Ten Chicago Athletes that Retired too Late

Ten Chicago Athletes that Retired too Late
Paul Konerko was kept by the White Sox to be more of a team leader in 2014 than a performer on the field. Courtesy Chicago Tribune.

Paul Konerko's return for a 16th season with the White Sox is baffling.  He finished 2013 with his White Sox career lows of 12 home runs and 54 runs batted in. After making the all-star team the three previous seasons, Paulie slumped significantly last year.

Jose Abreu's emergence and with Adam Dunn unlikely to be moved, the end seemed liked a foregone conclusion. The White Sox re-signed the face of the franchise for one more season and $2.5 Million.

Konerko is not the only Chicago athlete to extend his career beyond what seemed like the end. Many of Chicago's greatest sports icons tried to relive the glory days of their careers when it was obvious they should have retired.

Scottie Pippen

Pippen is one of the NBA's 50 greatest players, a member of the first two NBA Olympic dream teams and the second greatest Bull ever. He was traded by the Bulls to Houston after the six time championship team was broken apart following Michael Jordan's second retirement and Phil Jackson's first.

After a disappointing season in Houston in 1999, he nearly led the Portland Trail Blazers to an upset over Jackson's Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference finals. His averages went down incrementally nearly every season after leaving the Bulls. This culminated with his final season in 2004.

He returned to the Bulls, but played in only 23 games, starting six. It was the first time since his rookie season in 1988 that Pippen averaged in single digits in points per game (5.9). After playing through an injury plagued season, Pippen retired.

Gale Sayers

Other than Michael Jordan, Sayers might be the most electrifying player in the history of Chicago sports. A knee injury suffered in 1968 changed the course of his career.

After missing the last five games of the 1968 season, Sayers returned for the entire 1969 season. He lad the NFL in rushing, but he was never the same player. The knee injury robbed him of his quickness and explosiveness. His yards per carry dropped from 6.2 in 1968 to 4.4 in 1969.

After a second injury in 1970 knocked him out for the season, Sayers attempted two more comebacks. He played two games during the 1971 regular season and the 1972 pre-season. After two fumbles on three carries in the 1972 pre-season game, Sayers retired. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame five seasons later. At 34, he became the youngest ever inductee.

The Bears never made the post season in the Sayers/Butkus era.

Tony Esposito

Esposito is arguably the greatest goalie in Blackhawks history. He holds the franchise records for games played by a goalie and wins. He finished first or second team all NHL five times, captured three Vezina trophies as the league best Goalie and won the Calder trophy as the rookie of the year in 1970.

After the Hawks slipped in the late 1970's, Espo and the Hawks enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980 season. Esposito earned his last all league pick following the season and finished third in the Hart trophy for league MVP behind Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne.

After a 2.75 GAA in 1980, Esposito would not be as strong the remainder of his career. His GAA was 4.01 in his final five seasons. After a rough 4.52 GAA in 1982, Esposito and the Blackhawks enjoyed a revival in 1983. They won the Norris Division and advanced to the Campbell Conference final for the second straight season.

Esposito split the goalie duties with Murray Bannerman for a few seasons. He spent the majority of the 1984 season as Bannerman's backup. He finished his final season with a record of 5-10-3 and a 4.82 GAA.

Manny Ramirez

The White Sox claimed Ramirez off waivers from the Dodgers on August 29, 2010. They were 70-60 at the time and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with one of the game's most feared hitters.

Although he played in only 66 games to that point in 2010 with injuries, he was still having a good season. He was hitting .310 with eight home runs and 40 rbi's at the time of his acquisition.

Ramirez was a complete bust with the White Sox. In only 24 games, he hit .261 with one home run and two rbis.

Amazingly, Ramirez played five games in Tampa Bay in 2011. He was just 1-17 with one rbi. He would never play in the major leagues again.

Ramirez played in the minor leagues and oversees over the next few seasons with mixed success. He is not currently playing after being released by the Texas Rangers organization last August.

Artis Gilmore

After a strong 1987 season in San Antonio, Gilmore was traded to the Bulls for a second round draft pick. His second stint with the Bulls was much shorter.

He averaged just 4.2 PPG and 2.7 RPG in 24 games, 23 starts. The Bulls released him on December 27 1987 and the Celtics signed him less than two weeks later. He put up just 3.5 PPG and 3.1 RPG in Boston before retiring following the season.

Dennis Rodman

Rodman was beloved during championship runs in Detroit and Chicago and had a successful two years in between in San Antonio. Once the Bulls were broken up after their second title run Rodman seemed lost.

Away from Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan's leadership he had two short stints with the Lakers and Mavericks. He played just 23 games in Los Angeles in 1999 and 12 in Dallas in 2000. As he had done in San Antonio, Rodman's antics grew old in Los Angeles and Dallas and he was released in both places. He never played in the NBA after being released by the Mavericks during the 2000 season.

Eric Daze 

In his prime (1996-2002) Daze was consistently one of the Blackhawks best players. After playing in all 82 games in 2003, Back injuries began to pop up in the next season. Daze played in only 54 games in 2003-04.  In his last three seasons, (2003, 2004 and 2006, {the 2005 season was cancelled because of a lockout}) Daze would play only 82 games combined. He had three herniated disc surgeries in a five year span. Even with the 2005 season off, Daze was unable to return, he played in just one game in 2006 and finally announced his retirement in 2010.

Bobby Orr 

Orr was a superstar when he signed a five year $3 million contract with the Blackhawks in June 1976 to be paid over 30 years. Orr played in only 36 games over three seasons, he missed the entire 1977-78 season. He signed with the Blackhawks with severe knee injuries. He had 12 knee surgeries during his career. He would only have 11 goals in 45 points in 26 games during his Blackhawks career. After playing 20 games in 1976-77 and six games in 1978-79, Orr retired.

Roberto Alomar

Former White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams was often criticized for chasing star players well past their prime. Alomar might have been the best example.

Alomar was acquired in two separate in-season trades for four prospects in trades with the Mets and Diamondbacks in 2003 and 2004.

In his two stints with the White Sox, Alomar hit .239 with five home runs and 25 rbis in 85 games.

He went to spring training with the Devil Rays the following season but announced his retirement on March 19, 2005.

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