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Tom Brady in a non-Pats uniform? Eh, you’ll get used to it.

Baseball Player Pete Rose

Montreal Expos Pete Rose gives a reproachful look from the playing field. Rose played on three championship teams during only six years of his baseball career.

Bettmann Archive

This morning the news broke that Tom Brady would not be returning to the New England Patriots. I don’t know where he’s going and don’t really care because football is not my thing -- someone said Tampa Bay? -- but I am always fascinated when a franchise legend changes teams late in his career. If, for no other reason, than for the jarring photos of the guy in the strange uniform.

Given that the only possible baseball news we’ll get today will, in all likelihood, be bad, let’s take a little walk down memory lane and remember some superstars who finished their careers in duds that did not, by any stretch of the imagination, conform to our historic memory of them. (all photos via Getty Images)

Let’s start big:

Ruppert & The Babe

circa 1934: American baseball player Babe Ruth (George Herman Ruth, 1895 - 1948), wearing a Boston Braves uniform, shakes hands with Jacob Ruppert, owner of the New York Yankees. Ruth was a player and vice-president of the Braves at that time. (Photo by New York Times Co./Getty Images)

Getty Images

Ruth started his big league career in Boston with the Red Sox and, obviously, became the biggest celebrity in America as a Yankee. But after the 1934 season it was clear his days as a star were over. Yankees owner Jacob Rupert wanted to trade him, but per his contract, Ruth had to agree to the deal. Ruth wanted to manage, so that agreement would only come if he was sent someplace where that was a possibility.
Boston Braves owner Emil Fuchs offered to name Ruth vice president of the team and called him “assistant manager” to manager Bill McKechnie. He offered Ruth profit sharing too and said he’d be McKechnie’s successor. It all turned out to be a lie, however -- Fuchs actually asked Ruth to invest money in the Braves rather than take profits straight up and had no intention of letting him manage -- so Ruth decided to retire. Fuchs got him to agree to one last road trip as a farewell. Ruth hit his final three home runs in a game against the Pirates on May 25. He’d play five more games, ending his career on May 30, 1935. He went 0-for-1 with a groundout against the Phillies.

Almost as big:

Oakland A's Vice President Joe DiMaggio

(Original Caption) Joe DiMaggio, Vice President, Oakland A’s. at Yankee Stadium, before game with the Yankees.

Bettmann Archive

This is a cheat as DiMaggio was an executive and coach, not a player, for the 1968 Oakland Athletics, but it’s still pretty jarring. Fun fact: DiMaggio didn’t really have his heart in coaching but he took the gig because he was a couple years short of uniformed service time to qualify for baseball’s maximum pension at the time. Not that the pitchman for Mr. Coffee really needed the cash.

Say Hey!

MLB Photos Archive

UNDATED: Willie Mays #24 of the New York Mets poses for a portrait circa 1972-1973. (Photo by Louis Requena/MLB via Getty Images)

MLB via Getty Images

Mays’ time back in New York, this time with the Mets, is often mischaracterized, and unfairly at that. Indeed, almost every time you hear it brought up, it’s couched in terms of Mays “stumbling around in the outfield” or “falling down in the outfield.” It’s become a go-to reference for anyone describing a past-his-prime player hanging on.

But it’s also a load of crap. For one thing he played two seasons with the Mets and in the first one, 1972, he was actually pretty good, at least for an old player. He did the classic thing in which his batting average and power were sapped but he got on-base at a high clip because his eye was still amazing (See, Henderson, Rickey, who did that for years himself). He was far more of a liability as a part-time player in the Mets’ pennant-winning 1973 campaign. The “stumbling” thing sprung from exactly one play in the 1973 World Series in which he misjudged a ball and fell, but it was on a day when the outfielders for both teams were having trouble in the outfield due to the hazy sky.

Subjects of history don’t get to write their own stories most of the time so, fine, whatever, Mays gets slapped with that, but make no mistake, it is a slap.

