Jim Thome Traded to Indians: 25 Players Who Returned "Home" Late in Careers
Fans with any semblance of sentimentality are always gladdened to see a player return to the place where it all began. In this day of free agency and no-trade contracts, players have far more control over their own destiny than their predecessors. Fans are, more often than not, glad to see the return of an old familiar face, even if it often means that particular player is well past his prime.
Jim Thome dropped his no-trade clause and accepted a deal back to the Cleveland Indians, who may have lost DH Travis Hafner to a season-ending injury. More than a few times, such a homecoming has sparked a resurgence in a player's career. This list is by no means definitive or complete. It is a look at some of the game's most memorable names and their homecomings.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr. was traded by the Seattle Mariners on February 10, 2000 to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for outfielder Mike Cameron, pitcher Brett Tomko and infielder Antonio Perez. Junior had wanted to play in the city where he grew up watching his dad play. After eight-and-a-half years with the Reds and a half season with the White Sox, Griff returned to Seattle in 2009 to be their left fielder. It was obvious that by then, his skills were greatly diminished. He retired in 2010 after just 33 games, with an average of .184, no homers and just seven RBI.
After nine campaigns as a New York Yankee, Andy Pettite (age 32 at the time) signed with the Houston Astros, having grown up in Deer Park, Texas. After three years as an Astro, he returned to the Big Apple as a 35 year-old for four more seasons and retired as a Yankee. He won 200 games with the Bronx Bombers and 40 more in Houston.
Tom Glavine spent 22 years in the big leagues, most of which were spent with the Atlanta Braves. In 2003, at the age of 37, he bolted Atlanta for the Big Apple and the New York Mets. He spent five seasons in Mets blue. But in 2008, and at the age of 42, Glavine went back to the wigwam. But age had robbed him of his immense skills. He called it quits after 13 starts with a 2-4 record and a 5.54 ERA. His 305 wins will definitely put him in the Hall of Fame.
Sammy Sosa was just a 19-year-old speedy center field prospect when then-Texas Rangers' Team President George W. Bush signed his approval to the papers finalizing the trade of the young outfielder, along with shortstop Scott Fletcher and pitcher Wilson Alvarez to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for veteran slugger Harold Baines and utility infielder Fred Manrique. Sosa would go on to have his best years in Chicago, albeit as a member of the Cubs. In 2007, 39-year-old Sammy went back to the Rangers for one more season, hitting .252 with 21 homers and 92 RBI.
Richie Hebner was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates for nine seasons and a key piece in their arsenal—usually batting second. In 1977, at the age of 30, Hebner went across the state to the Phillies and helped them to a couple of division titles before moving on to the New York Mets and then the Detroit Tigers. In August of 1982, at the age of 35, Hebner was re-acquired in a waiver deal by the Pirates. He hit .300 for the rest of that season in 25 games for the Bucs before finishing his career with the Chicago Cubs in 1984 and 1985.
Willie Mays was in his 21st season as a member of the Giants when it was decided that he should have one final hurrah in New York (where the Giants originally resided before moving to Candlestick Park in San Francisco). In May of 1972, at the age of 41, the slugger was shipped to the New York Mets for right-hander Charlie Williams. Mays got to play in one final World Series the following year, but his legendary skills were a mere shadow of their former selves.
Milt May was a solid-hitting catcher stuck on the bench behind Manny Sanguillen on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1970s. After four seasons, the Pirates shipped him to the Houston Astros in exchange for much-needed pitching in the person of lefty Jerry Reuss. He would go on from there to play for the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants before returning to the Pirates on August 19, 1983 in exchange for catcher Steve Nicosia. May retired as a Pirate after the following year, compiling a career batting average of .263 in 15 seasons.
Hank Aaron is the other player on this list to return to the city, but not the team with which he started. After 21 years with the Braves and having just broken the legendary Babe Ruth all-time home run record (714), the 40-year-old outfielder was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers (then, an American League team) in exchange for outfielder Dave May. Aaron would play two more seasons in Milwaukee blue, hitting his final 22 homers and driving in his last 95 runs there to cap his Hall of Fame career.
