Obscure Athletes

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Category Archives: Obscure Spotlight

Obscure Spotlight: John Wasdin

The Tokyo Dome is thundering as Wasdin takes the mound!

A quick look at John Wasdin’s career numbers will tell you why the 38-year old last pitched in the majors in 2007. His 39-39 record to go with a 5.28 career ERA make Wasdin, without a doubt, one of the most marginally talented pitchers ever to dawn a major league uniform. Seven major league uniforms in fact, starting with the A’s, by whom he was drafted in 1993. Wasdin debuted in the majors in August of 1995, and played a full season on the Major League roster in 1996, going 9-8 with an era of 5.96.

In January of that offseason, Wasdin was sent to Boston in exchange for Jose Canseco, where he earned the nickname “Way Back Wasdin” for his propensity to give up home runs, both numerous and untimely. Wasdin spent parts of four seasons in a Red Sox uniform, going 19-16 in 170 appearances, mostly out of the bullpen.

Five days before the trade deadline in 2000, the Red Sox and Rockies pulled off a much ballyhooed blockbuster that ended the Way Back Wasdin era in Boston. The Sox sent Wasdin along with Jeff Frye and Brian Rose to Colorado in the deal that brought Rolando Arrojo and Mike Lansing to Boston. Safe to say everybody was a winner that day. Wasdin was traded again mid-season, this time to Baltimore, where he achieved limited success.

Wasdin spent the ’02 season with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, and the 2003 campaign mostly in the Blue Jays’ organization. I went on John’s Wikipedia page, and found this hilarious bit of Wasdin lore:

On April 7, 2003, Wasdin pitched a perfect game for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds against theAlbuquerque Isotopes at Herschel Greer Stadium in Nashville. Fewer than 750 fans witnessed the perfect game, as it was the same night as the 2003 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game, plus unseasonably cold weather dissuaded some from coming to the ballpark.

I love minor league records and achievements, because they evoke the ‘tallest midget’

Getting it done for the Rangers

line of thinking.  I’ll say this– I would have been in the front row of that game were I in the area– especially if I were of drinking age in 2003.

Wasdin returned once again to the majors in 2004, this time with the Rangers. After a promising June 18 outing for Texas, the bottom fell out on Wasdin’s season, bottoming out on July 25, when he gave up 11 hits and 7 runs, including four homers, in 4 1/3 innings.

Way Back Wasdin would make 40 more appearances for the Rangers after the ’04 season, and Texas elected not to bring him back after 2006. He signed a deal with the Pirates that offseason, and in 2007 made 12 appearances, all out of the bullpen for Pittsburgh. Wasdin was last spotted playing for the Seibu Lions in 2009. This time, the Japanese baseball league couldn’t provide a springboard for John Wasdin to get back to the majors. Wasdin now coaches at Christian University. Hopefully he brought in a pitching coach.

Stay tuned for the début of Josh Wilson and Ben Ricker and their weekly hockey segment, later today on Obscure Athletes!


Obscure Spotlight: Bubby Brister

One of the greatest meetings of minds the early 90's NFL could have possibly had to offer

So last week we celebrated our 50th post, in what culminated in one of the more successful days in the history of Obscure Athletes. We responded by doing what God would want us to if he were real, by observing not only the sabbath in the Christian faith, but making sure to blow off Friday and Saturday too. So naturally we’re looking to avoid the post-50th-post hangover this Thanksgiving week by announcing that in addition to all the great musings you’ve come to expect from Obscure Athletes, we’ll have simply an all-star cast of Obscure Spotlights to bring to you this week. And that starts with legendary obscure quarterback Walter Andrew “Don’t call me Bubba” Bubby Brister.

Brister was a star at then-named Northeast Louisiana University, before the school changed its name to Louisiana-Monroe–I suppose it rolls off the tongue just a bit better. Out of college he was drafted in the third round in 1986 by the Steelers, for whom he would see the vast majority of his actual playing time over his 14-year career. Bubby’s best season came in 1990 for Pittsburgh, when, as the starter all season, Brister threw for 2,725 yards to go with 20 touchdown passes. It would be his last year of full-time action. Brister’s run as the starting quarterback of the Steelers ended with the regime of Chuck Noll, and Bill

How much mediocrity CAN you fit on the back of a single football card?

