Best Retirement Gifts Ever
When I finally retire one day far, far in the future, I hope to treat myself to a nice dinner and maybe, if I'm lucky, get a few thoughtful cards from friends and family.
Since his announcement that the 2014 MLB season would be his last, legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has gotten so, so much more than that.
On this year-long farewell tour, Jeter gets a standing ovation every single time he steps up to the plate and is given a customized—and often useless—gift from each team after playing in opposing stadiums for the final time.
Special Jeter gigantic surfboard! Special Jeter cowboy boots! Special Jeter bench made of baseball bats!
Yes, these gifts certainly top the thoughtful cards that I hope to one day receive—but are they better than the retirement gifts that players have gotten in the past?
Does Jeter's loot even make the list of the greatest athlete retirement gifts of all time?
Let's find out.
Disclaimer: I decided to set a limit of one gift per player for this list. For players who received many gifts, I featured the one I liked best and mentioned the other notables.
Todd Helton: Horse
Todd Helton's legs may have started to slow toward the end of his illustrious career with the Colorado Rockies. Fortunately, the team gave him a brand new way to race from home to first.
In a special ceremony on the field, Helton was presented with a horse named "A Tru Bustamove" as a retirement gift from his own team.
Retirement gifts for athletes are usually just tacky pieces of memorabilia that can be stored away and forgotten about, so giving someone a living breathing animal that requires love, care and a lot of space to run is a bit odd.
If nothing else, Mr. Bustamove provides Helton with an opportunity to ride off into the sunset in a more literal way than he probably ever imagined.
Mariano Rivera: Chair of Broken Dreams
Also Received: Oil painting (Angels); sand sculpture (Rays); fire-hose nozzle (Mets); framed scorecards (White Sox); gold Metallica record (Indians); cruiser bikes (Padres); custom fishing pole (Dodgers); and multiple donations to the Mariano Rivera Foundation.
Mariano Rivera's collection of gifts was extraordinarily eclectic and creative, but nothing stood out more than the Minnesota Twins' "Chair of Broken Dreams."
The title itself is epic, and its symbolism is even cooler:
The Minnesota Twins present Mariano Rivera with the "Chair of Broken Dreams" made out of bats he broke. pic.twitter.com/xrvXWKGkp5— Sports Pics (@AmazingSprtsPic) September 20, 2013
With Rivera out of the league, it doesn't seem like the Twins have had much trouble finding new opponents to break their dreams.
Chipper Jones: Year's Supply of Sausages
Also Received: Cowboy hat (Astros); Braves flag (Cubs); third base (Reds, Yankees and Nationals); custom surfboard (Padres); fishing gear (Marlins); vacation and pool table (Braves).
Strictly from a utilitarian point of view, the Milwaukee Brewers were the big winners in the Chipper Jones Retirement Gift sweepstakes, for one simple reason: The Brewers' gift was edible.
That's something you can't say about a surf board or a flag.
Jones collected number of weird gifts on his farewell tour, but none of them were quite as fun and original as the year's supply of Klement's sausages that he was given in Milwaukee.
Here's hoping he's not vegetarian.
Bobby Cox: Corn Maze
Also Received: Wine (Mets); Stan Musial photograph (Cardinals); flag that flew over U.S. capitol (Nationals); and multiple donations to the Homeless Pets Foundation.
The three signs that you have really succeeded in life:
1. You have a little blue check mark next to your name on Twitter.
2. Someone, somewhere on the Internet has claimed you are on the "Mount Rushmore" of your respective field.
3. Your head is turned into a corn maze.
The last of these is, without a doubt, the most difficult to reach. But since when has difficult gotten in the way of legendary Braves manager Bobby Cox?
Cox received some very heartfelt gifts and tributes during his final season, but getting his face carved into a big field of crops is really the best the guy could have ever hoped for.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "Captain Skyhook" Yacht
Becoming the undisputed all-time king of a certain type of shot in the NBA is pretty cool.
Earning the nickname "Captain Skyhook" because of it is even cooler.
But getting the whole thing turned into a boat? That's just too much to handle.
One of the most beloved Lakers of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar received, among other things, a yacht called "Captain Skyhook" as a farewell gift for his retirement from basketball.
This deeply inspired me, and I have since renamed my inner tube (the closest thing I have to a yacht) "Captain Layup" (the closest move I have to a skyhook).
Allen Iverson: Bass Fishing Boat
Most retirement gifts are deeply symbolic and utterly useless.