Jason Giambi spent the first seven years of his career with the Oakland Athletics as a corner infielder and corner outfielder, taking over first base in 1997 when Mark McGwire was peddled to St. Louis. After the 2001 season, the then-30-year-old signed a huge free-agent deal with the New York Yankees. He would spend seven seasons in the Bronx before returning to Oakland in 2009 at the age of 38. But his skills weren't what they once were and the A's cut him after 83 games when he hit just .193 with 11 HR and 40 RBI. He's currently playing for the Colorado Rockies at the age of 40.
Dick Schofield, Sr.
Dick "The Duck" Schofield is probably more famous nowadays as Jayson Werth's grandfather. But the switch-hitting utility man played 19 years of his own, beginning with the St. Louis Cardinals straight out of high school at the age of 18 in 1953. In June of 1958, he was shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for third baseman Gene Freese and second baseman/shortstop Johnny O'Brien. Schofield helped get the Pirates to the World Series in 1960 before moving on to the San Francisco Giants in 1965 for Jose Pagan. He would return to the Cardinals in 1968 and helped them to a World Series before moving on to the Boston Red Sox the following year. He returned to St. Louis for a third time in 1971 at the age of 36, but was shipped at the end of July of that year to the Milwaukee Brewers along with outfielder Jose Cardenal and reliever Bob Reynolds. He retired at the end of that season.
Dickie Schofield, Jr.
Dickie Schofield Jr. was a shortstop, like his father. Unlike his father, Junior only hit right-handed and played five years fewer. He began with the Angels in 1983 at the age of 21. After 10 seasons in Anaheim, he was shipped to the Mets in exchange for reliever Julio Valera. He would spend 1993 with the Mets before spending the next two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. He started 1995 with the L.A. Dodgers before being released and signing with the Angels once again. He retired with the Angels following the 1996 season at the age of 34.
Ronnie Kline began his career as a starter/reliever for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1952. He'd spend his first six seasons with the Bucs in a swing capacity before they shipped him to the Cardinals after the 1959 season in exchange for outfielder Gino Cimoli and pitcher Tom Cheney. Kline moved on to the American League where he made his mark as a reliever, saving a career-high 29 games for the lowly 1965 Washington Senators. Kline would return to Pittsburgh following the 1967 season before being traded again in a mid-season deal in 1969 to the San Francisco Giants for Joe Gibbon (see next slide). After just seven appearances with the Giants, he was sold to the Boston Red Sox. Kline finished his career the following season with the Atlanta Braves.
Joe Gibbon began his major league career with the 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates at the age of 25. He was a tough left-hander who could start or relieve, but the Pirates needed a center fielder following the 1965 retirement of Bill Virdon. So Joe was packaged along with infielder Ozzie Virgil Sr. and sent to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Matty Alou. Gibbon would return to Pittsburgh in 1969, helping them to a division title in 1970 before moving on to Cincinnati and finishing his 13-year career with the 1972 Houston Astros.
Knuckleballer Bob Purkey spent his first four seasons with his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates. After the 1957 season, the Pirates didn't think he was a viable starter, so he was shipped to Cincinnati for pitcher Don Gross. Purkey's knuckler came alive with the Reds and his best season was in 1962, going 23-5 with a 2.81 ERA. Roberto Clemente used to admit that Purkey was one of very few pitchers who gave him fits. Just before the start of the 1966 season, the Pirates purchased the then-37-year-old hurler from the Cardinals and Purkey spent his final year in baseball with his hometown Bucs.
Juan Gonzalez was a five tool center fielder when he arrived in the bigs with the Texas Rangers in 1989 at the age of 20. He spent 11 seasons with Texas before spending a year in Detroit and another in Cleveland before returning to the Rangers at age 33 in 2002. He would leave again after the 2003 season and retired as an Indian in 2005 after only one at-bat. He compiled a .295 BA with 434 HRs and 1,404 RBI in 17 seasons.
