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Rent-A-Reggie
Steve Rushin
June 21, 2004
Voted by his peers, in an SI poll, as the fourth-best-dressed player in baseball, Reggie Sanders is an accomplished outfielder and fashion critic, part Mickey Rivers, part Joan Rivers. Ask him to name baseball's best uniform and he thinks for a very long time before saying, "I really like what Cincinnati did, when they cut off the sleeves and went with the vests."
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June 21, 2004

Rent-a-reggie

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Voted by his peers, in an SI poll, as the fourth-best-dressed player in baseball, Reggie Sanders is an accomplished outfielder and fashion critic, part Mickey Rivers, part Joan Rivers. Ask him to name baseball's best uniform and he thinks for a very long time before saying, "I really like what Cincinnati did, when they cut off the sleeves and went with the vests."

No major league player in the last 112 years has worn more uniforms, in as short a time, as the 36-year-old Sanders, who has played for seven teams in the last seven seasons. In that time he has made a living on most of the continent ( Cincinnati, San Diego, Atlanta, Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, St. Louis) and worn on his cap a good many consonants (C, SD, SF, P and STL), plus two styles of A. "I can't imagine what it's like to be Reggie," says Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, his teammate this season. "I've played for one team in my career, and it's nice not having to worry about moving my family."

Sanders, on the other hand, moved his wife, Wyndee, and their three daughters from Cincinnati to San Diego to Atlanta to Phoenix in little more than 24 months. As he recounts this, a Cardinals teammate walks by, and the name on his back—RENTERIA—sounds like an affliction, a malaise that befalls the serial renter.

But the serial-renting Sanders doesn't view his peripatetic career that way. "Every place I've played has been enjoyable," says the National League lifer. "I won a World Series [in Arizona in 2001]. The next year, I got to go back to the World Series with San Francisco. I played at Yankee Stadium in the World Series. I've played at Fenway during interleague. Honestly, I wouldn't trade my career for anything."

Still, when you come from a Mayflower family—moving van, not Pilgrim ship—you do long for stability. And so, on a 90� day, beneath an inoperative electric fan in the visitors' dugout at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Texas, Sanders seems to sigh when he says, "We did love San Diego. My wife's from there. It has a great school system. We lived in a rented house in La Jolla, near the water...." Under the inert oscillating fan, he drifts into a brief reverie, perhaps redolent of ocean breezes.

But then the mind will wander during the endless sweep of a baseball season. Consider the time that Sanders, while with San Diego, whiffed for the third out of the seventh inning in a game against Montreal. Undaunted, Padres teammate Phil Nevin strode to the plate and ran the count to 2 and 1 before anyone—in a game attended by thousands—realized there were already three outs. "I had no idea," says Sanders. "The umps didn't know. The fans didn't know. The Expos didn't know."

And yet it was scarcely the strangest moment of his varied 14-year career. While with the Reds, the team for which he played his first seven seasons, Sanders spoiled then Expos pitcher Pedro Martinez's perfect game with one out in the eighth inning by getting hit by a pitch. Ten years later, from this far remove, it seems rash of Reggie to have charged the mound, as if the plunking were intentional. "Looking back on some of these things," he says with an air of disbelief, "you realize that they really happened." So, yes, a large man really did knock down a four-year-old while scrambling for a foul ball in Arlington on Sunday, reducing the toddler to tears and prompting Sanders, who saw the scene on a clubhouse TV, to hand a bat to the boy in the stands.

Cincinnati traded Sanders to San Diego in 1999, and San Diego traded him to Atlanta in 2000. But then a funny thing happened to the serial renter. He became a serial rentee. Sanders signed three consecutive one-year contracts as a free agent, each time plugging a hole in the lineup of a team that had no money to resign him at season's end. He became renowned as a clubhouse chameleon, an exceedingly pleasant person who blends well into any roster. (And he's driven in 80 or more runs each of the last three seasons, including '03, when he led the Pirates with 87.) St. Louis manager Tony La Russa speaks for all of Sanders's skippers when he says, "Reggie has been nothing but a positive influence on our club since the first day of spring training."

Which may be why the Cardinals did an extraordinary thing: They signed Sanders to a two-year contract. Thus he's unlikely to break the record set by Paul Revere (Shorty) Radford, who played for eight teams in eight consecutive seasons from 1885 to 1892. Says Sanders, a lifetime .267 hitter, "I want to end my career in St. Louis."

His wife and children took root in Scottsdale while Sanders was a Diamondback. They bought a house, in which Wyndee has framed every one of her husband's jerseys. Two months ago she gave birth to a fourth girl, named Cooper. "To have my family as a foundation," says Sanders, "has been a true blessing."

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