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Last Of His Kind / Sports

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  • From around 1982 to his retirement after the 1986 season, NFL kicker Mark Moseley was the last of the "straight ahead" kickers, all other kickers having adopted the more-accurate, harder-to-block soccer style kick.note  There have been others attempting to bring back the style over the years, but none have played above the mid-tier college level. He's also the first, last, and very likely only special teams player to win the league's Most Valuable Player, winning the award in the strike-shortened 1982 season.
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  • Shane 'Shimmering Shane' Williams of Wales, the British & Irish Lions, and the Ospreys was the last of the classic Rugby Union wingers when he retired in 2015. The traditional model winger was small, fast, and extremely agile (Williams got his nickname for the quick feints and shifts of direction that left players sprawling in his wake), but with the arrival of the legendary Jonah Lomu in 1995, there was steady shift to much larger but still exceptionally fast wingers. Yet Williams was held in such high regard that he was called up as injury cover for the 2013 Lions (a touring Dream Team composed very four years of the best players in the British Isles, Ireland included) at the age of 36. That's impressive. The kicker? He'd just gone out to commentate.
  • From 2002 to its demolition in 2005, Busch Stadium in St. Louis was the last of the great "Cookie Cutter" stadiums — five near-identical mufti-purpose stadiums built in the late '60s. The other stadiums were (in order of demolition) Atlanta–Fulton County, Three Rivers (Pittsburgh), Riverfront (Cincinnati) and Veterans (Philadelphia).
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  • In a similar vein, the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum was the last multi-purpose stadium still shared between a professional gridiron football team (Raiders) and a Major League Baseball team (Athletics). Many of the Oakland Coliseum's contemporaries have been since demolished, and those that are still operational have been renovated for single-sport use only. This arrangement ended with the Raiders' 2020 move to Las Vegas; the Raiders had been seeking a modern replacement long before their move, and the A's still are seeking the same.
  • At the time of his retirement in 1986, NFL Hall of Fame receiver Charlie Joiner was the last active player who played in the American Football League (AFL), having been a rookie with Houston in the AFL's final season (1969). In a similar later case, 6-time All-Pro punter Sean Landeta was the last active player who had played in the United States Football League upon his last NFL game in 2006, having played for the USFL's Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars from 1983-1985.
  • The World Hockey Association:
    • At the time of his last game in 2004, Hockey Hall of Fame center Mark Messier was the last active player in the NHL to have played in the WHA before its merger with the NHL in 1979, having played with Cincinnati & Indianapolis as a rookie in the WHA's last season (1978-79).
    • Also, the Edmonton Oilers are the only one of the surviving WHA franchises still in its original city. The others are currently the Carolina Hurricanes (New England/Hartford Whalers), Colorado Avalanche (Quebec Nordiques) and Arizona Coyotes (the original Winnipeg Jets, later the Phoenix Coyotes).
  • Upon his last game in 1994, Basketball Hall of Fame center Moses Malone was the last active NBA player who had played in the American Basketball Association before their merger with the NBA in 1976. He had played his first professional seasons with the ABA's Utah & St. Louis franchises from 1974-1976.
  • Upon her last game in 2013, Tina Thompson was the last active WNBA player from the league's first season in 1997.
  • Also in 2013, Ramiro Corrales ended his career as the last active Major League Soccer player from the league's first season in 1996. However, Corrales' MLS tenure was not continuous, having been interrupted by a three-year stint in Norway.
  • In 1978, the NHL's Cleveland Baronsnote  were the last team of America's four major sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) to cease operations completely (assets folded into the existing Minnesota North Stars) and were the first to do so since the mid-1950s.
    • For the record, the last teams in the other three majors to fold in each league are: (MLB) Baltimore Oriolesnote , Cleveland Spiders, Louisville Colonels, Washington Senatorsnote  (1899), (NBA) Baltimore Bullets (1954)note , (NFL) Boston/New York Yanks/Dallas Texansnote  (1955).
  • A sign of Gordie Howe's unprecedented longevity in professional hockey: He was the last active player in the NHL who had played in the 1940s and 1950s upon his retirement in 1980 at the age of 52. Howe jointly was the last NHL alum of the 1950s alongside then-Hartford Whalers teammate Bobby Hull.
    • In terms of other decades, the last active NHL players were: Reg Noble from the 1910s (last NHL game in 1933), Dit Clapper from the 1920s (retired in 1947), Milt Schmidt from the 1930s (retired in 1955), Butch Goring from the 1960s (last NHL game in 1985), Mark Messier from the 1970s (retired after the 2004 NHL lockout), and Mark Recchi from the 1980s (retired in 2011). As of December 2019, three players remain active from the 1990s: Zdeno Chára, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton.
    • Another key historic marker for the league was the 1967 expansion which marked the end of the "Original Six" era, when the league consisted of only that number of teams. The last active player from the Original Six era was Wayne Cashman (last NHL game in 1983).
  • Late NFL Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik was the last of the "sixty-minute men" — those who played offense and defense for the entire game on a regular basis (playing linebacker and offensive lineman). Bednarik was infamously disdainful of modern players who only play the other side of the ball in emergencies or spot duty.
  • Barron Hilton, heir to the Hilton hotel chain, was the last living member of the "Foolish Club", the American Football League's original eight owners, up until his death in September 2019. Hilton sold the Chargers to an investment group in 1966. Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson was the last of the club who was an active owner (the team was sold after his death in 2014).