Brooklyn-born Lee Mazzili broke in with the New York Mets in 1976 at the age of 21, covering center field with flash and a dash of panache. But his sixth season turned out to be a real bust and the switch-hitter was dispatched to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitchers Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. The following season, the Rangers shipped him to the New York Yankees for an aging Bucky Dent. He would spend the next four seasons in Pittsburgh before returning to the Mets in mid-'86 after being released at the age of 31. He would stay until the Mets released him in mid-'89 at the age of 34. He retired as a Blue Jay after that season.
Clarence "Cito" Gaston made it the the show with the 1967 Atlanta Braves for nine games. He was selected by the San Diego Padres in the expansion draft and was an All-Star center fielder in 1970, hitting .318, 29 HRs and driving in 93. He would return to Atlanta in exchange for reliever Danny Frisella following the 1974 season. On September 22, 1978, the Braves sold him to Pittsburgh and he called it a career after that season at the age of 34.
Willie McCovey was one of a long list of slugging first basemen that came through the Giants' farm system. He arrived on the scene in 1959 at the age of 21 and began terrorizing pitchers through the National League. It was said of McCovey's power that he could hit a ball into a different zip code. After the 1973 season, the Giants swapped the arthritic-kneed slugger (35 by then) to San Diego. In 1977, he came back to the Giants at the age of 39 and hit .280, 28 HR and 86 RBI. He would retire a Giant following the 1980 season at the age of 42.
Joe Morgan began his career in 1963 with the Houston Colt .45s (who later became the Astros) and stayed through 1971. He was part of a seven-player deal that winter, going to the Reds, whom he would help become "The Big Red Machine." In 1980, he returned to Houston at the age of 37 for a disappointing season and was released afterwards. He retired with the Oakland A's in 1984.
George "The Boomer" Scott
George "The Boomer" Scott was a power-hitting corner infielder who began with the 1966 Boston Red Sox at the age of 22. After six seasons, he was swapped in eight-man blockbuster to Milwaukee. After four seasons, he was shipped back to Boston in a three-man deal at the age of 32. He would spend two-and-a-half seasons in a Red Sox uniform before being swapped to Kansas City in mid-1979. After 44 games, he was released and retired as a Yankee.
Baseball's all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, played a prodigious 24 seasons in the majors, beginning with the Cincinnati Reds in 1963. After the 1978 season, the then-37-year-old switch-hitter signed a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. August 16, 1984, Rose (43 by then) was re-acquired by the Reds in a deal with Montreal. He retired as a Red at age 45 following 1986 season.
Albert Fred "Red" Schoendienst spent 19 years as a player, mostly as a second baseman. He began with the 1945 Cardinals at the age of 22. In mid-1956, he was shipped to the then-New York Giants in a huge eight-player blockbuster. In mid-season the following year, he was swapped to the then-Milwaukee Braves for three players, one of whom was Bobby Thomson. He was released after the 1960 season at the age of 37 and then signed with the Cardinals. He retired during the 1963 season as a member of the Cardinals.
Tony "The Big Dog" Perez was a power-hitting corner infielder who played 23 seasons, breaking in with the 1964 Reds at the age of 22. Following the 1976 season, he was swapped to Montreal in a four-man deal at the age of 34. He would move on to spend time with the Red Sox and Phillies before returning to the Reds in 1984 at the age of 42. He retired after the 1986 season as a member of the Reds.
"Tom Terrific" Seaver began his 311-win career in 1967 with the New York Mets at the age of 23. In mid-1977, the then-33-year-old was sent to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for four players. In December of 1982, the Reds sent him back to the Mets for two players, one of which was Lloyd McClendon (now a Tigers coach). Seaver was 39 and well past his prime by then. He spent a single season back in the Big Apple before moving on to pitch for the White Sox and Red Sox before retiring in 1986 at the age of 42.