NPF: CAMEO SHOTS

This doesn't look right, does it?

To a football fan the faces are immediately familiar, yet the urge to adjust the monitor or simply ask "What in the hell are they wearing?" is strong. Your eyes do not deceive you and this is not a photoshop job. This is a rare two-for-one shot of one of my favorite obscure sports phenomena – the cameo appearance by famous players in uniforms that no one remembers them wearing. Often players who have long careers with a single team (or small number thereof) become so strongly identified with one uniform that, to the delight of trivia game hosts everywhere, no one can remember that Jerry Rice played a grand total of 9 games as a Seattle Seahawk (pictured here with Emmit Smith, closing out his career with an equally forgettable two season stint in Arizona). Even rarer is a glimpse of Rice in a Denver Broncos uniform during his brief training camp washout in the Mile High City.

Try these on for size:

No, that's not Idi Amin in a Supersonics jersey – that's Patrick Ewing, who played one embarrassing season in Seattle (and one in Orlando!) Below him are Johnny Unitas in his ill-advised final season cameo in San Diego and Pete Rose's half-season pit stop with the Montreal Expos. None of that looks right. None of it. Even Unitas's hair is wrong.

The most common explanation for the cameo appearance is when everyone knows an aged player is finished except for the player himself. So the team on which we remember him bids him adieu and he tries to hang on somewhere else. This is not always necessarily "obscure". Everyone remembers that Hank Aaron finished up with two seasons on the Milwaukee Brewers, Joe Montana wore a KC Chiefs uniform for a bit, and the Boston Bruins graciously traded 40 year-old Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche so he might lift a Cup before retiring. But do you remember Joe Namath's ill-advised farewell in a Rams uniform? That NFL legend Reggie White came out of retirement to play a few games with the Carolina Panthers? Reggie Jackson's single season as a Baltimore Oriole? Wayne Gretzky's brief visit to St. Louis? Dennis Rodman's 10 games as a Dallas Maverick? Bobby Orr playing 23 games with a bone-on-bone knee and a Blackhawks jersey?


No. Also, drunk.

Cameos aren't just for washed up old guys though. Often a player will start with one team before being traded to achieve fame elsewhere. You know Lou Brock was briefly a Cub, but how about Ozzie Smith the Padre? Ryne Sandberg the Phillie? Phil Esposito (or Dominik Hasek!) on the Blackhawks? Brett Favre the Falcon?


What the fuck.

Multiple trades in a single season can also result in (un)memorable cameos. Mike Piazza played 1912 games in the Major Leagues…exactly five of them with the Florida Marlins (he also double-cameoed by ending his career with 83 ill-advised appearances in an Oakland A's uni). And what about Rasheed Wallace's single game for the Atlanta Hawks before being traded for the second time in two days? If only all trade deadline deals worked out as well as Randy Johnson's 11 games as a Houston Astro: 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA with 116 Ks in 84 innings. Holy shit.

Some players are multi-cameo stars. Paul Coffey is known as perhaps the best pure offensive backliner in NHL history, but he's not known as a Blackhawk (10 games), Hartford Whaler (20 games) or Boston Bruin (18 games). Rickey Henderson played on every damn team in baseball at the tail end of his career: you know he played 1/4 of a season on Toronto as a trade deadline acquisition, but raise your hand if you remember him on the Angels, Dodgers, Red Sox, or Padres. He looks about 65 in that Boston jersey. Jari Kurri won four Cups in Edmonton at Wayne Gretzky's side but played out the string elsewhere, including 14 games in New York and a single season in Anaheim (??) and Colorado. In 10 years who will remember Manny Ramirez's 17 at-bats as a Tampa Bay Ray, let alone his two-dozen games with the White Sox?

