20 Legendary Athletes Who Finished Up With Another Team

SAM RICHE/MCT /Landov

On Wednesday, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts officially parted ways after 14 seasons. We’ll soon find out where the four-time MVP, who choked up at his goodbye press conference, will resume his NFL career. When it comes to Hall of Famers who spent the majority of their careers with one franchise before retiring with another, the team that signs Manning hopes he’s more Joe Montana than Joe Namath. Here are several other greats who were once in Manning’s shoes.

1. Johnny Unitas – San Diego Chargers

© Bettmann/CORBIS

The Baltimore Colts began a youth movement in 1972 by benching Unitas, their quarterback of 17 years, early in the season. In 1973, Baltimore traded the 39-year-old to the San Diego Chargers. The split wasn’t amicable.

“You can fry an egg too long,” Colts general manager Joe Thomas said. “The deal is done, and that’s it. He’s their property, period. From here on in, I will have nothing to say about Johnny Unitas.” Unitas, who sued the Colts for $725,000 on charges of a malicious breach of contract, was benched at halftime in his fourth game with the Chargers in favor of rookie Dan Fouts. He retired during training camp the following year.

2. Joe Namath – Los Angeles Rams

The New York Jets elected not to renew Broadway Joe’s $450,000 contract after the 1976 season, and who could blame them? The gimpy-kneed Namath, who earned legend status in New York after guaranteeing victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and backing it up, was 4-17 as the Jets’ starter over the previous two seasons.

“It’s a strange feeling; it hasn’t really hit home yet,” Al Ward, the Jets’ general manager said after releasing Namath. “I don’t think it’ll really sink in until I see him in a different uniform for the first time.” Namath signed with the Rams for an estimated $150,000 and started four games in his only season in Los Angeles before retiring.

3. Hakeem Olajuwon – Toronto Raptors

JOE SKIPPER/Reuters /Landov

“I feel like a rookie again,” Hakeem Olajuwon said after a sign-and-trade agreement sent the 12-time NBA All-Star from the Houston Rockets to the Toronto Raptors in 2001. “I’m excited. It’s a new opportunity to establish myself.” The Dream’s one year in Toronto wasn’t a total nightmare, as the Raptors finished 42-40 and made the playoffs, but Olajuwon averaged only 7.1 points and 6 rebounds per game. A serious back injury led Olajuwon to retire after the season. He's pictured here with Patrick Ewing, who played for the Seattle Supersonics and Orlando Magic after his storied career with the New York Knicks.

4. Yogi Berra – New York Mets

© Bettmann/CORBIS

After 17 seasons as a catcher with the New York Yankees, Yogi Berra (pictured with Roger Maris) took over as manager in 1964. He was fired after one season and joined the New York Mets in 1965 as a player and assistant to manager Casey Stengel, who managed Berra for 11 of his 17 seasons with the Yankees. Berra went 2-for-9 in four games with the Mets before retiring as an active player one day before his 40th birthday. “This is it,” Berra told reporters on May 11. “I’m through as a player forever. I can’t do it no more. It’s tough to play even once a week. That year’s layoff did it.” Berra served as a coach for the Mets for the next 8 years before becoming manager in 1972.

5. Gordie Howe – Hartford Whalers

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Gordie Howe won four Stanley Cups and was named the NHL’s most valuable player six times in his 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. Howe retired in 1971 but returned to the ice with the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1973. In addition to a fat contract, the Aeros offered Howe a chance to play on the same line as his sons, Marty and Mark. Howe returned to the NHL for the 1979-80 season, scoring 15 goals for the Hartford Whalers. Not bad for a 51-year-old grandfather. Howe retired after the season.

6. Harmon Killebrew – Kansas City Royals

Harmon Killebrew, who lost his fight against esophageal cancer last year, spent the first 21 seasons of his career with the same franchise. Killer hit 559 home runs with the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins (the franchise relocated following the 1960 season) and signed with the Kansas City Royals in 1975. Killebrew hit 14 home runs in his only season with the Royals, including one against the Twins in his final trip to Minnesota. Kansas City announced that it would release him in September and Killebrew, who ranked fifth on the career home run list, retired after the season.

