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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. unclemosesgreen - Feb 26, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    How do you think Joba feels?

  2. frankenderek - Feb 26, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    So stoked you’re a blogger for this now! Love the long form posts. Keep it up!

  3. Gardenhire's Cat - Feb 26, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Welcome Joe!

  4. vanquish0916 - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Couldn’t get used to Pujols in a Cardinals uniform, even after 11 years?

    On a more sincere note, I’m glad to see you popping up on yet another of my RSS feeds, Joe! Keep it up!

  5. scoser - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Great to have you as a part of HBT!

    However, you’re still having problems with Pujols’ team change, since you listed him as a Cardinal. 😛

  6. chacochicken - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Wait, Kevin Youkilis is a Yankee?

  7. kjericho43 - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Mr Posnanski, it’s awesome to have you here.

  8. mississippimusicman - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    The best thing about Youk signing with the Evil EmpireTM is it rid the world of that manky goatee.

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:04 PM

      That’s what you think. He kept the manky goatee in a jar, where it grows more manky by the day.

  9. coolromeo - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    I think you meant Reggie as an Oriole and Pujols as an Angel, right?

    • jkcalhoun - Feb 27, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      I’m sure he meant Reggie as a Kansas City Athletic.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    First “snark-free” posting on HBT since…I don’t know when. Joe must not have received the memo…”you have to piss off at least one fan-base per posting”

    • penferris - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      It’s nice to have snark-free blogging, a lot more enjoyable to read.

      • daviddmsvcp - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:41 PM

        Definitely nice to have no snarks. Keep it gritty! And long live Manky!!
        Just kidding you guys. Sorry to intrude on your private thing here. Please, do not thumbs down me.
        Carry on!

  11. njwv - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Jackson with the A’s? The others make sense to me since they’re bit appearances. But Reggie spent the most seasons of his career with the A’s including being part of 3 World Series winners.

    For me the weirdest one is Orel Hershiser as a Giant. I know it happened. But I try to forget it as much as I can.

  12. unclemosesgreen - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Put me down for one “Broadway Joe limping around with a Rams jersey on.”

  13. jibzek - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    At this point in his career can we just pencil Youk for 100 games? Guy can’t stay healthy and back problems just don’t go away.

    • 18thstreet - Feb 27, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      100 games strikes me as optimistic.

  14. Robert H. - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Hakeem Olajuwon, Toronto Raptor.

  15. beearl - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Reggie not looking right in an A’s uni? Really? He played more games with Oakland than with the Yankees and Angels combined. Knowing a little something about Joe P. (we are the same age), it’s a little weird that he has trouble associating him with the A’s.

    Either way, welcome Joe!

    • beearl - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Nevermind. Heh.

  16. Gobias Industries - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Capricious? Incongruity? Sojourn? Wow, Joe uses the big words. I’m not saying Calcaterra doesn’t use big words. He just never spells them right.

    • wlschneider09 - Feb 26, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      Dog Fister agrees with you.

  17. penferris - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    Reggie did play 1346 games in Oakland, logging 5432 plate appearances. Maybe the first run was a little before Joe’s time (it was before mine, too), but he doesn’t fit this group.

    Others who do fit: Franco Harris in Seattle, Pete Maravich on the Celtics, Joe Namath on the Rams, Dennis Eckersley on the Cardinals. Randy Moss on the Titans. Jerry Rice on the Seahawks. Vince Lombardi coaching the Redskins. Tony Perez on the Red Sox.

  18. cur68 - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    I think the term I’ve liked the best is “Surprise, Bitches!” So yeah, Kevin Youkalis as a Yankee…that.

  19. darthicarus - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I’m going to have trouble seeing Youk without that shrubbery on his chin.

  20. Jeremy T - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    I was first introduced to your writing when Craig linked to the “Willie Mays HOF” piece you wrote a year or two back, so seeing “Joe Posnanski” in the byline on HBT is almost as jarring to as seeing Youk on the Yanks, but in a good way :)

    Before we go any farther, inquiring minds are going to want to know… cake or pie?

    • Jeremy T - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      *to me

      edit function?

  21. penferris - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    One of my favorite Reggie covers (and yes, it looks weird):

  22. ro1014 - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    I could get used Youk as a Yank more than I could have for Boggs… Youk’s intensity is what makes him a feared adversary as well as a guy you want on your team. Boggs was a wuss who backed into the batting title over Mattingly, and I still have a hard time with that.

    Welcome Joe! Look forward to your posts.

  23. gibbstastic - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Tim Brown as a Buc while Jerry Rice was a Raider. That’s about as weird as it gets. I’d like to pretend it never happened.

  24. indaburg - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    Welcome aboard, Joe! You’re going to fit in just fine.

    What are these San Diego Chargers you speak of?

  25. Old Gator - Feb 26, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Welcome aboard Joe. You gonna platoon with Craig while he prepares for his Gowachin bar exam?

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