The One-Team Players

This article was written by Ted DiTullio

This article was published in the 1978 Baseball Research Journal


When Brooks Robinson closed out his active career with the 1977 season, it gave him a record 23 years with one club. Furthermore, the Baltimore Orioles were the only major league team he played for in a career that stretched from 1955 to 1977.

Previously he had shared the record with four other players who had long service with only one club. One, Cap Anson, dates back to the beginning of the National League in 1876. Anson played with the Chicago NL team we know as the Cubs until 1897.  The others with 22 years with only one team include Mel Ott with the New York Giants  1926-47; Stan Musial with the St. Louis Cardinals 1941-44; 1946-63; and Al Kaline with the Detroit Tigers 1953-74.

There have been ten players who have seen service of 20 or more seasons with only one team. The list includes three with the Chicago White Sox – Ted Lyons, Red Faber, and Luke Appling.  The list of one-team players expands to 34 when you lower the number of seasons to 15. There also are five additional players currently active who are still with their original team after 15 or more years of play. They include Carl Yastrzemski, 18 years with the Boston Red Sox; Willie Stargell, 17 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Ed Kranepool, 17 with the New York Mets; Pete Rose, 16 with the Reds; and Mickey Stanley, 15 with the Tigers.

It is premature to assume that all these players will conclude their careers with the same clubs.  There have been too many cases of “career” players with one team having a brief, final fling in another location. Two prime examples are Christy Mathewson, who, after 17 years with the Giants, pitched one game with the Reds; and Yogi Berra, who after 18 seasons with the Yankees and one year of retirement, came back for four games with the Mets. Or the disruption could happen at the start of a career. Babe Adams pitched one game for the Cardinals in 1906 and then 18 years with the Pirates. Similarly, Jesse Haines pitched one game with the Reds in 1918 and then 18 years with the Cardinals.

What club has had the most long-service, one-city, one-team players? The Tigers have had six, including Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, Tommy Bridges, George Dauss, Bill Freehan, and Mickey Stanley, still active. The Yankees have had five, and the Pirates five including Stargell, still active. Two of the Pirates, Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski, spent 17 consecutive years together, 1956-72.  Walter Johnson and Clyde Milan spent 16 years together with the Washington Senators, 1907-22; and Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell were together on the Giants 1928-43.

The list of one-team players is not particularly long when you consider that it covers a century of play. The surprising feature is the number of veterans of the recent era. Several factors dictating against one-team players in recent years include the shifting of franchises and the proliferation of teams, interleague trading and playing out of options. Nevertheless, in the last seven years there have been eight long-service players who have retired with theft original club. This includes two with the longest service – Robinson with 23 years and Kaline with 22.

There follows the list of players who have spent 15 or more seasons with only one club and one city in the majors. The list is not “diluted” by players involved in franchise shifts, such as Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, or Phil Niekro of the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, or even Biddy McPhee, who stayed in Cincinnati but shifted from the American Association to the National League in 1890. The asterisk indicates a player still active.

 

Years

Player and Team

Period

23

Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles

1955-1977

22

Cap Anson, Chicago Cubs (Colts)

1876-1897

22

Melvin Ott, New York Giants

1926-1947

22

Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals

1941-44; 1946-63

22

Al Kaline, Detroit Tigers

1953-1974

21

Walter Johnson, Washington Senators

1907-1927

21

Ted Lyons, Chicago White Sox

1923-42; 1946

20

Red Faber, Chicago White Sox

1914-1933

20

Mel Harder, Cleveland Indians

1928-1947

20

Luke Appling, Chicago White Sox

1931-1950

19

Charlie Gehringer, Detroit Tigers

1924-1942

19

Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox

1939-42; 1946-60

19

Ernie Banks, Chicago Cubs

1953-1971

18

Ossie Bluege, Washington Senators

1922-1939

18

Bob Feller, Cleveland Indians

1936-41; 1945-56

18

Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees

1951 -1968

18

Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates

1955-1972

18*

Carl Yastrzemski, Boston Red Sox

1961-1978*

17

Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh Pirates

1920-35; 1937

17

Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees

1923-1939

17

Bill Dickey, New York Yankees

1928-43; 1946

17

Frank Crosetti, New York Yankees

1932-1948

17

Bill Mazeroski, Pittsburgh Pirates

1956-1972

17

Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals

1959-1975

17*

Ed Kranepool, New York Mets

1962-1978*

17*

Willie Stargell, Pittsburgh Pirates

1962-1978*

16

Clyde Milan, Washington Senators

1907-1922

16

Carl Hubbell, New York Giants

1928-1943

16

Tommy Bridges, Detroit Tigers

1930-43; 1945-46

16

Stanley Hack, Chicago Cubs

1932-1947

16

Wliitey Ford, New York Yankees

1950; 1953-67

16

Vern Law, Pittsburgh Pirates

1950-51; 1954-67

16*

Pete Rose, Cincinnati Reds

1963-1978*

15

George Dauss, Detroit Tigers

1912-1926

15

Travis Jackson, New York Giants

1922-1936

15

Bob Lemon, Cleveland Indians

1941-42; 1946-58

15

Bill Freehan, Detroit Tigers

1961; 1963-76

15

Tony Oliva, Minnesota Twins

1962-1976

15*

Mickey Stanley, Detroit Tigers

1964-1978*

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