Earlier this week I heard that Garrett Anderson retired and my first thought was “Holy s#%@, that guy’s still in the league?!?” I thought the former Angels outfielder hung up his spikes years ago. So I started thinking of other old-timers most people would be shocked to know are still on a pro roster. Longevity or age by itself isn’t enough to make the list. Manny Ramirez and Jason Kidd are pushing 40, but everybody knows they’re still suiting up. I’m talking about guys who you had no idea were still playing.
Here’s a list of ten athletes that make you say “Holy s#%@, that guy’s still in the league?!?”
10) Kurt Thomas
Kurt’s crazy-eyes were on both ends of the Knicks-Heat rivalry in the 1990’s and he was a starter on that Knicks team that advanced to the finals in 1999. He’s a product of bygone era, when teams needed an enforcer to throw some elbows and intimidate the opposition. Yet, somehow Thomas has survived and surprised basketball fans by logging big minutes for the Bulls this season.
9) Mike Modano and Teemu Selanne
I recognize that to NHL fans these are just two players in the twilight of their careers, but to people like myself whose most recent knowledge of hockey comes from NHL ’94, it’s startling to hear that these two former all-stars are still active. Modano is 4o years-old, in his 22nd season and Selanne, also 40, has 20 goals this year in his second go-around with the Ducks.
8) Mark Brunell
We all remember Brunell as a poor-man’s Steve Young with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The lefty made three Pro Bowls, all of which were last century. After leaving Jacksonville in 2003, he spent four years in Washington, then backed up Drew Brees in New Orleans. There’s no doubt many fans did a double-take when they saw him lineup under center in place of Mark Sanchez – who’s young enough to be his son – in the Jets season finale.
7) Theo Ratliff
Does the name ring a bell? Ratliff was one of the premier defensive players in the game at the turn of the century as a member of the 76ers. He was named to the all-star team in 2001 and led the league in blocks per game three times. Knee injuries curtailed his career and he’s provided minimal production for eight different teams over the past six years. This season he’s played just 67 minutes for the Lakers.
6) Mike Hampton
Remember when this guy cashed in on a great post-season with the Mets by signing that mind blowing deal with the Rockies? That was 2000. After two years with Colorado he was traded to Atlanta, where he was hit by the injury bug. The hard-throwing lefty has started a total of 46 games since 2004. He missed the entire 2006 and 2007 seasons and threw just 4.1 innings last year, but still managed to secure an invite to Arizona’s camp.
5) Anthony Carter
Carter played big minutes for the rugged Heat teams of the late ’90’s, early ’00’s. Then he seemed to disappear. In fact, he was out of the league for one year, playing ball in Italy. Few hoops fans realized that he returned to the NBA and had been languishing on the Nuggets bench for five years, until his name popped up as a throw-in in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Suddenly, he’s getting some burn again in New York.
4) Omar Vizquel
Many American League fans lost track of this slick-fielding shortstop when he left Cleveland for San Francisco after the 2004 season. By 2008 he was 41 years-old, had lost his starting position and was expected to retire. But Vizquel wasn’t done. He served as a utility man for the Rangers in 2009 and at the age of 43 is back for his second season with the White Sox.
3) Juwan Howard
It kills me to say this, but anybody who played at Michigan before I enrolled there is ancient in athlete years. Juwan’s lone all-star appearance was in 1996, he hasn’t been an impact player for a long time, and his buddies Jalen and C-Webb joined the booth years ago. There’s no doubt that more than a few Heatles fans were shocked to see this former Wolverine at the end of the bench.
2) Matt Stairs
It’s remarkable for any athlete to play in the big leagues for 20 years, but Stairs’ staying power is that much more impressive because 1) He’s built like John Kruk and 2) He was never that good. He was a poor fielder and is a career .236 hitter. The portly pinch-hitter was nearly impossible to keep track of as he donned ten different uniforms over the past ten seasons. There will be some stupefied Nationals fans if he makes the team this Spring.
1) Todd Collins
This year’s NFC Championship Game between the Bears and Packers produced the the ultimate, “Holy s#%@, that guy’s still in the league” moment. When Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was knocked out of the game with a knee injury everybody watching wondered who his backup was. When they received the answer, their jaws dropped. Collins was a starter in the NFL for one season, in1997, and he’s started only four games since. Even die-hard fans didn’t know he was still carrying a clipboard.
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