 Cowher wanted nothing to do with a Bubby Brister-run offense, and instead Neil O’Donnel became the next in a string of obscure quarterbacks employed by the Pittsburgh Steelers during their semi-successful 90’s years.

Brister’s next two stops, in Philadelphia and New York, saw Brister start just fourteen games over three seasons, and in 1997 Brister signed on with the Broncos as a firm second-stringer to future Hall of Famer John Elway. Brister won both of his Super Bowl rings as a backup for Denver, though he did start four games during the ’98 season. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was famously quoted after the Super Bowl that year as saying “This one’s for John.” Pat Bowlen may think so, but fans of obscure athletes know who it was really for.

Obscure Spotlight: Todd Zeile

Todd Zeile's patented war face.

Well, folks. It’s been 50 posts here at Obscure Athletes. We’ve covered a good many athletes, we’ve had more than a few editorials, and we’ve recruited a handful of readers and added a hockey writer. I guess it’s all downhill from here, all that’s left to do now is sit back and wait until we’re the greatest Deadspin/Barstool hybrid ripoff ever and millions in advertising revenue is just pouring in. Leave a comment on the site,  tell your friends about Obscure Athletes, and send any and all site suggestions to obscureathletes@gmail.com. And as always, Subscribe to the RSS feed to the right of your screen, Follow Us on Twitter, and Join our page on Facebook!

Given that this is our 50th post, I wanted to make sure that it was dedicated to someone who really helped shape my socialization into the world of Obscure Athletes. As a kid I remember seeing a marginally talented third baseman named Todd Zeile; A player who was always alright, so he stuck around for a good while, but never with the same team for too long. After Zeile left the Mets in 2001, I thought he was finally gone, only to see him resurface in Colorado the following season.

Zeile’s pro baseball journey began in 1986 when he was picked in the second round by the Cardinals out of UCLA. In August of 1989 he made his Major League début as a 23-year old catcher. The following season Zeile was moved to third base and in his first full season in the Bigs he hit 15 homers and drove in 57, finishing 6th in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Todd Zeile played sixteen seasons in the majors, gathering over 100 RBI just once, in 1993 for St. Louis. He hit 31 home runs for the Dodgers in 1997, his highest total as a Major Leaguer. Zeile never played in an all-star game. He also led the league in errors by a third baseman four times in his lengthy career–one in which he played on 11 teams, and switched between the American and National leagues seven times.

Oft-forgotten about Zeile, however, is what a beast he was for the O’s during the 1996 ALCS.

Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura? Yeah, they'll give the 2000 Yankees a real series for sure...

He was the best hitter Baltimore had to offer, hitting .364 in the series, with three home runs and a 1.189 OPS–a series the Orioles lost in five to the eventual World Series champion Yankees.

Zeile finished his career with a .265 average, .346 on-base percentage, and a final home run count of 253. He played his last game on October 3, 2004, hitting number 253 in his last ever at-bat. Todd Zeile: known for very little, but always around. One of the foremost obscure athletes of the 1990s. We love ya, Todd!

Obscure Spotlight: David Terrell

I was a ten-year-old Christopher when my Patriots passed on drafting wide receiver David

Terrell during his 'Star on the Rise' days

Terrell with the sixth pick in the 2000 draft, and I thought first-year coach Bill Belichick had no idea what he was doing. Instead Belichick and the Pats took future five-time Pro-Bowler Richard Seymour. Terrell fell to the Bears at 8, and Chicago snagged the Michigan University star.

Good thing I wasn’t ten years old and running the Patriots, though if I were, the team would have had far more problems than deciding who to pick sixth overall. Terrell had all the physical makeup of a future NFL great, but in the end proved to be a highly uncoachable player who couldn’t get out of his own way. After floundering for three seasons in Chicago and spending little time in the starting lineup, the Bears released Terrell after the ’04 season.

Looking for work, however, proved a tough task for the wide receiver, and Terrell’s post-Bears career was even more dismal. The Patriots took a flyer on Terrell in 2005, but David couldn’t cement a spot on the New England roster, and was released during training camp. The Broncos signed Terrell off the scrap heap, though he would appear in only one regular-season game for Denver. He would never play a game in the NFL again, despite going to training camp, again with the Broncos in 2007.


Terrell during his painful descent in Chicago.