A bronze baseball bat is nice but serves no purpose. The Chair of Broken dreams is clever but probably uncomfortable. A giant subway tile and surf board are nice gestures but a little tacky for home decorating.
Allen Iverson's gift was none of these. Iverson's gift was practicality at its finest:
AI says he wants to learn to fish after retirement—AI gets a fishing boat. And like he did so often during his career, AI wins.
Herb Kohl: $500 for His Employees
Herb Kohl has either totally reinvented or grossly misunderstood the premise of the retirement gift.
Usually, it's the guy on the way out who gets a little parting token for all his years of hard work and dedication. This time, the guy on the way out was the one doing all the giving.
After selling the Milwaukee Bucks and ending his career as an NBA owner, Kohl decided to show his gratitude too all those who worked with him buy surprising the whole staff with $500 each.
Though the checks arrived in the mail, I like to imagine it happening in a bar: "Alright, guys, next round's on me! Bartender, $500 checks for everyone. Put it on my tab."
On an unrelated note, if anyone knows where I sign up to work for the Bucks and how I can then retroactively claim my $500 bonus, please let me know ASAP.
Paul Konerko: Wrigley Field Scoreboard Tile
Well, suffice to say that Paul Konerko isn't quite getting the same farewell treatment as Derek Jeter is out in New York.
Most teams have failed to recognize him at all, but he did get a nice gesture from cross-town rival Cubs, who presented him with a No. 14 tile from the Wrigley Field Scoreboard to thank him for his contributions to the game.
I suppose if the team that hates you most is the very first to say "thanks," then there's not much more you need.
Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt: Rocking Chairs and Framed Flags
Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt together served as the face of the Houston Astros franchise for a number of years.
It made sense, then, that the former teammates would be honored together.
Both players signed $0 contracts with the Astros to rejoin their former team and retire with the ball club that made them legends.
They threw out the ceremonial first pitch and were then presented with framed Texas flags that had flown over the state capitol the day before. In addition, they were given personalized rocking chairs to help them relax during retirement.
Just how important were these guys to the Astros franchise?
Roy Oswalt has 163 career wins—more than the Astros have recorded in the past three seasons combined.
Cal Ripken, Jr.: Florida Stone Crabs
Also Received: Fenway Park box seat (Red Sox); inner-city baseball field (A's); plaque above locker (Rangers); and multiple donations.
Say what you want about polarizing basketball announcer Dick Vitale, the man is a prophet.
Cal Ripken, Jr. was one of the earlier players to go on an obnoxiously drawn out and dramatic farewell tour that featured unnecessary gifts from every single opposing team.
While Ripken's Orioles were in Tampa Bay, Dick Vitale, season ticket holder for the team then referred to as the Devil Rays, presented the future Hall of Famer with a lifetime supply of Florida Stone Crabs.
In a biting twist of fate, Ripken purchased the Vero Beach Devil Rays in 2008, moved them to Charlotte and renamed them the Stone Crabs.
Dick Vitale doesn't just give gifts, Dick Vitale shapes your future.
Derek Jeter: Subway Series-Themed Gifts
Also Received: Bench made of baseball bats (White Sox); Wrigley Field scoreboard tile (Cubs); pinstriped cowboy boots (Astros); giant surfboard (Angels); bronze replica bat (Brewers); Stan Musial cufflinks (Cardinals); and multiple donations to the Turn 2 Foundation
It's easy to argue that Derek Jeter's farewell tour has been blown way out of proportion.
It'd be much harder to argue that he doesn't deserve it.
Coming at the twilight of a career marked by otherworldly talent, impeccable leadership and an infectious personality, Jeter's farewell gifts have included thoughtful gestures, tacky memorabilia and everything in between.
The Mets' Subway Series-themed collection of gifts, however, may top them all.
- A large No. 2 mosaic made out of New York subway tiles
- This impressive Subway Series cake
- $22,222.22 donation to his Turn 2 Foundation
In other news, last year I bought all my family members socks for Christmas, and I suddenly feel like a really, historically bad gift giver.
At least they were nice socks.
Sometimes the best gift you can give is the one that doesn't cost anything at all.
Magic Johnson showed up at his long-time rival and dear friend Larry Bird's retirement celebration and paid a tribute that was more meaningful than a framed flag or a personalized yacht could ever be.
Johnson walked up to the stage and revealed that he had a Celtics jersey on. He then told the crowd that there would never, ever be another Larry Bird.
The two friends embraced, reminding us of the beauty of competition and the way that sports should be.
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