You know what the thing about getting old is? It sucks. No one wants to get old, especially not athletes who have spent their entire life in a single profession. Once retirement day comes, things change; gray and white start popping into their hair like pepper, the weight they once kept at a reasonable amount will either skyrocket or plummet, and they'll crave for the spotlight that once consumed them.
Once, these players were stars. Now? When you see what some of them look like, you'll be amazed to realize that these players are the same ones with the same names that you grew up watching. Ken Griffey Jr. may still be referred to as 'The Kid, but as you'll see in commercials for MLB The Show 17, he's only that in name. Dwight Gooden looks awful, Darryl Strawberry looks great, and this list is comprised of players whose pictures will make your jaw drop.
If you'll remember the list we did last month on players who have thrived in retirement and players who have seen their lives fall apart, some of these faces will be familiar and their stories are the same. Others, though, are newcomers that have their own unique stories, ones that all baseball fans will either appreciate or tear up over.
Grab your mint condition baseball cards, hide the bikes you used to put the cards in, and let's take a look at pictures of former MLB stars that you may have some trouble recognizing.
15 Curt Schilling
At your first glance, Schilling may not look too much different from his playing days - he's gained some weight in retirement and lost his politician-like good looks that helped make him a fan favorite with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox - but his face looks slightly different after a 2014 battle with throat and oral cancer. Years of stress and personal troubles, including the failure of his video game company 8 Studios, have taken their toll on the three-time World Series winner, really making him look much older than 50 years old.
In the grand scheme of things, Schilling doesn't look as bad as some of his other fellow ex-MLB stars, but it's sad to look at a picture of him from his final season and think, "THIS was Curt Schilling?"
14 Johnny Damon
Now for something more positive, shall we? A member of the 'Idiots' in Boston who won a World Series with both the Red Sox and Yankees, Damon has taken to retirement - though if a team somehow offered him the chance to play, he'd definitely take it - and begun the process of growing his legendary beard back.
Still active with the Wounded Warriors Project, Damon made an appearance on President Donald Trump's campaign trail last year, saying in November, "He likes winners. He likes to win. He likes everything to be great, not just for him, but for everybody. ... The more money that’s in your pocket, the better you’re going to be for yourself, your community. You can help whoever you want, but we need Donald Trump in the office. He’s a great man."
13 Dmitri Young
This story is great, if only because in a time where people are looking for baseball players to come out and be role models, here's one for positive health. Young, who has Type 2 diabetes and weighed close to 300 pounds in his playing career, was all the way down to 205 in the picture you see on the right from 2014. How'd he lose that weight, you ask?
“I went to a doctor, a preventative doctor, and he told me ‘You want to get off the medicine, lose three inches.’ I’m like, forget that, let’s lose six. And then I started doing a lot of cardio, the weight started peeling off, and at that point I started working out. And I’m to this size right now, and very very healthy… I still have to take a shot of NovoLog before each meal, but other than that I’m golden. I feel better, look better. I didn’t look like this when I played.”
12 Chuck Knoblauch
Unfortunately, the role model argument goes entirely out the door when Chuck Knoblauch comes into the picture. Though he wasn't a lanky second baseman in his prime, nor was he entirely muscular either - though he certainly tried, as the Mitchell Report attested to - the All-Star second baseman has certainly gained a lot of weight since his retirement in 2002. Between arguments with reporters, domestic violence issues, and how he looks in that mug shot from 2014.
Really, the end of Knoblauch's career was a perfect buildup to what became of his post-baseball life: ugly and marred with errors. Sorry for the honesty, Chuck, but that's the way things are. It's too bad that whole induction into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame never happened, but let's pray you can get your life in check, yeah?
11 Dwight Gooden
If you feel something welling up in your eyes upon looking at that picture, trust us when we say that you're not alone. Gooden's struggles with drugs, namely cocaine, have been well documented and former Mets teammate Darryl Strawberry did say last year, “He’s a complete junkie-addict. I’ve been trying behind the scenes to talk to him and get him to go for help, but he won’t listen. ... His son called me to beg me to help his dad before he dies" and it's easy to see why with this picture.
The Doc was always lanky, even later in his career with the Yankees, but this is horrifying. Rick James jokingly said that cocaine is a hell of a drug, but what Gooden has done to his body thanks to drugs is sickening and far from funny.
10 Roger Clemens
Like with Schilling, Roger Clemens doesn't look too different at first glance from when he pitched his final big league game in 2007, but there's some glaring issues - the increased weight, the look in his eyes, and the aura of tiredness around him. When Clemens was in his prime, dominating hitters with some of the best control ever seen in the sport's history, he still had that perfect mixture of a baseball-loving youth and a savvy veteran, but where's that with Clemens now?
It's evident that he still lives for the game and we saw that much when he placed in the NBC World Series last summer; that's it, though. Had you told me that Clemens would look this old and tired by the time he was 55, I'd have said you were crazy but the photo is worth a thousand and one words.
9 Darryl Strawberry
And if you had told someone in the late 1980s and early 1990s that Strawberry would look this healthy and happy by the time he was 55, they would have most likely thought you were giving the former Mets star 20 extra years on his life. Like Gooden, Strawberry battled addiction and personal issues - not to mention a bout with colon cancer - but he's completely turned his life around in the past 15 or so years.