7. Joe Montana – Kansas City Chiefs

With Montana recovering from an elbow injury, Steve Young took the reins of the San Francisco 49ers’ offense in 1991 and 1992. He never let go. In 1993, San Francisco traded Montana, safety David Whitmore, and a third-round pick to Kansas City for the Chiefs’ first-round pick. The move worked out well for both teams. Young continued to thrive in San Francisco, while Montana, who won four Super Bowls in 13 seasons with the 49ers, guided the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game. He missed most of the second half of Kansas City’s loss to the Bills with a mild concussion and retired after the Chiefs lost in the first round of the playoffs the following year.

8. Franco Harris – Seattle Seahawks

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Franco Harris won four Super Bowls during his 12 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who drafted the running back out of Penn State in 1972. Coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season and only 363 yards shy of passing Jim Brown as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, the 34-year-old Harris held out for more money during training camp in 1984. The Steelers responded by releasing him, but Harris wasn’t out of the league for long.

The Seattle Seahawks signed him for an estimated $500,000 after losing leading rusher Curt Warner to an injury in the season-opener. Harris quickly took a liking to the Emerald City. “Everything here has been totally impressive,” he said. “The people, the scenery – I guess the only thing is, I’m not a big salmon eater. Everywhere we go, people want to feed me salmon.” Harris rushed for 170 yards in eight games with the Seahawks before being released.

9. Michael Jordan – Washington Wizards

© Greg Fiume/Corbis

Three years after his second retirement from basketball, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan returned to the court in 2001 with the Washington Wizards. Jordan had served as part owner and the president of basketball operations for the beleaguered franchise since January 2000, and was responsible for drafting high school standout Kwame Brown with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Jordan averaged more than 20 points per game in each of his two seasons with the Wizards, but Washington failed to make the playoffs both years. In November 2002, Jordan announced that he would retire at the end of the season.

10. Ray Bourque – Colorado Avalanche

At the 2000 NHL trade deadline, the Boston Bruins dealt their legendary 39-year-old defenseman Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche. “We limited ourselves to teams where Raymond Bourque would have a chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Bruins general manager Harry Sinden said. The Avs lost in the Western Conference finals, but Bourque returned to Colorado for the 2000-01 season. He tallied 59 points during the regular season and 10 more in the playoffs, which culminated in him hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time. Bourque retired after the season.

11. Karl Malone – Los Angeles Lakers

After 18 seasons in Utah, Karl Malone took less money in 2003 to join what some pundits dubbed the Dream Team. Malone and fellow free agent Gary Payton signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, who, with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal leading the way, were one season removed from winning their third straight NBA title. At 40 years old, the Mailman was hungry for his first championship. He averaged 13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and helped the Lakers advance to the NBA Finals, where they lost to Detroit in five games. Malone missed the final three games of that series and underwent knee surgery after the season. He didn’t play another game.

12. Tony Dorsett – Denver Broncos

Tony Dorsett spent the first 11 years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. When the former Pitt star was relegated to a backup role behind Herschel Walker, Dorsett requested a trade. The Cowboys granted him his wish, dealing him to the Denver Broncos in 1988 for a conditional fifth-round draft pick. Dorsett started 13 games with the Broncos, rushing for 703 yards and five touchdowns. After announcing that the 1989 season would be his last, Dorsett suffered two ligament tears in training camp. He sat out the season and retired after the Broncos lost to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV. Dorsett came out of retirement 8 months later to work out at Cowboys training camp, but he failed to make the team.

13. Emmitt Smith – Arizona Cardinals

Emmitt Smith won three Super Bowls and set the NFL’s all-time rushing record in his 13 seasons with the Cowboys. Shortly after Dallas released the 33-year-old Smith in 2003, he inked a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals. “I’ve always been very confident in my abilities,” Smith said. “I think I’m a 1,300-yard back, and I will be out to prove that.” Smith fell short of that goal. A shoulder injury limited him to 90 carries over 10 games in his first season in the desert. Smith rebounded to rush for a respectable 937 yards and nine touchdowns in 2004 before retiring.

14. Raúl – Schalke

After 16 years with Real Madrid, where he helped win three Champions League titles and became the club’s all-time leading scorer, Raúl signed a two-year contract with Schalke of the Bundesliga in 2010. “I have come to Schalke because I really wanted to get experience of playing abroad,” he said. While he previously talked of retiring after the 2011 season, Raúl has reportedly been offered a contract extension.