Oh, crap. I'm having way too much fun to stop. Running backs are a cameo gold mine, as they break down quickly but always think they have more left. "Name the famous RB's final team" would be a great trivia game on its own. You know Emmit Smith finished up in Arizona, but what about: Tony Dorsett (Broncos), Edgerrin James (Seahawks!), Franco Harris (also Seahawks!), OJ Simpson (49ers), Eddie George (Cowboys…and god was it sad to watch), Chuck Foreman (Patriots – I swear), Shaun Alexander (Redskins), Jim Taylor (Saints), Thurman Thomas (Dolphins?), Earl Campbell (Saints), Roger Craig (Vikings), and Eric Dickerson (Falcons). Good lord, can't any of you just retire?

Oh, and starting pitchers…don't get me started on old pitchers. We could be here all night. I might just have to another cameo post to accommodate all of the awesomeness. This is so much more fun than I thought it would be.

Who'd I miss? Other than Willie Mays in blue and orange, that is.

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35 Responses to “NPF: CAMEO SHOTS”

  1. Hobbes Says:

    Oh Brett Favre. Four attempts, two interceptions, zero completions as a Falcon (unless you count the one he completed to himself). And then of course there were the lovely "doesn't know when to quit" seasons with the Jets and the Vikings… man should have quit when he was ahead. Ah well.

  2. Ike Says:

    Michael Jordan Baseball.

  3. Z Says:

    Randy Johnson got frickin' CY YOUNG votes for his 11 games in Houston. He probably deserved them, too.

  4. Z Says:

    Oh… and then he decided to get his 300th win with his final MLB team, the…. Giants??!?

  5. cromartie Says:

    Randy Johnson started his career as an Expo.

    Wayne Gretzky's brief visit to St. Louis? I remember that vividly, as Game 7 of the 2nd round of the 1996 playoffs against Detroit was the most exciting hockey game I've ever seen (and since I'm a Wings fan, I came out on the winning end of that). But you left out those games Gretzky played with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA before being traded/sold to the Oilers.

    That said, Gordie Howe never looked right in either an Aeros or Whalers uniform.

    I'm sure your grandfather would be surprised to learn about Eddie Matthews' 1968 season, his last, split between the Astros and the Tigers.

    Dale Murphy playing for the Colorado Rockies at the league minimum?

    Great topic.

  6. cromartie Says:

    Also, on my last trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in the area that denotes record holders. In it, there are three pictures of Pete Rose, and two of them are of him in an Expos uniform. I'm sure this is pure snark on the part of someone at the HOF, but as a bitter Expo fan I appreciate this anyway.

  7. Burple Says:

    Dude, love the post but you got Ray Bourque all wrong. Ray Bourque was traded to Colorado in the spring of 2000 because he still had value and Boston wasn't close. He resigned with the Avs that summer and in their Cup year (2001) he scored 59 points — tied for 5th with Rob Blake on a loaded team. Bourque and Blake were the Avs' top two defensemen that year. Bourque led the Avs' defense in plus/minus, and was second only to Blake in ATOI. Bourque wasn't remotely washed up — he went out on top.

  8. Burple Says:

    Oh, if you want a great NHL defenseman who hung on too long and went out in an embarrassing way recently, it's Chris Chelios. His 7 games with the Atlanta Thrashers last year at age 47 were really, really bad.

  9. Natalie Says:

    You mentioned old pitchers. I followed Greg Maddox as a kid while he killed for the Braves. Everyone knows he started his MLB career with the Cubs and went back to them before retirement. But did you (or anyone else) know that after that he two more seasons with the Dodgers, then the Padres, and back to the Dodgers again before he finally retired?

    He holds an MLB record 18 Gold Gloves, he's the only pitcher ever to win 15+ games in 17 straight seasons, is 8th on the all time wins list, and is one of 10 pitchers to have both 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts.

    The guy practically won the Braves their '95 World Series win by himself. Well, him plus David Justice's home run in the final game.

