Hall of Famers' most random teams

January 28th, 2024

Of the three players revealed as the newest Hall of Famers on Tuesday, two (Todd Helton of the Rockies and Joe Mauer of the Twins) spent their entire Major League careers with a single team. But that sort of an accomplishment is not the norm, even for all-time greats.

Any trip to Cooperstown involves a stop in the plaque gallery, where you browse the accomplishments of every Hall of Famer. On most players' plaques, the logo on each cap represents the club they are most associated with.

Yet the plaques also will list each of the stops they made during their distinguished playing careers. That means Ken Griffey Jr.'s bears a "Chicago, A.L.," and Mike Piazza's a "Florida, N.L.," even though the former spent only a couple of months with the White Sox and the latter much less than that with the Marlins.

Many Hall of Famers have made these sorts of brief detours, even if the memories of them in those uniforms don't seem quite right years later. With that in mind, here is a look at a notable Hall of Famer cameo for (nearly) every club, with help from Baseball-Reference and the SABR BioProject.

Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Browns: Dizzy Dean
The 1934 NL MVP for the Cardinals, Dean saw injuries put a premature stop to his career after he threw one inning for the Cubs in '41. Six years later, while working as a Browns broadcaster, Dean claimed he could pitch as well or better than the club's beleaguered staff. With nothing to lose, the Browns signed him to a one-game contract and started him in the season's final game, on Sept. 28, 1947, against the White Sox at Sportsman's Park. Amazingly, Dean pitched four scoreless innings and also went 1-for-1 at the plate.
Honorable mention: Tim Raines

Boston Red Sox: Tom Seaver
Yes, newly elected Hall of Famer Adrián Beltré was only with Boston for a year -- but it was a memorable year. Seaver better fits our criteria here. Seaver, who made his name with the Mets, finished his career with Boston after a June 1986 trade from the White Sox. At age 41, he still managed a 111 ERA+ in 104 1/3 innings but didn't appear in the team's postseason run to the World Series due to a knee injury. The Sox actually had three other Hall of Fame pitchers -- Jack Chesbro, Juan Marichal and John Smoltz -- make fewer appearances for them than Seaver's 16. 
Honorable mention: Chesbro

Chicago White Sox: Ken Griffey Jr.
Two years before his retirement, the Reds sent Griffey to the White Sox at the 2008 Trade Deadline. Over 41 regular-season games, he hit just three of his 630 career homers, but the Sox took a tiebreaker game from the Twins to claim the AL Central title. In his third and final trip to the playoffs, Junior went 2-for-10 with five strikeouts in an AL Division Series loss to the Rays.
Honorable mention: Chief Bender

Cleveland Guardians: Dave Winfield
Over a 22-year career, Winfield collected 3,110 hits and 465 home runs, but by 1995 he was MLB's oldest player by two years, at 43. A full-time DH at this point, he hit .191/.285/.287 and didn't make the AL champions' postseason roster.
Honorable mention: Harold Baines

Detroit Tigers: Larry Doby
A tremendous player in addition to breaking the AL's color barrier in 1947, Doby stayed with Cleveland through '55. After a few years with the White Sox, he returned there in '58, but a year later, Cleveland dealt him to Detroit for Tito Francona (Terry's father). After a grand total of 18 games and 12 hits with the Tigers, Doby was purchased by the White Sox, for whom he played his final 21 contests.
Honorable mention: Eddie Mathews

Houston Astros: Randy Johnson
This was no swan-song situation. Between his excellent stint with the Mariners and streak of four straight NL Cy Young Awards for the D-backs, Johnson was a 1998 Trade Deadline pickup by a Houston club that won 102 games and the NL Central (its home at the time). In 11 starts down the stretch, Big Unit threw four shutouts, posted a 1.28 ERA and struck out 12.4 batters per nine innings, but he took two hard-luck losses as the Astros fell to the Padres in the NLDS.
Honorable mention: Robin Roberts

Kansas City Royals: Gaylord Perry
The first to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues, Perry pitched for eight teams, including 10 games for the 1980 Yankees. In June '83, a year after he picked up his 300th win, the 44-year-old was released by the Mariners and signed with the Royals, in time to play a role in the famous George Brett pine tar incident. Perry finished up his career with a 96 ERA+ over 14 starts with K.C.
Honorable mention: Orlando Cepeda

Los Angeles Angels: Rickey Henderson
MLB's all-time stolen-base king played for nine teams, tied for the most among Hall of Famers -- and that doesn't count the repeat stints he had with multiple clubs. In August 1997, the Padres traded the 38-year-old to the Halos, and he hit a mere .183 over 32 games, though he still posted a .343 OBP and swiped 16 bags. That was hardly the end for Henderson, who suited up in six more seasons.
Honorable mention: Eddie Murray

