Throwback Thursday: Homegrown Talent Staying Home

What: Homegrown Sports Stars Staying Put

When: Ended in the mid 1990s

Starring: Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken Jr., Steve Yzerman, Derek Jeter, Dan Marino

The reason for the throwback: Tuesday night, Derek Jeter played in his final Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Over the course of his career, the 40-year-old first-ballot Hall of Famer has made 14 appearances in “The Mid-Summer Classic” and every time, he’s done so as a member of the New York Yankees. That may not mean anything to some people, but as a 35-year-old sports fanatic, seeing one of the last homegrown talents to spend his entire career with one team celebrated and honoured the way he was Tuesday carries special meaning.

Not many athletes spend their entire career with one team any more.

Free agency and financial imbalance between big markets and their smaller contemporaries makes player movement inevitable, plus with each passing year, more and more veterans across every sport start to chase championships. While I can’t begrudge anyone for trying to reach the pinnacle of their respective sport, I have to admit that the constant movement of marquee names and the lack of franchise continuity has taken some of the childhood enjoyment I had out of sports for me.

I grew up in the 80s when you knew Tony Gwynn would be suiting up for the San Diego Padres and Cal Ripken Jr. would be playing shortstop literally every day for the Baltimore Orioles. When the NFL season rolled around, you knew Dan Marino was going to be under center for the Miami Dolphins. In the NHL, Steve Yzerman pulled a #19 Detroit Red Wings jersey on season after season.

Slowly, those surities started to fade as I got older.

Wayne Gretzky got traded and then was an 18-game rental in St. Louis before finishing his career as a member of the New York Rangers. Joe Montana went to Kansas City to play for the Chiefs. The Cleveland Indians suffered seasonal departures after building a World Series contender internally towards the end of the ’90s. Then there were the ones that really stung.

After 20 seasons in Boston as one of the top defensemen in the league, Ray Bourque finished his career winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. As happy as I was to see Bourque hoist Lord Stanley’s mug, it was weird seeing him do it with a snowy “A” on his chest and not a bespoked, black and yellow “B” on his jersey.

Michael Jordan coming back as a member of the Washington Wizards was blasphemous to me. “His Airness” went out on the perfect note, winning his sixth championship with the Chicago Bulls by hitting the game-winning shot on Byron Russell and the Utah Jazz. It was a storybook ending… and then he pulled on a Washington Wizards jersey and that perfect ended was erased.

Don’t even get me started on the Shaquille O’Neal Rental Tour at the end of his career or Emmit Smith rounding out his career with the Arizona Cardinals. The fact that Peyton Manning is still an elite quarterback and is playing outside of Indianapolis cements it for me.

As a grown up, I can understand the business side of things, but as a sports fan, I miss the days of following a player from start to finish with a single team.

Tags: Baseball, TBT

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