15. Merlene Ottey – Slovenia

From 1980 to 2000, Merlene Ottey won nine Olympic medals in track and field while competing for her native Jamaica. In 1998, Ottey moved to Slovenia. According to the Los Angeles Times, she told the international track federation that she preferred the country’s calm lifestyle. In 2002, Ottey became a Slovenian citizen and started representing her new home country in international events. She reached the semifinals in the 100 meters at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

16. O.J. Simpson - San Francisco 49ers

Corbis

After his legendary career with the Buffalo Bills and years before his famous trial, O.J. Simpson quietly ended his football career on two terrible San Francisco 49ers teams in 1978-79. Here he is walking off the field after his last game.

17. Willie Mays – New York Mets

Willie Mays spent the first 21 seasons of his remarkable career with the New York and San Francisco Giants. With Mays batting only .184 in 19 games, the Giants traded him to the New York Mets for minor league pitcher Charlie Williams and cash in May 1972. Mays had been benched in San Francisco and Giants owner Horace Stoneham couldn’t afford to pay his former star after his playing days were over. “I’m not going to be something on display,” Mays said of the move. “I have to play ball. If used in the right way, I think I can do a good job for the Mets.” In his Mets debut, Mays hit a go-ahead home run in a 5-4 win over his former team. Mays finished with 8 home runs in 1972 and retired after hitting six more in 1973, bringing his career total to 660.

18. Bobby Orr – Chicago Blackhawks

Bobby Orr played the first 10 seasons of his NHL career with the Boston Bruins and the final two with the Chicago Blackhawks after leaving via free agency in 1976. Years later, Orr blamed his departure on his agent, Alan Eagleson. Orr said that Eagleson, who was later convicted of fraud and embezzlement, misrepresented the Bruins’ offer to him when his contract expired. Specifically, Eagleson failed to mention that the Bruins offered him 18.5 percent ownership in the team in addition to his salary.

19. Pele – New York Cosmos

Pelé played 17 seasons with Santos in his native Brazil and retired from the team in 1972 as its all-time leading scorer. Pelé signed a contract with the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos for a reported $4.5 million in 1975 and led the team to the NASL championship before retiring for good.

20. Hank Aaron – Milwaukee Brewers

Hammerin’ Hank started and ended his career in Milwaukee, but for different franchises. Aaron played 21 seasons for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, setting the all-time home run record, which has since been surpassed by Barry Bonds, in April 1974. The Braves traded Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers after the season. “I will do whatever I can to help the ball club,” the 41-year-old Aaron said. “I wouldn’t want to be purely a designated hitter.” Aaron appeared in 137 games for the Brewers in 1975 and hit 12 home runs in 465 at-bats. He retired after hitting 10 more homers in 1976.

“What about Jerry Rice?!”

We tried to limit this list to all-time greats who played the majority of their careers with one team and then played for only one other team before retiring. That’s why guys like Rice, Reggie White, Brett Favre, Babe Ruth, Dennis Rodman, Deion Sanders, Tom Seaver and the aforementioned Patrick Ewing – all of whom played for at least three teams – don’t appear. But that doesn't mean we didn't forget someone – or multiple people, like Mays, Aaron, Pele and Orr (we've since tacked them on). Share your own favorites in the comments.

The Time Baby Ruth Sued Babe Ruth

Allsport/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Allsport/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1920, the Curtiss Candy Company introduced the Baby Ruth candy bar, causing a certain baseball player with a very similar name to take notice. Babe Ruth was having a monstrous year—his 54 home runs in the 1920 season were more than any other team in the American League. If you were going to misappropriate someone’s name for a candy bar, Ruth’s was a logical choice.

Sensing opportunity, the Great Bambino struck back by creating his own Babe Ruth Home Run Bar. Curtiss quickly sued Ruth’s company for trademark infringement. But what happened next was surprising: When the Sultan of Swat accused the company of using his name, Curtiss feigned shock. Its bar was named after “Baby” Ruth Cleveland, daughter of President Grover Cleveland.

For years, this has been the oft-repeated explanation, but the argument makes no sense. Cleveland had been out of office for more than two decades and dead for 12 years when the bar debuted. “Baby” Ruth herself had died of diphtheria in 1904, at just 12 years old. Although the country’s most famous baseball star would seem much more likely to have a namesake candy than a former president's departed child, the courts sided with Curtiss.

When Ruth learned of the verdict, he bellowed, “Well, I ain’t eatin’ your damned candy bar anymore!” Somehow, the Baby Ruth bar survived without his support.

10 Winning Facts about Wheaties

General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios