Like LeBron, many baseball stars went home again
From Young to Blyleven, Foxx to Thome, homecomings common in MLB history
Returning to the ex who burned your clothes or threw rocks at your car or cursed your name in real life isn't always the best course of action. But somehow, in sports (and movies and country music, for that matter), it makes for great theater and, sometimes, a great ending.
We love a happy homecoming, a mending of the ties that bind. As awful as LeBron James' ignominious "Decision" went over in Cleveland in 2010, that's how well news of his return is being received now. Most fans would freely admit they're suckers for this stuff, and, in this case, LeBron couldn't quit the notion of winning a title on his home turf, within a whisper of the 330 area code he bears in one of his many tattoos.
The $20.7 million paycheck doesn't hurt, either.
James is not breaking new Northeast Ohio ground. Cleveland's sports -- and, specifically, baseball -- history is littered with returns of prodigal sons who left either in swaps or on their own accord.
Former Spider Cy Young came back to the Naps. Rocky Colavito left in one of the worst trades in baseball history, then came back in a trade that might have been equally bad. Kenny Lofton came back to the Tribe. Twice.
Jim Thome spurned the Indians in free agency, then returned to a thunderous ovation nine years later. He hit a home run on a night held in his honor. Next month, they'll unveil his statue at Progressive Field.
You can go home again. And in baseball, many great players have proven just that:
Ken Griffey Jr.: In 2000, Junior was in a similar spot that LeBron is in now -- an iconic player, right around 30, at the peak of his powers. Griffey requested and received a trade to Cincinnati, where he had grown up, and almost immediately signed an extension. After nine injury-prone years with the Reds (and a trade to the White Sox), Griffey found his way back to Seattle in 2009.
Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux: They're both going into the Hall of Fame this month, and they both went back to their original clubs late in their baseball life. Maddux rejoined the Cubs in 2004 (but would finish his career in Southern California), while Glavine came back to the Braves for his final season in '08. The other player inductee this year -- Frank Thomas -- returned to the White Sox as an advisor after his playing days.
Willie McCovey: The Giants traded him after the 1973 season, much to the dismay of the San Francisco fans, who welcomed McCovey back with open arms in '77, giving him a loud ovation that continued as he hit 28 homers at age 39.
Willie Mays: He moved from New York to San Francisco along with the Giants, then returned to his beloved New York on behalf of the Giants, who traded him to the Mets in May 1972. Mays' first game was, of course, against the Giants at Shea Stadium, and he hit a home run.
Jimmie Foxx: Much like Mays, Foxx returned to the city where he got started. The Philadelphia A's traded him to the Red Sox in 1935, but the Philadelphia Phillies signed him a decade later.
Hank Aaron: And Hammerin' Hank was another Hall of Famer who renewed a certain city bond. The Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, but Aaron returned to Milwaukee -- this time, as a Brewer -- in '75. All told, 420 of his 755 homers came for a Milwaukee team.
Pete Rose: Say what you want about how it all ended, but the Cincinnati fans sure seemed to enjoy watching Rose break the all-time hits record in a Reds uniform in 1986, eight years after he left for the Phillies.
Tony Perez: Rose wasn't the only member of the Big Red Machine to return in 1984. The "Big Dog" did it, too.
Phil Niekro: He accumulated 266 wins in 688 games over 18 seasons with the Braves from 1966-83. And in 1987, Niekro returned for one last start to end his career. He got shelled in a no-decision.
Andy Pettitte: He returned to the Yankees after three years in Houston. And Pettitte returned again in 2012, after retiring a year earlier.
Roger Clemens: He returned to the Yanks, too, in 2007. Suzyn Waldman went nuts.
Jim Fregosi: One of the Angels' all-time most popular players was traded after the 1971 season, retired after the '78 season and returned to the Halos as manager in '79, winning the AL West that first year.
Rickey Henderson: Rickey liked Oakland. So much so that he re-signed with the A's in the winter after the '89 season, a few months after the Yankees, who had acquired him in an '84 trade, dealt him back to Oakland. He signed with the A's again in '93, mere months after they dealt him to the Blue Jays. And he signed with the A's again in '98, after brief forays with the Padres and Angels. Yep, Rickey liked Oakland.
Reggie Jackson: Mr. October has a Yankees cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, but he spent most of his career (and had some of his best years, including his MVP year) in Oakland. Reggie returned to the A's for his final season in 1987 and hit the final 15 of his 563 home runs.
Minnie Minoso: Started with Cleveland in 1949, traded to the White Sox in '51. Traded back to Cleveland in '57, then traded back to the White Sox in '59. Poor guy didn't know where "home" was. But after brief stints with the Cardinals and Senators, Minoso made up his mind, signing with the White Sox in '74. And he would play for them two other times post-"retirement."
Tom Seaver: After getting 75 wins out of his arm over six seasons, the Reds dealt "Tom Terrific" back to his Queens roots in 1982, acquiring Charlie Puleo and now-Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. Seaver would pitch 34 more games for the Mets before moving on to the White Sox.
Don Sutton: Seven years after leaving the Dodgers in free agency, he came back for one last go-around in '88. A 3-6 showing in 16 starts capped Sutton's Hall of Fame career.
Orel Hershiser: Similar to Sutton, he left L.A. in free agency after the 1994 season, only to come back for a final effort in 2000. That didn't go so well. The Bulldog went 1-5 with a 13.14 ERA in 10 appearances.
Goose Gossage: The guy who helped popularize the closer role is most closely identified with the Yankees, and he returned to them briefly in a waiver claim near the end of the 1989 season, six years after leaving in free agency.
Gary Carter and Tim Raines: The Hall of Fame catcher and the should-be Hall of Fame outfielder both returned to Montreal in the twilight of their careers.
Billy Martin: He played for the Yankees from 1950-57. Martin returned to manage the Yankees in '75 and won a World Series in '77. And then, well, you know what happened. He got fired in '78, and then rehired and fired four more times before his untimely death in 1989. George Steinbrenner couldn't quit Billy Martin, and Billy Martin couldn't quit the Yankees.
Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Buddy Bell, Jim Sundberg, Kenny Rogers, Toby Harrah, Ruben Sierra, Rafael Palmeiro: Suffice it to say homecomings are something of a Texas Ranger specialty.
Bert Blyleven: He left the Twins on bad terms in 1976, basically forcing a trade and getting serenaded with a "Bye, Bye, Blyleven" by Minnesota fans in his final start. But the two sides patched things up in '85, when the Twins reacquired Blyleven in a trade with the Indians. Together, they'd win a World Series in '87, and now Blyleven is a beloved broadcaster in the Twin Cities.
So in that sense, you could say LeBron is trying to become the next Bert Blyleven.