  • Oksana Chusovitina is the last Soviet-trained (as opposed to Russian) gymnast still competing. She made her Olympic debut in 1992 with the Unified Team, and currently competes for Uzbekistan. The Soviet Union produced 90% of the greatest gymnasts in the history of the sport, including Larisa Latynina, Olga Korbut, Ludmilla Tourischeva, Elena Mukhina, Elena Davydova, Natalia Shaposhnikova, Elena Shushunova, Natalia Yurchenko, Nellie Kim, Svetlana Boguinskaya, and many others, but Soviet gymnastics faded away after the Unified Team competed in Barcelona. The 1996 Games saw multiple Soviet gymnasts return, competing for their now-independent countries, but by the 2000 Olympics, Chusovitina was the last Soviet-trained gymnast still competing at the elite level — a status she retains to this day.
  • The NFL's Green Bay Packers are the last publicly-owned team in America's "Big Four" sports leaguesnote . The NFL barred non-profit organizations (like Green Bay's community-owned trust) from owning teams in 1960, but grandfathered Green Bay (whose ownership structure had not changed since the NFL's inception) in under the new rules.
  • The Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League were the last surviving team from the AFL's inaugural 1987 season (they were the Pittsburgh Gladiators for their first four seasons). They folded in 2017.
  • New England Patriots defensive end Julius Adams was the last player covered by the grandfather clause of the NFL's 1973 standardized number system (players were limited to certain ranges of uniform number, according to position). All players who were active prior to 1973 were allowed to keep their non-standard numbers. Adams wore 85 for his most of his career (1971-1985), where 85 was otherwise limited to wide receivers and tight ends. He did have to switch to 69 when he came out of retirement for the strike-shortened 1987 season.
  • Pitcher Louis Norman "Bobo" Newsom is the last player mentioned in the Ogden Nash poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" to have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  • Speaking of baseball, the last player from the Negro Leagues, which folded not many years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's ban on black players, to be on a regular MLB roster was Hank Aaron, who retired at the end of the 1976 season. The very last Negro Leaguer to play in an MLB game was Minnie Miñoso, who appeared in two games with the Chicago White Sox late in the 1980 season as a publicity stunt.
  • With the induction of Jerry Kramer in 2018, kick returner Billy "White Shoes" Johnson is the only member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Kramer was the only non-special teams member of the team who had to wait to be inducted via the Veterans Committeenote 
  • As of 2018, the Detroit Lions are the last NFC team in the NFL without any Super Bowl appearances. The only other teams without any Super Bowl appearances are the AFC's Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • With the Washington Nationals' sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2019 National League Championship Series, the Seattle Mariners is now the only currently active MLB franchise without a World Series appearance.
  • Detroit Lions long snapper Don Muhlbach is the last remaining active member from the team's 2008 season in which they infamously had the first 0-16 season in NFL history.
  • As of 2019, the Houston Texans are the last NFL team without any conference championship appearances. Although in their defense, they're the "youngest" team in the league, established in the 2002-03 season.
  • In college basketball, it's inevitable that there will soon be no women's head coaches who served in that role before the NCAA began sponsoring women's sports (1981–82). The last Division I head coach to have coached in the pre-NCAA era without having changed jobs, Harry Perretta of Villanova, retired at the end of the 2019–20 season. C. Vivian Stringer of Rutgers is the last D-I head coach from the pre-NCAA era who has been a head coach in every NCAA women's season. Two other current D-I coaches, Doug Bruno of DePaul and Tara VanDerveer of Stanford, respectively got their first head coaching gigs in 1976 and 1978, but both had at least one season off in the NCAA era.note 
  • There are a decent number of examples in NCAA Division I conferences. (For brevity's sake, we're only counting full members.)
    • American Athletic Conference (which maintains the charter of the original Big East Conference from 1979): Of the seven charter members of the original Big East, UConn was the last one to remain in the Big East/American; the Huskies left in July 2020 for the current Big East, parking their football team as an FBS independent. UConn was also the only pre-1991 member of the Big East that stayed in The American.
    • Conference USA: Southern Miss is the last team remaining of the six schools that played in the first C-USA football season in 1996.
    • Mid-American Conference: Ohio is the only remaining charter member from 1946.
    • Missouri Valley Conference: Counting its original 1907–1927 incarnation as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Drake is the only charter member left; however, its tenure was not continuous.note 
    • Southwestern Athletic Conference: Prairie View A&M is the only remaining charter member from 1920.
    • Summit League: Of the league's eight charter members from 1982, only Western Illinois remains.
    • Western Athletic Conference: New Mexico State is the last surviving WAC member that joined before the early-2010s conference realignment cycle... and the Aggies had only joined in 2005.
  • Andy Brown, an otherwise-unremarkable journeyman goalie from the early 1970s, has the distinction of being the last goalie in professional hockey to go maskless. There were two such goalies going into the 1973-1974 season: Brown (then with the Pittsburgh Penguins) and future Hall of Famer Gump Worsley, then of the Minnesota North Stars. When Worsley donned a mask for his final six games (the last of his career), Brown officially became the last maskless goalie. Brown played the final three seasons of his pro career with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers, still without a mask.note 
  • After Johan Santana pitched a no-hitter for the New York Mets on June 1, 2012, the San Diego Padres became the only MLB team without a no-hitter. It took them nearly nine more years, but Joe Musgrove finally got them off the schneid on April 9, 2021.
  • When the National Football League banned the single-bar facemask in 2004, then-Arizona Cardinals punter Scott Player was allowed to continue using his under a Grandfather Clause; doing so until his career ended in 2009.


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