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Youk As Yank: Just kind of weird

Feb 26, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT

New York Yankees infielder Youkilis takes batting practice during a workout at the team's MLB spring training complex at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. AP

Hey, it’s my first post on Hardball Talk. Very exciting. I still cannot believe that Calcaterra and Gleeman didn’t save the “Jeff Francoeur is in the best shape of his life” post for me.

Kevin Youkilis plays for the New York Yankees now. I’m not typing those words as a fact. I’m typing those words to remind myself — kind of like that guy in Memento, who would tattoo integral facts on his body because he had no short term memory. Every few seconds, it seems, I forget all about Youkilis, and then some story or Tweet will cross my consciousness, and I’ll think, “Wait, what, Kevin Youkilis plays for the Yenkees now?”

I’m not quite sure why the Youkilis thing throws me.* I feel like I’ve largely grown numb to the temperamental and capricious ways of sports free agency. It really didn’t take me too long to get used to Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform or Albert Pujols in an Angels uniform or even LeBron James in a Miami uniform. Josh Hamilton as an Angel? Got it down already.

*What Youkilis thing? Let me read back … wait, what, Kevin Youkilis plays for the Yankees now?

So this Youk as Yank thing shouldn’t be that hard to get used to. If we all could get used to Michael Jordan in a Washington uniform and Jerry Rice in a Raiders uniform and Greg Maddux in a Dodgers uniform and, heck, Wade Boggs in a Yankees uniform, there seem no real boundaries left. But for some crazy reason, Youkilis in a Yankees uniform just doesn’t quite compute for me. It isn’t that I have any personal connection to Youkilis. It isn’t that I could only see him in a Red Sox uniform — heck, I didn’t see any real incongruity when he played for the White Sox last year.

But for some reason Kevin Youkilis playing for the Yankees — wait, what, Kevin Youkilis plays for the Yankees now? — just triggers that cable TV “recording conflict” fiber in my brain.

It has me thinking about the most incongruous unharmonious players and uniforms in sports history. Here are 10 of them.

– John Unitas playing for the San Diego Chargers. This is probably the most famous clash between player and uniform — Unitas in 1973 played for the Chargers. He was 40 years old. He started four games completed 44.7% of his passes, threw seven interceptions against three touchdown passes. It was a sad ending, but in another way it wasn’t. He went out on his own terms. Anyway, endings are supposed to be sad.

– Wayne Gretzky playing for the St. Louis Blues. Gretzky playing for the New York Rangers was strange enough. But for 18 games, he played for the Blues and that’s just weird.

– Babe Ruth playing for the Boston Braves. He hit .181 in 28 games as a publicity stunt. He did hit six home runs in 92 at-bats — so he was still on pace to hit hit 40 home runs over a full season. But he did not hit a double or triple, he was just an old ballplayer swinging for the fences and trying to give the fans one more thrill.

– Rickey Henderson playing for the Seattle Mariners. I know Rickey played for nine different clubs in his astounding career — and that doesn’t even include the Independent League teams — so it seems silly to say that you could not imagine Rickey in a certain uniform. But Rickey’s brief Seattle sojourn completely skipped my memory.

– Emmitt Smith with the Arizona Cardinals. He was there for two seasons, and a big deal was made about it, but I never really got used to it.

– Tony Dorsett with the Denver Broncos. That was just strange … he wasn’t bad for the Broncos. He ran for 703 yards in fairly limited play and scored five touchdowns. It was still strange.

– Karl Malone with the Los Angeles Lakers. Remember that little experiment intended to get the Mailman his championship ring? He was 40, he played in 42 games, and he scored 13 or so a game. The Lakers reached the finals, but lost to Detroit in five.

– Patrick Ewing with the Orlando Magic. Ugh.

– Bill Russell with the San Diego Rockets. I was shocked to find out that … no, I’m kidding, this never happened.

– Pete Rose with the Montreal Expos. He got his 4,000th hit with the Expos, so you can still see photographs of Rose in an Expos uniform. He will sign these photographs, if you like. It still doesn’t look right.

– Reggie Jackson with the Oakland A’s. Like with Rickey, it’s pretty easy to imagine Jackson in just about any uniform. But the Jackson-Oakland combination doesn’t really make much sense to my mind. (Editor’s note: I meant to say “Reggie Jackson with the Baltimore Orioles,” here, but for some reason got Oakland stuck in my head. Regular readers know: I do that sometimes. I guess Reggie Jackson with Baltimore seems SO weird to me I couldn’t even type the words).

  1. markdaniel250 - Feb 27, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    Youkilis was nearly the perfect player. He satisfied every fan. He was tough and angry and he hustled and really seemed like he cared, so he was popular with fans who like that kind of thing. He hit .300 a few times, so he had that base covered. He had some pop in his bat and once drove in 100 runs, so he had that going for him as well. He also was a good fielder, and he could get on base, and this made him popular with the stat-oriented folks. Importantly, was annoying to fans of other teams, most notably Yankee fans. Because the Sox/Yanks rivalry was so intense, this was important. In fact, he was so annoying that it affected the other team’s players, as that doofus Joba Chamberlain used to plunk him every chance he got.

  2. plummer2512 - Feb 27, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    I have two to add to that list.

    Being a huge San Francisco 49ers fan and Joe Montana fan, I truely never got used to him in his Kansas City Cheifs uni. He had decent sucess in K.C. but nothing like In S.F.

    The other I would mention is my favorite Sox player from the 80’s, Dwight Evans who spent I believe 2 years in Baltimore with the Orioles before hanging the cleats up. Shame…

  3. dwdahlin - Feb 27, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Pukelis as a Yankee is just wrong. I’ve never accepted Aroid as a Yankee even after all these years and Pukelis is an even bigger stretch. Watching him bat is just painful and annoying.

  4. thestatsishere - Feb 27, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    I think it is because he embodied the spirit of those great Boston teams and Boston is in love with him still.

  5. jaredsjohnson183 - Feb 27, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    Patrick Ewing in a Magic uniform was weird… Ewing in a Sonics uniform was WEIRD!

  6. basil1229 - Feb 28, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    Walt Frazier as a Cav

  7. royhobbs39 - Mar 5, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    Does Bobby Hurley in an Indiana uniform playing under Bobby Knight in “Blue Chips” count?

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