.

Since the Angels were a fairly awful franchise in those days, they never received a great deal of play around the media. As a result, I'm not sure Abbott ever received as much recognition as he probably should have.

Mainstream media or not, Abbott will forever be an Angel in my eyes.

The tale of "Catfish" Hunter is one of the harder decisions I've had to make with this topic.

In fact, Hunter was so closely associated with both the A's and Yankees franchises that his Hall of Fame plaque simply features him in a generic cap.

"Catfish" himself didn't want to choose one team over the other, so he just had the folks at Cooperstown leave the hat blank.

The aforementioned media bias could well come into play here. Hunter played on the legendary A's teams of the mid-'70s, spending ten years with the franchise before signing with the Yankees in 1975. (He'd win his only Cy Young award with the A's as well.)

But, as I said, we all know how big that New York media scene is. It's surprising to learn that "Catfish" only spent five years with the Yanks. It seemed like a lot longer.

For some guys, a single herculean feat can sometimes tip the scales one way or another in this discussion. Like, say, a perfect game.

Hunter's perfecto against the Twins on May 8th, 1968, pushes me ever-so-slightly into associating him with the A's franchise. At the time, the Twins featured greats such as Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva, making his feat all the more amazing.

I wouldn't argue with anyone who sees him as a Yankee, though.

No matter how you look at it, the "uniformity" of Mr. Hunter is a tough call.

Greg Maddux broke in with the Cubs in 1986.

He won the first of four straight Cy Youngs with the Cubbies in 1992. And, as shown here, "Mad Dog" notched his 300th career victory with the hometown team in 2004.

Still, I'd bet most fans out there see Maddux as an Atlanta Brave. I mean, the guy won three straight Cy Young Awards with the team. He posted a staggering 1.56 ERA in 1994, right when hitting in the game was nearing its eventual mid-'90s peak.

And that's not even mentioning his only career World Series title in '95.

So, yeah, the Atlanta accolades are certainly there.

I'm a little biased, though. After living around the Chicago area for my first 21 years of existence, I tend to give the nod to most hometown guys in this category.

So, contrary to what most other baseball fans would tell you, Greg Maddux will always be a Chicago Cub to me.

But that's just one man's opinion.


beefman said...

Fantastic post, Nick.

I've often wondered the same thing myself about a number of players. Some, like Harmon Killebrew are obvious. They may have played for more than one team, but nobody really associates them with that 'other' team. The first guy I think of in this discussion is Manny Ramirez. If he should someday be elected to the H.O.F., which cap would he wear? I've always found it intriguing, for some reason. Can you confirm that Dave Winfield is a Padre in the Hall? I think I heard about it a few years ago, but I can't recall exactly!


Nick J

beefman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick said...

Thanks, Nick! Much appreciated.

Winfield is indeed wearing a Padre cap on his HOF plaque.

And, for the record, I'd guess Manny would sport a Red Sox on his plaque. If he ever gets in, that is.

Mike said...

Catfish and Reggie are both A's in my mind's eye, because the early-mid 70's is when I first got into baseball....that trumps any logical explanation!

petethan said...

An interesting exercise. Funny, I never thought Catfish Hunter was in play here. Always thought he belonged to the A's. His Yankee years seemed like an afterthought. But I didn't start paying any attention to the game until 1980. It's probably all about timing (as well as geography, as you mentioned.

The Junior Junkie said...

I agree on all points except Maddux. He'll always be a Brave to me.