  10. Wauwatosa Whacko Says:

    Trevor Hoffman with the Brewers

    Steve Carlton & Joe Niekro with the '87 Twins

    Post-injury Bo Jackson with the Angels & White Sox

  11. Erin Says:

    That Hakeem Olajuwan caption is exactly what I said.

  12. acer Says:

    After reading this, God is working on the second draft of His plan for LeBron.

  13. Comhradh Says:

    Gretzky's stint with St. Louis was brief because of a personality conflict. He went to the Rangers and played three more seasons, averaging 82 points per season before retiring. Sure, those aren't exactly *Gretzky* numbers, but I can't imagine any team today would look at 9 goals and 53 assists in 70 games and think "yeah, washed up."

    Of course, they might not agree with that year's -23.

    As for Hasek, I think that over-the-hill cameo is currently being played in an HC Spartak Moscow uniform, although you could argue that it was already done in a Senators and an HC Pardibuce uniform.

  14. bb in GA Says:

    Babe Ruth, of course

    He broke into the bigs (1914) as a Pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. A HOF pitcher if he had continued his 19.5 wins per season pace he set for 5 years when he was a full timer. He had 3 world series wins. But his hitting abilitiy dragged him off the mound so he could play every day.

    Everybody knows about his Yankee years.

    He played 28 games (72 AB) for the Boston Braves in 1935 hitting 6 HRs and batting an anemic .181.

    He retired at 40 on May 30, 1935.

    //bb

  15. DB Main Says:

    This one makes me weep…

    http://www.bulletsforever.com/images/admin/Jordan_Wizards.jpg

    And somehow I suspect we'll see him in a Bobcat uniform sometime next year.

  16. punkdavid Says:

    Great post. Loved it.

    The only reason I remember the Pete Rose Expos stint is because he broke some record while with the Expos (either Musial's NL hits record, or hit # 4000, I can't recall that well). They always show it on the Rose documentaries.

    Reggie Jackson with the Orioles is not really in the same category as those others you list. It's more like the Gretzky in St. Louis or Randy Johnson (great porn name) in Houston "stopovers" between two longer periods of their careers, just with less success.

    CC Sabathia carried the Brewers to the playoffs in his cameo. It was awesome.

  17. cromartie Says:

    Pete Rose's hit #4000 came as a Montreal Expo.

  18. tommytimp Says:

    SpirtsLogos.net, where they take this shit VERY sewriously, has a whole thread on this phenomenon:

    http://boards.sportslogos.net/index.php?showtopic=54766&st=0&p=867910&hl=+legends%20+wrong&fromsearch=1&#entry867910

    You're…welcome?

  19. tommytimp Says:

    It's SportsLogos.net. For fuck's sake. I never proofread anymore.

  20. Ed Says:

    I'm pretty sure that 76 page Sportslogos thread is going to ruin the rest of my day.

    Ronnie Lott with the Chiefs just blew my fucking mind.

  21. Drinking Jim Crow Says:

    Yea, punkdavid, CC Sabathia's stint in MKE was just as ridiculously accomplished as Randy Johnson's time in Houston:

    11-2, 1.65 ERA, 7 CG (out of 17 starts), 128 Ks in 130 innings pitched, WHIP 1.003, 0.4 HR/9, 8.8 Ks/9, 1.7 BB/9.

    Just absolutely sick.

    More to the point of Ed's post, I can't ever wrap my mind around Wade Boggs as a Tampa Bay Devil-Ray.

  22. bensbias Says:

    I'm actually all for players squeezing out everything they can get at the end of their careers, who am I to tell them to retire?

    The same quality that makes a player great, an unwillingness to give up, is also what makes them stick around long after their prime. I don't really understand why we praise them for this quality during the peaks of their careers only to turn on them harshly once their skills diminish.

    Yes, Patrick Ewing sucked on the Sonics, but if he's playing 10 minutes a game as a backup center, what the fuck to I care. He's remembered for his greatness at Georgetown, never winning a championship and missing easy layups, not the twilight of his career.

