Seven veteran stars who signed on with a new team to chase a World Series ring
The 2017 Astros were full of feel-good stories, but no one in Houston's clubhouse appreciated their World Series win more than Carlos Beltran. Finally, after all those summers and all those near misses, after accomplishing just about everything an individual can accomplish in the Major Leagues, the 20-year vet had his championship ring.
At 40, Beltran certainly wasn't the force he once was, rarely playing the field and taking just three at-bats in the Fall Classic. But this was the reason he'd signed with Houston, the reason he'd committed to one more season-long grind -- and as his teammates partied on the field at Dodger Stadium, the moment was enough to move him to tears:
Of course, Beltran is hardly to only MLB vet to sign a deal with a new team in search of a World Series title (first or otherwise). Here are six more aging stars who were determined to get themselves a ring:
Tim Hudson, 2014 Giants
Between the A's and Braves, Hudson had spent most of his 15-year career with winning teams. But he could never quite get over the hump, and after Atlanta was bounced out of the 2013 NLDS by the Dodgers, the righty decided to return to the Bay -- this time to the Giants, winners of two of the last four World Series.
It didn't take Hudson long to get his ring. He was his typical sinkerballing self during the regular season, posting a 3.57 ERA and helping San Francisco capture an NL Wild Card spot. The Giants rode that Even Year Magic to another Fall Classic, and in Game 3, Hudson became the oldest pitcher to make his World Series debut:
Hudson even started Game 7, and while that didn't go as well as he'd hoped, some guy named
Lance Berkman, 2011 Cardinals
Berkman had put together a heck of a run with the Astros, emerging as one of the most prolific hitters of the 2000s. In the winter of 2010, though, it was fair to wonder how long he had left -- he'd struggled down the stretch with the Yankees that season, and with injuries mounting at age 35, no one was sure how much he could contribute.
The answer, as it turns out, was "a whole lot." Berkman signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals in December, not because St. Louis offered the most money but because they offered his best chance to get back to the World Series for the first time since 2005. Big Puma promptly proceeded to find the Fountain of Youth, hitting .301/.412/.547 en route to NL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
St. Louis advanced all the way to the World Series against the Rangers, which you probably remember as the
Mark Grace, 2001 D-backs
For 13 years, Grace was Mr. Reliable on the North Side, the steady lineup presence next to stars like Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Sammy Sosa. He made three All-Star teams, won four Gold Glove Awards, led the '90s in hits and is even the last Cub to hit for the cycle:
Alas, none of that made much of a difference in the standings: The Cubs made the postseason just twice during Grace's tenure, winning exactly one game. So, when Grace hit free agency after the 2000 season at age 36, he made the difficult decision to move on. "Winning is what it's all about,'' he said at the time. ''One thing I haven't done is win.''
He signed on with the D-backs, and with a rotation anchored by Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, the winning soon followed. Grace hit .298 over 145 games with Arizona, helping the team win the NL West and make its first World Series appearance. Even better, he saved his best for last: In that iconic Game 7 against the Yankees, Grace went 3-for-4, including a leadoff single in the ninth against Mariano Rivera that sparked the game-winning rally.
Dave Winfield, 1992 Blue Jays
Winfield was entering his age-40 season, looking to finally capture that long-elusive ring. The Jays needed a DH, and were more than happy to sign a player with 49 homers over the last two seasons. Things worked out great on the field: Winfield experienced a renaissance, posting an .867 OPS and finishing fifth in AL MVP voting. His real legacy in Toronto, however, came in the stands.
In late August of '92, the Jays were locked in a tight battle with the O's atop the AL East. But you wouldn't have known it from the Skydome crowds, which were frequently -- at least in Winfield's mind -- lethargic. So the slugger called out his hometown crowd, asking them to get on their feet a bit -- and on Sept. 4, a slogan was born:
Winfield Wants Noise became Toronto's rallying cry as the team captured the AL East crown, and in extra innings of World Series Game 6, it was Winfield's double that won the Jays the title:
Somehow, though, Winfield isn't even the greatest ring-chaser in franchise history ...
Paul Molitor, 1993 Blue Jays
... because the very next year, after Winfield had moved on to the Twins, the Jays brought in another aging future Hall of Famer looking to win it all. Molitor had come agonizingly close in 1982, leading the Brewers to the World Series only to fall in Game 7. In 1993, though, the 36-year-old took no chances: Molitor wasn't just a reason that Toronto knocked off the Phillies in the Fall Classic, he was the reason, slashing a preposterous .500/.571/1.000 and taking home MVP honors.
Pete Rose, 1980 Phillies
Sure, Rose had already captured two World Series earlier in his career as part of the Big Red Machine. But as he became a free agent after the 1978 season, the 38-year-old had one thing on his mind: winning another one.
As you might imagine, nearly every team in the league wanted Rose, and they were willing to do anything they had to in order to get him. Only the Phillies really had what the All-Star was looking for, though. "I thought the team sitting on the powder keg was the Phillies," Rose recalled. "They were the closest team to get where I wanted to be at that stage of my life, and that was the World Series."
Sure enough, two years later, Philly won it all -- with some help from Rose, who picked up three hits in the decisive Game 6.