Every year, clothing companies mass-produce replica jerseys of some of the biggest names in sports. Every year, sports fans the world around purchase these jerseys. And every year, without fail, a handful of the men who inspire these jerseys fall farther and farther out of relevance, spiraling downward into a pit of despair filled with bitterness and loathing.
We buy the jerseys of players that have been great leading up to this moment or may be great later on. We buy knowing that we’re making an investment in the future that may not pay off. We buy because our fanaticism overtakes our ability to make rational decisions.
Replica jerseys have really only been relevant for about two decades. Prior to the early-’90s, the jersey fad had yet to catch on. But with the advent of cheap polyester and screen printing, lifelike uniforms could be had by the vast majority of us. And thus a movement was born.
As a kid growing up in Seattle, it behooved you to rock “Kemp” or “Griffey” on your back. But for every Kemp or Griffey sauntering down the linoleum-tiled middle school hallway, there were just as many Mirers or McIlvaines, names that inspired taunts and teasing rather than approval and acceptance.
As we’ve aged, little has changed in the way of replicas. There are just as many bad decisions to be made in buying a uniform as there are good. And as such, there are an ever-growing number of jerseys that no Seattle sports fan wants to claim have hung in his or her closet. But alas, we cannot hide from the skeletons that reside there.
So to give some structure to a debate that rages across bars from Queen Anne to Georgetown, I bring you a list of the 11 worst jerseys any Seattle sports fan could possibly own. These are jerseys that were at one time or another not that difficult to come by, jerseys that were tailored en masse by the major apparel retailers of the era, jerseys that were designed with your penchant for making mistakes in mind. We can’t all be Hernandezes, Wilsons, or Paytons. We can, however, take solace in knowing that we’re not alone.
11. Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Flynn
Numbers: 6 (Whitehurst) and 15 (Flynn)
Produced by: Reebok (Whitehurst) and Nike (Flynn)
Okay, so I cheated. I crammed two players into one entry on this list. But come on, we all know that the jerseys of Whitehurst and Flynn are cut from the same cloth (pun intended).
Whitehurst was supposed to be the Second Coming of Jesus and turned out to be little better than the role of Chargers backup that has book-ended his Seattle tenure. Flynn, now the Raiders alleged starter, signed a lucrative free agent deal and was expected to start every game in 2012 before some rookie supplanted him. And while Whitehurst at least has four career starts as a Seahawk to his credit, Flynn was relegated to brief stints as Russell Wilson’s mop-up man, earning about as much playing time as Ryan Gosling’s character in Remember the Titans.
Flynn jerseys can currently be had for upwards of fifty-percent-off at area retailers, while the occasional Whitehurst jersey still pops up at the likes of Marshalls or Ross. You won’t induce sneers or snide remarks by wearing a Whitehurst or Flynn, but you’ll likely evoke laughter or pity. Which isn’t all that bad when you consider the rest of the jerseys on this list.
10. Casey Kotchman
Produced by: Majestic
It’s been three years since Casey Kotchman played his lone season in Seattle. Fun fact, though: If you head to the Mariners Team Store on any given day, you’ll still find a clearance rack stocked with discount Kotchman jerseys. Seriously. Three freakin’ years and they’re still trying to pass Kotchman jerseys off on unsuspecting out-of-towners at semi-absurd prices.
Kotchman was the consummate low-risk, low-reward Mariner acquisition. He came to Seattle via Boston in a trade for Bill Hall and a PTBNL and was immediately pegged as the team’s starting first baseman. In an effort to avoid arbitration with their newly-obtained asset, the M’s agreed to a one-year deal with Kotchman that paid him $3.5 million for the year, or $39,083 per hit when you factor in his production.
Kotchman was a dud of a player, inspiring a gamut of emotions that ranged from venomous, at worst, to apathetic, at best. Donning his jersey in public will garner similar reactions from a Mariners faithful that spent one entire lost season watching this wet paper towel man first base.
9. Richie Sexson
Produced by: Majestic
Back in 2005, Sexson was a marquee free agent signee for your Seattle Mariners. He was such a big deal, in fact, that the M’s didn’t just sell his jersey, they also produced it in t-shirt form as a stadium giveaway for kids. What this means is that there are people all over the Pacific Northwest who have Sexson apparel languishing in their closets and drawers, just waiting for the right moment to pass their cursed clothing onto the Goodwill. God help the poor, underprivileged child who ends up with a free Sexson shirt thanks to charity.