Along with his wife, Tracy, Strawberry now runs Strawberry Ministries, a foundation that works with ex-addicts and helps them get back on the path with religion and Jesus Christ. Even with where he was so many years ago to now, Strawberry looks much younger than 55...though those eyes have that same haunted, weary look in them that many ex-addicts do.
8 Ken Griffey Jr.
It's hard to imagine someone nicknamed the 'Kid' getting old, right? Age has caught up to the Hall of Famer, as evidenced by the gray in his beard and the extra weight he's put on since retiring midway through the 2010 season. Does Griffey still look like himself? Well, we're not talking about him completely shaving his head, growing a Rick Ross-like beard, dying it beach blonde, and getting plastic surgery to turn himself into the Joker, so the answer there is obviously yes.
At the same, though, you can still see the player who was arguably the best in the entire 1990s in that picture. But has age fully been kind to the former MVP? Not really - and this is only Griffey at 47. How is he going to look when he's Strawberry's age?
7 Wally Backman
Another member of the 1980s Mets who makes another list that discusses players who aren't looking the way they were on the field, Backman has really let age and the stress of managing in the Metropolitians' farm system catch up to him. Still only 57, Backman looks much, much older than that with all of the gray and the tired eyes he hides behind a pair of sunglasses.
Whatever happened to the lanky - and dare I say it - normal looking Backman from the 80s? Was it stress? Was it his personal issues that cost him the managerial position with the Diamondbacks? Now managing in Mexico, Backman will hope to lose some of the excess weight he's put on and return to some form of normalcy, especially if he wants to manager in Major League Baseball.
6 Chad Curtis
There's not much we can say about Chad Curtis that's good. In fact, it's getting harder and harder for me not to write any words or threats about this monster every time I write about him. The age and the hair both are obvious clue he's gotten old, but I again point to those eyes. Can you see regret in those eyes? Anger at himself?
To think that, for all intents and purposes, this guy was a World Series hero for the New York Yankees and he blew all of that away to conduct sexual assault on minors. If Curtis does make it out of prison - he's currently serving a 7 to 15 year sentence in Michigan - then he's going to look even worse. People like him aren't the most popular people in prison, let's leave it at that.
5 Manny Ramirez
The dreads are gone! His face is all cleaned up! I don't want to believe that this is Manny Ramirez (right) - who now is about to play in Japan - but it is and he looks great! Say what you want about his body image being tainted after using performance-enhancing drugs, but Manny looks absolutely fantastic; nothing is more fantastic, though, than his contract for play in Japan. Take a look at these clauses:
- Ramirez will have use of a Mercedes and driver
- Practices are optional
- He’ll get a hotel suite on the road
- He will receive unlimited sushi for the entire season.
The best part is that this isn't about money or a desire to prove to Major League Baseball people that he can play again. Manny being Manny in Japan is all about spreading love for the game. Awesome.
4 Dontrelle Willis
What's so good about a head shot, you ask? Considering what Dontrelle Willis has been through, seeing his trademark smile back on his face is absolutely heartwarming. As we discussed last week, Willis was diagnosed with anxiety at the age of 27 and took time away from the Detroit Tigers in 2009 to learn more about the disorder and figure out how he would combat the illness.
Willis never got his baseball career on track, though he had a moment here and there with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, but he's now with FOX Sports as an announcer and studio commentator alongside Alex Rodriguez and Pete Rose. When he's not explaining what makes Clayton Kershaw so dangerous or making guest appearances on FOX's Pitch, Willis is flashing his trademark smile once again. Hallelujah!
3 Jason Giambi
What? Jason Giambi has a face underneath that beard and mustache he kept rocking with the Rockies and Indians? Again, say what you want about Giambi's body image being 'tainted' because of his ties to steroids and BALCO, but the former Yankees first baseman and American League MVP is looking great at 46 years old. Giambi has spent the past two spring trainings as a guest instructor with the Cleveland Indians, much to the happiness of his former manager Terry Francona.
"He's such a special person. Every day he spends here is a bonus for everybody -- myself included. He just has that way about him. I watched him [on Tuesday]. It's not just us. He went over to Oakland, and everybody was hugging him. The grounds crew guy and everybody. That's just the way 'G' is. We're fortunate that he has our uniform on."
2 Matt Stairs
Seeing Matt Stairs in a Phillies uniform again may strike some as odd, but the former postseason hero and 2008 World Series champion has returned to the field as Philadelphia's new hitting coach. Having cleaned up his face and lost some weight, Stairs looks far from the chunky, heavy hitter he was for the majority of his career.
During spring training, Stairs told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki some of the strategies he plans on using with the Phillies hitters, saying "The two biggest things are being positive and communication. I don't know what happened in the past. I don't care. My job, at the end of every day, after BP, is give high-fives, give knuckles and walk out of that cage with something positive."
1 Fernando Valenzuela
Still going with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a broadcaster after making six All-Star Games and winning a World Series with them in 1981, the man once behind 'Fernandomania' has let his weight go a bit since retiring after the 1997 season. Fernando was always a big guy, but not even the constant travel that comes with doing TV has allowed him to lose a bit of weight.
However, the shock that comes with seeing that Fernando looks like that should be replaced by something more pleasant: two years ago, Valenzuela and his girth became an American citizen, joining his wife Linda. Though fitness buffs will say that Fernando should take time on the hotel to use the weight room and cut down on the fat, the guy is entitled to whatever he wants after all he's done since coming to the United States.
What former MLB players do you not recognize? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below?
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