I've been trying to get my head around this whole Brett Favre thing the last few days. Forgetting about the whole "retired-not retired-retired again-not retired again" thing, it's still a remarkably odd story: Favre, beloved to the point of worship in Green Bay, spurns his entire legacy to play one (or two) more season with the Packers' most bitter rival, their divisional foe, the Minnesota Vikings.
This isn't Orel Hershiser playing out the string of his career on teams like the Indians, Mets, andGiants. And this isn't Johnny Damon moving to the Yankees after a few (celebrated) years in Boston. True, those two were both fan favorites and even playoff heroes, helping lead the Dodgers and Red Sox to World Series victories, but neither are even close to the level that Brett Favre achieved in America's Dairyland.
In fact, the only analogue that I can think of that seems at all reasonable is a hypothetical one: the baseball equivalent of Brett Favre playing for the Vikings would be Cal Ripken leaving the Orioles after a falling out and then playing for the Yankees. The analogy is a little weak in that the Orioles-Yankees "rivalry" is laughable when compared to the Vikings-Packers (or any other major rivalry). Other than that, though, it works great. Favre and Ripken were both clean-cut, hard-working, "go out there and play everyday"-type guys who were the clear leaders on their teams and who penetrated the national consciousness like few others. "Golden boys", some might say (*ahem*Jose Canseco*ahem*). Favre may not have been a hometown boy who came up through the team's system like Ripken, but he was adopted as such pretty early on in his career. And, as good as they each were in their primes, they were both overrated as they aged, getting a little too much credit for their past successes when they were clearly beyond that talent-level (and I say that as someone who collected - and still owns - over 200 different Cal Ripken baseball cards as a child).
Let's imagine, then, the relationship between Ripken and the Orioles souring so much that he would leave the team to play for the Yankees: the strangeness of Cal in pinstripes, the animosity that O's fans might feel for him, the awkwardness that would follow him the first time the Yankees visited Baltimore... all of that is what is currently happening over in the NFL, and it's just ridiculous. I still don't know what Favre is thinking, and I live here in Milwaukee!
Anyhow, after all of that, I thought it might be interesting to see what the biggest names are to have ever moved to their rival team. Again, I'm not looking for the likes of Orel Hershiser or Johnny Damon on this list. Players like that, while strange to see in a different uniform, don't quite reach the levels that I'm thinking of. Using the Multi-Franchise or Multi-Team tool over at Baseball Reference, I looked at every player who played for both teams in some of MLB's greatest rivalries, searching for "big name players" who ended up playing for their main rival after achieving immortality with their first club. While the Cubs/Cardinals and Red Sox/Yankees had a few interesting candidates, the two best examples, by far, were found in the West Coast rivalry: