This morning I asked you to name your favorite current MLB players with no ties to the Padres, and there were a lot of great responses. Then I thought it would be fitting to ask the same question regarding retired players. There are some players I liked in my younger days despite not being Padres who eventually made my dreams come true by joining the team in their later days, such as Greg Maddux and Mike Piazza. There are also others, Tim Salmon for example, who I grew to appreciate only after their retirement; in Salmon's case it was because he spent his entire career with one club, or "Gwynning" as I like to call it. Still, there are far more who I appreciated during their playing days who retired with no connection to the Padres.
A glance at my baseball card collection provides a good look at which retirees I was, and continue to be, a fan of. Well over 90 percent of my cards are of Padres players, and there are only a few Padres that I collect cards of from their non-Padres days - Joey Cora, of course, along with John Kruk and Trevor Hoffman. The smallest portion of my hoard is player collections of guys like the aforementioned Salmon or Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, two other Gwynners I liked when they were playing, but more so once they hung 'em up.
Jay Buhner is another player associated with one team, but he did briefly play for the Yankees as a rookie before the infamous trade that led to him becoming a legend in the Pacific Northwest. I was a big fan of Buhner and many of the players on those mid-'90s Mariners teams; I developed quite an interest in the club when Joey Cora joined them. Buhner was of particular interest because he was the only player at the time who wore his hair the way I did. I suppose I should say lack of hair; from the ages of around 10 to 13, I would get up every morning and shave my head with a razor... I was a weird kid. Along with Buhner, it was impossible to watch those teams and not appreciate the relentless hitting of Edgar Martinez and the beautiful swing of Ken Griffey, Jr. Naturally, and rightfully so, people associate the Mariners immediately with Griffey, but this past winter when I told my mom that he made the Hall of Fame, she asked "Wasn't he on Joey's team?"
Another member of the Mariners of that era who I really enjoyed watching was The Big Unit, Randy Johnson. He was absolutely terrifying, and I liked him even more once I discovered that we share a birthday. I recall that when I was in fifth grade, on February 14, 1994, I was sitting at my desk writing "Happy Valentines Day" on baseball cards I had duplicates of, when Randy Johnson's 1993 Topps card came up next on the stack. "Don't write on that one! He's an All-Star," said my classmate Andrew, who is John Kruk's nephew. I replied, "You would know."
Around the same time, especially where I lived, the Indians were another team that got a lot of attention. I enjoyed watching the strong and silent Albert Belle and Eddie Murray, and became an instant fan of Jim Thome because he, along with Delino DeShields and Chipper Jones, was one of the only players at the time who wore his socks the right way. Kenny Lofton was another player they had who was a joy to watch.
Scott Radinsky is another player I collect; I'm a big fan of his band Pulley and his positive mental attitude, especially considering everything he has had to overcome. He and Jim Walewander are the only two players I know of who have baseball cards with the words "punk rock" written in the bio on the back. Another player I became a fan of long after his playing days ended is longtime closer Tom Henke, who I discovered made his major league debut the day I was born.
I paid a lot less attention to baseball in the early 2000s for a variety of reasons before I relapsed on the game in a big way around 2004. Then I came to appreciate Vladimir Guerrero and his free-swinging ways, and the seemingly carefree genius of Manny Ramirez, who came up in the mid-'90s with the previously mentioned Cleveland club. Of course I was a fan of Alex Cora, despite him initially playing for the Dodgers, simply due to him being Joey's brother.
There are many more players I've been a fan of who I'm shortchanging by failing to include, but this has stretched on far too long, and wasn't even supposed to be about me and my fandom in the first place. It's all about you and the players you grew up enjoying; I just got a little caught up in nostalgia and ran with it. So, how about it? Let's all get nostalgic together in the comments.