Maybe he was the malcontent he was painted as in Chicago, and maybe it was the pressure of being the supposed next great wide receiver in the NFL. And maybe it’s that Dick Jauron’s a big schmuck. Nonetheless, for whatever reason, David Terrell went from top ten pick to NFL bust in a damn hurry, and I hope now he appreciates having his fifteen minutes of fame preserved forever,  right here at Obscure Athletes. Today’s Obscure Spotlight, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. David Terrell.

Obscure Spotlight: Royce Clayton

Royce Clayton is one of those players that every team had to have a look at, so they could

Pre-Dunston era Clayton

see up close just how mediocre he was. As a result, Clayton managed to stay in the majors for seventeen seasons, and by the time he retired after the ’07 season he had made an appearance in eleven different Major League uniforms. The Giants selected Clayton with the fifteenth overall pick in the 1988 draft, and made his debut for those same Giants in September of 1991.

Two seasons later, Clayton was the full-time starting shortstop in San Fransisco, yet during the 1995 offseason the Giants elected to upgrade the shortstop position by starting Shawon Dunston, and as a result Clayton was moved to St. Louis in a blockbuster of a deal involving Cardinal great Fernando Tatis.

Arguably Clayton’s best season came in 1997, a season in which he became an all-star for the first time in his lengthy career. He hit .266 with 9 homers and 61 RBI.

Royce really took advantage of the thin Colorado air in 2004, hitting 8 home runs.

I’m gonna stop myself here. Until I looked up Royce Clayton’s career numbers, I never knew just how mediocre this man was. With his lackluster performance at the plate, I thought to myself “Oh, well he must have been a good defensive shortstop to have stuck around for so long.” Eh. He had mixed defensive metrics. Six times Clayton was in the top five in the majors in errors by a shortstop, though his range factor suggests he was, indeed, a defensive asset. Five times he was in the top ten in double plays grounded into.

Clayton went between 2002 and 2006 playing for a different team each season. White Sox, Brewers, Rockies, then D-Backs, Nats, and Reds. In 2007 he played for two more teams–the Blue Jays and Red Sox.

Despite not being on Boston’s postseason roster in 2007, he received a ring from their World Series run, the only of his illustrious career. And just like the true champion he was, Clayton rode off into the sunset, ending his career as a champion. Sort of. Just like he was an alright baseball player…sort of.

Obscure Spotlight: Raef LaFrentz

To me it’s always seemed that the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement was made with one thing in mind: to make sure that there’s

Raef, talking about how great it is to be filthy rich.

 an obscure white guy on the end of every NBA team’s bench making a rediculous amount of money. Raef LaFrentz averaged 10.1 points per game in his 11-year career. Over that span, he made $84, 135,000–a hefty sum for a guy who was once traded along with Chris Mills and Jiri Welsch to Boston in exchange for Tony Delk and fellow contractual albatross Antoine Walker.

LaFrentz went to Kansas where he played four seasons before being picked by the Nuggets third overall in the 1998 draft. Raef had a tough rookie season however, tearing his ACL just thirteen games into his innaugural campaign. He would come back strong the following season, starting 80 games and 78 in the 2000-2001 season. In Denver, LaFrentz established himself as an accurate outside shooter and feared shot-blocker.

Raef was no stranger to the bench during his time in Portland

The LaFrentz era ended in Denver in February of 2002, when he was traded to the Mavs in a many-player deal that included obscure athletes Juwan Howard and Tariq Abdul-Wahad. It was his best season in the NBA, and one in which he became the third player ever to record 100 blocked shots and 100 three-pointers made in a single season. That offseason, the Mark Cuban and the Mavericks wanted to make sure they’d have a contrat that one day every team would want as it was about to expire, so they elected to give Raef LaFrentz a seven year, $70 million contract. Just a year later LaFrentz and the Mavs parted ways in the aforementioned deal with the Celtics.

Two-plus seasons in Boston saw LaFrentz starting most of the games he appeared in, and anchoring the middle during the dark ages of Celtics basketball. He was both hilarious and a burden to watch at times in Boston, though to this day he remains one of my all-time favorite Celtics. In June of ’06 LaFrentz was jettisoned to Portland in the Sebastian Telfair deal. Fuck Sebastian Telfair.