No matter how many home runs Sexson may have hit (people tend to overlook the fact that he did have 73 dingers in his first two seasons here), the big first baseman’s crowning achievement will always be the brawl he sparked with Texas back in 2008, a melee punctuated by the helmet Big Sexy tossed at Rangers pitcher Kason Gabbard on his way to the mound. Nothing quite highlights a mano-a-mano fight like chucking headgear at your adversary.
If you still find yourself wearing a Sexson replica from time to time, be aware of objects flying at you from random passersby who enjoy the same lasting memory of No. 44 that I’ve just shared with you. And remember, you did this to yourself.
(Note: The Sexson brawl video has been deleted in all forms from YouTube and similar American websites — thanks, MLB — yet still remains immortalized in all its glory on this Moldovan website: http://play.md/184310. Way to go, Moldova!)
8. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Produced by: Reebok
Perhaps the absolute greatest tragedy about the once-coveted Housh jersey is that it was one of a small handful of Seahawks replicas produced in that aesthetically abrasive lime green color, a color that existed for but one game in 2009, yet continues to haunt us four years later. The local Fred Meyer stubbornly insisted upon selling these lime green Houshmandzadeh uniforms at full price (FULL PRICE!!!) until long after the temperamental wideout had left for Minnesota come 2010, and my guess is that at least one or two hapless individuals blew a day’s worth of wages on T.J.’s pukey neon outfit before all establishments did away with these fashion nightmares once and for all.
Housh is probably best remembered for getting into a verbal fisticuffs with local quarterback-turned-pundit Hugh Millen on live radio, which tells you all you need to know about the ex-Bengal’s on-field prowess. Good riddance, T.J.
7. Jim McIlvaine
Produced by: Champion
Growing up, my younger brother somehow came to own a Jim McIlvaine jersey shirt. I assume it was a gift he would have received somewhere around his eighth or ninth birthday, which means that at least one of my relatives is responsible for spending money on McIlvaine apparel.
No family is perfect. That is all.
6. Erik Bedard
Produced by: Majestic
Early in the 2012 season, just a few short months after Erik Bedard had been jettisoned from Seattle via trade, I happened upon a fan at Safeco Field who had altered a once ill-advised purchase into something much more whimsical. On the back of his home white Mariners replica, jersey No. 45, the fan had placed a strip of duct tape and replaced the name of the number’s previous owner with that of the number’s new owner. It was an arts and crafts project any true blue M’s fan could appreciate.
Looking back on that moment, I now don’t know what’s worse: purchasing a No. 45 Erik Bedard jersey, or converting it to a homemade No. 45 Hector Noesi uni. A no-win situation, to be certain.
5. Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene, and Robert Swift
Numbers: 27 (Petro), 31 (Swift), 18 (Sene)
Produced by: Reebok (Petro and Swift), Adidas (Sene)
I’ve cheated once again. But you and I both know that the three-headed monster of Petro, Sene, and Swift cannot be divided, cannot be thwarted, and cannot be looked upon favorably when worn out in public.
Let this be a lesson to everyone, everywhere: Just because teams will produce and promote the replica uniforms of big ticket first-round draft picks, that does not mean those players will amount to anything, nor does it mean you should rush out and purchase said replicas. Jerseys are not cheap. And if you’re going to drop upwards of $100 on any casual clothing item, you better be certain that you’ll get good traction out of that apparel.
Ask anyone who ever purchased a Petro, Sene, or Swift jersey how they feel about the choice they made. Probably not so great. Buy the threads of legendary Hall of Famers (Griffeys, Largents, Paytons), random scrubs who inspire giggles or bouts of confusion (I accomplish this with my game-used Hiram Bocachica jersey), or bona fide hometown heroes who you’re certain will always hold a place in the hearts of the local fan base (Kemps, Buhners, Zorns). But please, for the love of all things holy, do not take home with you the marks of the scornful and embarrassing. There is no trio of futility more scornful and embarrassing than these 7-foot-tall wastes of talent.
4. Milton Bradley
Produced by: Majestic
On the opening day of the 2010 season, my friends and I went to Safeco Field and paid witness to a Mariners lineup that featured, among others, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jose Lopez, Rob Johnson, the aforementioned Casey Kotchman, and of course, Milton Bradley.