Minnesota Twins/Washington Senators: Lefty Gomez
All 189 of Grove's wins came for the Yankees. New York released him after the 1942 season, and so did the Boston Braves before he threw a pitch for the club. Grove got one more shot, with the Senators, but he lasted a single start, giving up four runs over 4 2/3 innings against the White Sox on May 30, 1943.
Honorable mention: Steve Carlton

New York Yankees: Lee Smith
Smith's 478 career saves rank third on the all-time list, but only three of those came in pinstripes. By that point, Smith was 35 years old and already had starred for the Cubs, Red Sox and Cardinals. With a month left to go before he reached free agency, St. Louis dealt him to the Yankees, who were trailing a tight division race to the Blue Jays. New York couldn't close the gap, but Smith made eight scoreless appearances before signing with Baltimore.
Honorable mention: Iván Rodríguez

Oakland Athletics: Orlando Cepeda
Though he was an NL MVP Award winner with St. Louis and went into the Hall with a San Francisco cap, Cepeda appeared very briefly across the Bay. In June 1972, the Braves traded him to the A's for pitcher Denny McLain. Cepeda, then 34 and battling knee problems, made three appearances as a pinch-hitter, went 0-for-3 and was done for the year. Fortunately for Cepeda, the addition of the DH in '73 gave him one more productive season -- with the Red Sox.
Honorable mention: Willie McCovey

Seattle Mariners: Goose Gossage
Like Henderson, Gossage played for nine teams, and he also had a 28-game stint with the Fukuoka Hawks of Japan's Pacific League in 1990. He returned to the Majors the next year, bouncing from Texas to Oakland to Seattle, where he made 36 appearances before the strike arrived and his career ended. In the very last of those, the 43-year-old tossed three perfect innings for his 310th save.
Honorable mention: Henderson

Tampa Bay Rays: Wade Boggs
Thus far, Boggs is the only Hall of Famer to have played for the then-Devil Rays. His final two seasons coincided with the franchise's first two, and despite being his his 40s, Boggs still managed to bat .289/.360/.391 (94 OPS+) over 213 games, notching his 3,000th hit with a homer on Aug. 7, 1999.
Honorable mention: none

Texas Rangers: Vladimir Guerrero
After eight seasons in Montreal and six more in Anaheim, Vladdy moved across the AL West to Texas via free agency. Then 35, Guerrero wasn't quite the terrifying force he once was, but still hit .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs and made the last of his nine All-Star teams. After going 1-for-14 in the Rangers' World Series loss to the Giants, Guerrero departed for Baltimore, where he played his final season.
Honorable mention: Gossage

Toronto Blue Jays: Phil Niekro
Niekro debuted with 1964 Milwaukee Braves as a teammate of Warren Spahn and finished with one game for the '87 Atlanta Braves, who had a rookie named Tom Glavine. Over those 24 seasons, the knuckleball artist threw 5,404 innings, more than any other pitcher who started his career after 1907. Twelve of those innings came for the Jays in '87, in between stints with Cleveland and Atlanta. By that time, Niekro was 48. Since then, only Jamie Moyer has pitched at an older age.
Honorable mention: Frank Thomas

Arizona Diamondbacks: Roberto Alomar
The 12-time All-Star second baseman signed with Arizona in 2004, at age 36, and played only 38 games, thanks in large part to an errant pitch that broke his right hand in April. On Aug. 4, Alomar went 4-for-5, lifting his D-backs line to .309/.382/.473 before he was traded back to the White Sox for his final 18 contests.
Honorable mention: none

Atlanta/Milwaukee/Boston Braves: Cy Young
The man for whom the award is named was 44 when the Cleveland Naps released him in August 1911. He quickly signed with Boston, which recently changed its name from Beaneaters to Doves to Rustlers, which lasted just that season before giving way to Braves. The Rustlers went a horrific 44-107, yet Young managed to go 4-5 with a 102 ERA+ over 11 starts, bringing his final win total to an unapproachable 511.
Honorable mention: Babe Ruth

Chicago Cubs: Hoyt Wilhelm
It wasn't until 1952, when he was 29, that Wilhelm debuted with the New York Giants. The knuckleballer made up for lost time, pitching 21 seasons for nine teams. At age 47 in 1970, Wilhelm made his fifth and final All-Star team, but shortly before season's end, the Braves sold him to the Cubs, for whom he made three relief appearances. Chicago traded him back to Atlanta after the season, and Wilhelm finally pitched his last game in July 1972 with the Dodgers, 16 days shy of his 50th birthday.
Honorable mention: Jimmie Foxx

Cincinnati Reds: Christy Mathewson
In July 1916, the Giants traded Mathewson -- beset by age and injury -- to the Reds so he could take over as Cincy's manager. That's what he did, but near the end of a 93-loss campaign, Mathewson stepped to the mound one last time, facing fellow future Hall of Famer Mordecai Brown, who also was making his last start. On a day honoring Brown in Chicago, Mathewson surrendered eight runs on 15 hits in a complete game -- but earned his 373rd victory as Brown gave up 10 runs on 19 hits.
Honorable mention: Al Simmons