LaFrentz’ last three seasons, all in Portland, were both the statistically worst, and most lucrative of his career. His numbers went down each season he spent with the Blazers, and the ’08 offseason saw that giant contract given to LaFrentz seven years and two teams earlier, finally expire. No team was willing to give the 31-year old LaFrentz a deal, and he was forced to retire. And to this day, if you ask me about the Raef LaFrentz era in Boston, I’ll fondly remember some of the otherwise darkest days the Fleet Center/TD Banknorth/TD Garden ever saw.

My theory on what happened to Ben Grieve

Grieve graced the front of the A's official pocket-sized schedule in 1999

When the Sandy Alderson-led Oakland A’s picked an 18-year old Ben Grieve with the second overall pick in the 1994 MLB draft, there was little doubt in the baseball community that he was bound for superstardom. By the time he made his Major League debut in September, 1997, there were even fewer skeptics. Ben Grieve’s outfield ability and raw power shone through in just a month of action in 1997, as he collected 24 RBI in 24 games.

1998 was Grieve’s first full season in the majors, and he picked up right where he left off a year earlier, playing in 158 games, hitting 18 home runs and driving in 89 runs, making his only All-star game and winning the AP Rookie of the Year award. Grieve’s next season saw his home run total take a jump to 28—a season he followed up with his best ever in 2000. That 2000 season, Grieve hit .279 with 27 homers and a career-high 104 runs driven in.

"What happened to my talent, and all the fans who used to come see me?" A defeated Ben Grieve grimaces.

That offseason, Ben Grieve was dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a three-way deal that saw obscure athletes Angel Berroa and AJ Hinch being sent to Kansas City and brought Mark Ellis and Johnny Damon to Oakland.

Some speculate the move to Tampa Bay was Grieve’s downfall, others cite his work ethic and frustration. Still others point to his inability to stay healthy after his second season with the D-Rays. But I knew what was wrong. I’d seen it before. To me it was obvious that the Monstars stole Ben Grieve’s talent. Unfortunately for him, Bugs Bunny wasn’t walking through that door to help him get his talent back, and Grieve was never the same. He played just two full seasons in Tampa Bay, and his OPS saw a giant drop.

After an injury-plagued 2003 season, Grieve was released by Tampa Bay, and he signed a deal with the Brewers in an attempt to revitalize his career. In August of that season the Brew Crew sent Grieve to the Cubs, for whom he would only play only 38 games in two seasons (which were divided by the ’05 offseason, during which he signed with the Pirates and was released when Spring Training ended).  Ben Grieve, once one of the most highly touted prospects of the 1990’s, never played a game after 2005. Grieve’s career tends to live on today as the answer to the trivia question “Who won the 1998 AL Rookie of the Year award?” Such an obscure ending to a career once with so much promise. Damn you Danny DeVito!

The Super and the Obscure: Chris Chandler

The Super and the Obscure is a new segment here at Obscure Athletes, in which we talk about obscure quarterbacks who lost Super Bowls. They are numerous and hilarious. Today, the quintessential obscure Super Bowl losing QB, Chris Chandler.

Looks a bit like Derek Lowe, wouldn't you say?

By the time I remember Chris Chandler as the quarterback of the ’98 Super Bowl runners-up Falcons, he had already played nine seasons in the NFL for five different teams.  In fact, when it was all said and done, Chandler would hold the distinction of being the only player in NFL history to start for eight different teams in his career. He played for three teams that are no longer in the same cities—the  Cardinals when they were known as the Phoenix Cardinals, the Rams when they were in Los Angeles, and for the Titans when they were the Houston Oilers.  All three teams left town shortly after Chandler. Provocative.

Chandler was a two-time Pro Bowler, both times for Atlanta in 1997 and again in 1998. He was born in Everett, Washington and went to the University of Washington before being selected in the third round of the ’89 draft by the Colts. Chandler never did win a Super Bowl but started in Super Bowl XXXIII against the Broncos after beating the 15-1 Vikings in the NFC Championship game on a game-winning field goal by the ageless Gary Anderson. In the game Chandler was 19-35 for 219 yards, but his three interceptions helped seal the fate of the Chandler-led Falcons.

Chris Chandler never did recapture the magic he had in Atlanta after being let go by the

Some little kid in Atlanta must have seen this ad and said "Chris Chandler drinks milk, I should too!"