Sitting a row in front of my buddies and I was a guy about our age wearing a brand spankin’ new Milton Bradley jersey shirt. For the bulk of the game, one of my friends booed Bradley and booed the poor kid next to us donned in Bradley’s likeness. At some point in the middle innings, while Bradley was in the throes of a 1-for-22 start to the season at the plate, the kid turned around and lost his shit.
“Why do you keep booing him?” he asked. “He’s gonna be really good this year! He’s just off to a rough start!”
We all laughed, which was not the reaction Bradley Kid was looking for. He whipped back around to face the field, obviously flustered, obviously agitated, and began to cheer obnoxiously loud for a left fielder who, three years later, would find himself in prison for abusing his wife.
As I chuckled, a part of me ached for the helpless idiot before me. He really, truly believed that Milton Bradley would be the next in a not-so-long line of Mariner greats. He was passionate about his adulation for the 32-year-old career malcontent. He was going all-in on a guy who was probably not worth going all-in on.
I wonder where that kid is now. And I wonder what he did with his Bradley jersey.
3. Jerramy Stevens
Produced by: Reebok
Jerramy Effing Stevens. Where to begin. Well first of all, if you have a Jerramy Stevens jersey and it isn’t covered in alcohol stains, then you’re clearly doing it wrong.
If you have a Jerramy Stevens jersey and women haven’t told you “No” multiple times, then yes, you continue to do it wrong.
If you have a Jerramy Stevens jersey and your spouse doesn’t have a Hope Solo jersey and the two of you don’t fight a lot, then come on, get your shit together.
There is no good reason for having a Stevens jersey, and that’s coming from both a Seahawks and Huskies fan.
Don’t do this to yourself. Soak that thing in tequila (a Stevens favorite, I hear) and light it on fire. Go. Now.
2. Aaron Curry
Produced by: Reebok
A few weeks back I was at a Mariners game — yes, a Mariners game — and saw a skinny guy who looked like he was on drugs sporting a worn, faded Aaron Curry jersey. There was no better live mannequin for a Curry jersey than this fellow, a veritable byproduct of bad life choices and failed promise. It was as if the uniform and this man were destined for each other, conjoined by fate and forced to exist in tandem as a solitary reminder of how things don’t always work out the way we plan.
Aaron Curry was more than just a bust. Beyond his bustiness, Curry was the type of athlete fans like to loathe, the kind of guy who puts himself on a pedestal above others, who can do no wrong despite speaking unsoundly of those he’s deemed unworthy of his grace and presence.
Curry suffered from Alex Rodriguezitis, a disease that plagues the holier-than-thou individual who can’t quite adapt to fame and fortune, who lives as a martyr in this ill-prioritized world, who says all the right things in the wrong tone, who somehow manages to come across as more disingenuous than every other creature on this planet. Curry was a jerk who didn’t know he was a jerk.
That unlucky bastard who dropped wads of cash on a jerk and couldn’t separate himself from the jerkiness of the clothes on his back. Get that malnourished druggie a new shirt.
1. Chone Figgins
Produced by: Majestic
This is a picture of a pair of individuals I’ve dubbed “Figgins Couple”:
Figgins Couple was initially spotted on July 24th, 2013, the day this photo was snapped by my friend Matt. At the time footage of Figgins Couple was first recorded, the Mariners had a record of 48-52 and were in the midst of an eight-game winning streak that, thanks to the All-Star break, extended back nearly two weeks in the past.
What happened on the day Figgins Couple made their presence known at Safeco Field? The M’s lost by a score of 10-1 to the Cleveland Indians, ending their winning streak and putting them five games under .500 on the year. And since that fateful day Figgins Couple showed up? The M’s have cobbled together a 2-5 record and now sit seven games under .500, slowly falling farther and farther beyond the periphery of the playoff race.
Chone Figgins tormented us when he was here. He shouldn’t be tormenting us any longer. Yet people like these two morons above have ensured that the Figgins Curse lives on.
Moral of the story: If you see ANYBODY wearing a Figgins jersey or jersey shirt, unleash your wrath upon them. There is no greater sin than wearing anything Figgins-related.
And be gone, Figgins Couple. Never set foot in Seattle again. You’ve been warned.