The King:

Hank Aaron in Uniform and on Field

(Original Caption) This is a close up of Henry “Hank” Aaron of the Milwaukee Brewers in uniform.

Bettmann Archive

As was the case with Ruth and Mays, Aaron ended his tenure with a different team in the city where he first gained his fame, Milwaukee. Having broken Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974, the Braves and Aaron parted ways, allowing the Hammer to become a Brewer. It made some sense too, as the Brewers, then an AL team, had the DH slot available. Aaron was a below-average full time hitter in 1975 and a basically league average hitter in part time action in 1976 before retiring and spending the next 40-years and counting as a Braves executive back in Atlanta.

Charlie Temporary:

Baseball Player Pete Rose

Montreal Expos Pete Rose gives a reproachful look from the playing field. Rose played on three championship teams during only six years of his baseball career.

Bettmann Archive

This is also a cheat, as Rose did not end his career in Montreal. He did spend 95 games with the Expos after signing with them as a free agent before the 1984 season and he’d collect his 4,000th career hit early that year in an Expos uniform. The Reds would trade for him later that summer and make him their player-manager, with the clear intention of having him break Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record in the uniform in which he gained his fame.

Mad Stray Dog:

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Greg Maddux #36 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on September 19, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Greg Maddux actually had two stints in Los Angeles. The first came as a rental arm for the 2006 playoff push, during which he posted an excellent 137 ERA+ in 12 starts. And during which, by the way, he pitched the game that mattered to me most in my entire lifetime, and which I wrote about at length here.

That would be the last time he was truly effective, however. He’d pitch in sub-par fasion for the Padres in 2007 -- also random -- and part of 2008, and tossed seven more below average games for the Dodgers to close out the 2008 season and his career.

Mike PiazzA:

Oakland Athletics v Detroit Tigers

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 12: Mike Piazza of the Oakland Athletics looks on during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on August 12, 2007. The Tigers defeated the Athletics 11-6. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

MLB Photos via Getty Images

During the prime of his career Mike Piazza was traded by the Dodgers to the Florida Marlins, playing there for only five games before being traded to the Mets. It was one of the weirder, shorter tenures of any Hall of Famer anywhere, really. So weird, though, that people still talk about it a lot, making it less obscure than some of these other ones. Like, if you had asked me before today what team Piazza ended his career with, there’s a non-trivial chance that I would’ve forgotten about his 2007 season with Oakland. I might’ve mentioned his 2006 season with the Padres, actually. It sticks in my mind more. Man, a lot of dudes end things with the Padres. Maybe it’s the nice weather? Senior citizens love it.

I should probably also include Frank Thomas as an Oakland Athletic here too, but part of me doesn’t want to because he always seemed destined to end his career as a DH there. I think I felt it in my bones going back to the early 2000s.

The Giant Unit:

San Francisco Giants v Seattle Mariners

SEATTLE - MAY 22: Starting pitcher Randy Johnson #51 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Seattle Mariners on May 22, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Randy Johnson pitched twenty-two games with the Giants in his final campaign in 2009, five of which came in relief, which is something he hadn’t done for several years before that. They were 22 pretty forgettable games. Well, 21 forgettable games: on June 4, 2009 he got his 300th career win. Which, frankly, was probably the only reason he signed with the Giants to begin with.

Smoltz gets a twofer:

Boston Red Sox v Texas Rangers

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 20: Pitcher John Smoltz #29 of the Boston Red Sox on July 20, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Getty Images

MLB: AUG 23 Cardinals at Padres

23 AUG 2009: John Smoltz of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches his first game as a Cardinal against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Scott Wachter/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty

John Smoltz pitched for the Braves for 20 years. In his 21st year, 2009, he pitched for both Boston and St. Louis. In his 15 total games that year he sported an ERA+ of 69, which was not very nice. Probably should’ve kept it at an even 20 seasons.

Anyway, we got past all of this. Patriots fans, you’ll get past Tom Brady flinging touchdown passes in another team’s uniform as well. Indeed, you’ll probably forget it ever happened.

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