    Every year players stick around and people talk about the horror of it all, only to forget about it the next offseason.

    Funny to watch? Yes. Travesty? No.

  23. tommytimp Says:

    @Ed-If you delve, at least 30 pages of that thread will probably be logo geeks quoting like fifteen quotes back on each other to prove some stupid point which is all based on opinion, anyway. Maybe the touchiest website I've ever seen anywhere for stuff like that.

  24. cerb Says:

    Jose Canseco as a White Sox
    Kenny Lofton as a White Sox & Dodger
    Frank Thomas as an Oakland A & Blue Jay
    Andres Gallaraga as anything post cancer

  25. JohnR Says:

    One of these things is not like the others…
    punkdavid is almost right.
    Reggie came (_very_ reluctantly) to the Orioles in 1976 between his stint in Oakland and his more famous tenure in the Big Apple (where the money, and more importantly, the visibility was) and didn't bother showing up for spring training. When he finally could be bothered to show up to play with the team during the regular season (and played himself into shape), he actually had a normal season for him. The Orioles took a chance that perhaps he might be persuaded not to go free agent after the last year of his existing contract, but getting between Reggie and NYC was like getting between Phil Gramm and a TV camera. It could only end with tears, pain and recriminations.
    Anyway, other than that (and the painful shot of John Unitas with long hair in a Chargers uniform), I enjoyed the piece!

  26. D.N. Nation Says:

    "Kenny Lofton as a White Sox & Dodger"

    Don't forget about his single-season stint with the Braves.

  27. Alan C Says:

    I once saw Gaylord Perry (maybe in an old timers game) in a custom jersey with the logos of every team he played for. It was quite a sight–two long columns down the front.

    Since someone mentioned Babe Ruth's pitching career: Did you know he pitched 5 games over the years as a Yankee? Won all of them.

  28. jordan Says:

    Great npf article for a sports-liker like me…perfect for a slow Friday.

  29. jeneria Says:

    Jerry Rice as a Seahawk and a Bronco. As a 49er fan, that made me cry.

  30. My Says:

    Sweetness stayed true, and I'm glad to this day.

  31. Chris Says:

    This may be obvious, but Jordan with the Wizards. It was really weird to see Jordan in a Wizards uniform. As somebody previously stated, Jordan in baseball was also weird.

    Scottie Pippen was on the Rockets and Blazers post Chicago. Although, Pippen had some game left at the end.

    Robert Parish played for the Hornets post Boston.

    Iverson post Phili (Denver, Detroit, etc.)

    Bob Knight wasn't a player, but the end of his coaching career was extremely bizarre. He went from a legendary career at Indiana to the middle of nowhere in Lubbock, Texas after getting canned Woody Hayes-style. As a native Hoosier and somebody who grew up watching Knight, it was surreal to see him at Texas Tech (as was it to see him be fired).

  32. Bleeding Gums Murphy Says:

    The Say Hey Kid as a Met remains one of my warmest memories of childhood. He still wore a hat two sizes too big so that it would fall off as he chased a fly, making him look faster…something Jose Reyes still emulates.

    Willie Mays in blue and orange is a memory that can only make this dismal season a little brighter.

  33. Lenny F Says:

    Didn't Larry Csonka play for the NY Giants late in his career?

  34. Jim Says:

    Bleeding Gums stole my "Say Hey" thunder…tremendous column.

    Reggie's '76 campaign in Charm City has always intrigued me…you hear or see so little evidence that it ever actually happened though I'm sure I saw him play that year as a 12 year old Red Sox fan.

  35. Bitter Scribe Says:

    My favorite old-athlete cameo: When Deion Sanders came out of retirement in 2005 to join the Ravens as a nickel back, he eschewed his usual No. 21 in favor of wearing his age on his jersey: 37.

    He only played half a season due to injuries, but when he played, he didn't do half bad. 3 ints. in 8 games, one returned for a touchdown.