Colorado Rockies: N/A
The Rockies now have two Hall of Famers: Helton and Larry Walker. But both made far too big an impact in Colorado to fit on this list.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Juan Marichal
Yes, the greatest pitcher in San Francisco Giants history was, briefly, a member of the hated Dodgers. Mired in a late-career decline, Marichal was sold to the Red Sox after the 1973 season. He pitched 11 games for them in '74 and was released. He signed with L.A., but lasted two starts, six innings and nine runs.
Honorable mention: Jim Thome

Miami Marlins: Mike Piazza
It's bizarre that a Hall of Fame catcher, in the thick of his prime at age 29, could be traded twice in an eight-day span, but that's exactly what happened in 1998. Piazza and the Dodgers couldn't work out an extension to keep him in L.A., which sent him to the Marlins in a blockbuster deal. The defending champs were conducting a fire sale, however, and quickly flipped Piazza to the Mets. His final tally with the Fish: five games, four starts, five hits, no homers and two games in his "home" ballpark.
Honorable mention: Trevor Hoffman

Milwaukee Brewers: Hank Aaron
After the 1974 season, Aaron was traded by the only franchise he had known (the Braves) but returned to the city where he spent his first 12 years in the Majors (Milwaukee). By that point already baseball's all-time home run king, Aaron also passed Babe Ruth for the RBI record in '75. He hit his final 22 homers for the Brew Crew (then an AL club) over two seasons and 222 games, smacking No. 755 on July 20, 1976, at County Stadium.
Honorable mention: Trevor Hoffman

New York Mets: Yogi Berra
A three-time MVP catcher for the Yankees, Berra switched to managing the club in 1964. Despite taking it to Game 7 of the World Series, Berra was fired, leading him to to join Casey Stengel's Mets -- then in their fourth season -- as a player-coach. The player half of the equation ultimately consisted of four games and two starts in May 1965. In the last of those, he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and hung up his spikes, telling his wife, "I didn't go out there to be embarrassed." Berra stayed with the Mets as a coach, however, and later skippered them to the 1973 World Series.
Honorable mention: Willie Mays

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryne Sandberg
In an eerie coincidence, Sandberg is one of two Hall Famers to begin his career with a short stint in Philadelphia before getting traded to the Cubs. Fergie Jenkins made eight relief appearances with Philly and was dealt in April 1966, 16 years before Sandberg went to Chicago in a disastrous swap. The season before, Sandberg went 1-for-6 for the Phillies. Over 15 years as a Cub, he picked up another 2,385 hits and became a 10-time All-Star second baseman.
Honorable mention: Jenkins

Pittsburgh Pirates: Joe Cronin
From 1900-27, Cronin was one of four men to play in 50 games or fewer with the Pirates prior to the age of 25 before going on to Hall of Fame careers elsewhere, joining High Pockets Kelly, Dazzy Vance and Rube Waddell. In the case of Cronin, Pittsburgh was a strong team in the 1920s and couldn't find room for Cronin, who got into 50 games at ages 19-20. He was sold to an American Association club but soon was purchased again, by the Washington Senators. Cronin then blossomed as a seven-time All-Star shortstop with a career 119 OPS+.
Honorable mention: Hank Greenberg

San Diego Padres: Greg Maddux
Maddux signed with the club as a free agent heading into his age-41 season in 2007 and made 60 starts in a Padres uniform over the next two years, reaching the 350-win mark along the way. He was traded to the Dodgers in August 2008, for the final few months of his career, retiring at age 42.
Honorable mention: Mike Piazza

San Francisco Giants: Steve Carlton
"Lefty" was a four-time Cy Young Award winner when the Phillies released him in June 1986. He soon signed with the Giants, and in his sixth outing for them, whiffed the Reds' Eric Davis to become the second pitcher, after Nolan Ryan, to record 4,000 strikeouts. Afterward, Carlton announced his retirement, but he returned with the White Sox a week later and then pitched parts of two more seasons with the Indians and Twins.
Honorable mention: Duke Snider

St. Louis Cardinals: John Smoltz
The All-Star starter and closer pitched in 708 games for the Braves from 1988-2008, then split 15 games between two other clubs in his final season. Smoltz, recovering from shoulder surgery, initially signed with the Red Sox, debuted in late June and posted an 8.33 ERA over eight starts. After his release, the Cardinals picked him up and got better results (4.26 ERA) over seven outings. Smoltz's final appearance came in Game 3 of the NLDS, when the Cards were eliminated by the Dodgers.
Honorable mention: Minnie Miñoso

Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos: Randy Johnson
Ten years before he was a prize Deadline acquisition by the Astros, the Big Unit was a rookie who made four promising starts with the 1988 Expos. He pitched seven walk-filled games for Montreal the next season, then was traded that May to Seattle in a deal for fellow lefty Mark Langston.
Honorable mention: Lee Smith