Falcons in favor of Michael Vick. He played three seasons more —two in Chicago, and oddly enough, ended his career with another brief stint with the Rams, who had, by then moved to St. Louis.

Chandler finished his seventeen-year NFL career completing 58.1% of his passes and with an unremarkable 79.1 passer rating. As a starter he won 58 games, and lost 71. A perfectly obscure, highly mediocre career. Stay tuned for more of The Super and the Obscure: Obscure quarterbacks to start and lose Super Bowls.

Obscure Spotlight: JJ Stokes

When I was a kid the first football video game I had was NFL Quarterback Club ’96 for the Super Nintendo. Steve Young was on the

This must be post-Young in San Fran, look at all those empty seats!

 cover and the 49ers were just considerably better than every other team in the game. Young was the quarterback of the Niners, and the receivers? Jerry Rice, and Jeral Jamal Stokes. Young to Stokes all day. It’s no wonder San Fran was so great, Terrell Owens was the third wide receiver!

The 49ers picked JJ Stokes with the tenth overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft out of UCLA,  and he had a successful rookie season with San Fransisco, catching 38 passes for 517 yards and 4 touchdowns in twelve games. After an injury-plagued 1996 campaign in which Stokes played just six games, Stokes rebounded well in 1997, catching 58 balls and racking up 733 receiving yards. Stokes never would  return to his Steve- Young-era form after the team brought in Jeff Garcia to run the offense. Also, remember when Bill Romanowski spit in his face?

The 49ers released the 31-year-old Stokes during the ’03 offseason, and he was subsequently brought in by the Jaguars. Midway through the season, however, AFC North doormats the Cleveland Browns released wide receiver Kevin Johnson, and Johnson was claimed on waivers by the Jaguars. They then waived Stokes, who was almost immediately signed by the Patriots. In two games for New England during the 2003 season, Stokes caught two passes for 38 yards, including his first reception for New England– a 31-yard reception on a key third-quarter  third and 8

The ever-daunting Patriots receivers, including Stokes (85), Bethel Johnson, Troy Brown, David Patten, and Jabar Gaffney

 against the Texans.

Stokes was released by New England after appearing in just two games, and he never would suit up for an NFL team again. But for two games in 2003, JJ Stokes was my favorite Patriot, and to this day remains one of my all-time favorite wide receivers. Young to Stokes yo!

Obscure Spotlight: John Jaha

Guys like John Jaha are my favorite baseball players. Because they’re obscure athletes with flashes of true greatness smattered about their careers. This is especially true during the steroid era, and it’s players like Jaha who remind us that the steroid era isn’t just Bonds, Sosa, and MacGwire—it’s Jaha, Matt Stairs, and David Segui, too. I first remember seeing John Jaha as an inordinately large first baseman for the Brewers in 1996, his breakout year, during which he hit .300 with 34 homers and 118 RBI.  This was the first Summer of Jaha, as I like to call it.

Jaha hit for average and power in his prime

Jaha never could stay healthy for the Brewers, however, and in his seven seasons in Milwaukee, played only two full years. His last season in Milwaukee saw Jaha play in just 73 games, logging 273 plate appearances.

The Brewers elected not to bring back Jaha after the ’98 season, and it looked like the Sun may have set on John Jaha’s day in the Bigs. But John Jaha wasn’t leaving baseball without one more magical summer: 1999. The Second Summer of Jaha.

The Oakland A’s took a flyer on John Jaha, giving him a minor league deal during the 1998 offseason, though it was not expected that he would make the team out of camp. Not only did Jaha make the A’s roster, but as a first baseman/Designated hitter during his first year in Oakland, Jaha hit 35 home runs and 111 RBI, almost perfectly mirroring his ’96 campaign with the Brew Crew, save for a dip in batting average. Jaha made the All-Star game for the only time in his career that season, and won the Comeback Player of the Year award.

Jaha’s resurgence in Oakland was short-lived, however, as you might expect—he appeared in just 45 games combined over the next two seasons, and he never played a game in the majors after the 2001 season.

I grew up a baseball fan during the steroid era, and was just as enchanted, if not even more so, by the incredible power displayed by MacGwire and Sosa in the Summer of ’98. But I’m just unable to talk about the 1998 home run frenzy without thinking about the two seasons sandwiching that record-breaking season—the Summers of Jaha.  Rock on, John.

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