The Longest Player Tenures in Baseball (part III)
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Yaz, Sunday Teddy, Free Agency, Team Nuclei, Expansion Teams, Team-mates, Passing the Torch, and the Great Infielder Era


Longest Tenured Players of All-Time


The longest any player has played for one team without being sent back to the minors for refinement or playing for another Major League team in-between is 23 seasons. The record is held by Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox. The Hall of Fame has players whose entire MLB career was half of that.


Yastrzemski's rookie year was 1961 at the age of 21 after two seasons in the minors. Yaz played well enough to play in 148 games - the year the schedule was lengthened to 162 games. He batted .266 with 11 HR and had an O+S of .721 only 91% of the league average. That's actually poor for a leftfielder in Fenway Park. However, Ted Williams had just retired leaving the spot open for young Yastrzemski. The Red Sox didn't have anyone one better to fill the role. Considering they were a 7th place club, they might as well give the young kid from Long Island a chance. Back then there was no such thing as free agency or arbitration eligibility to worry about time spent on the Major League roster.


The next year Yastrzemski broke out batting .296 with 19 HR, 43 doubles, and 6 triples. His O+S was 20% better than the league average and his BB total increased from 50 to 66 while his strikeouts reduced from 96 to 82. That trend continued into his third year with 95 BB, 72 SO, and a league leading .321 batting average. His OPS+ was 148. In his 7th season at age 27, he won the Triple Crown: leading the league in the trio of the most revered hitting stats of the day: Batting Average, Home Runs, and RBI. On-base Average was nearly unheard of in those days. Slugging Average was mentioned only occasionally, but rarely published. We now look back at Yastrzemski's OPS+ in 1967 and see an astonishing 193. He was consistently overall the American League's top hitter during the most pitching dominant era since the dirty dead ball days of the early 20th century.


Yastrzemski reputedly played the Green Monster like no one else, but In 1970, at the age of 30 Boston manager Eddie Kasko moved Yaz to first-base to make room for a second Conigliaro in the outfield. Older brother Tony started his tenure with the Red Sox at age 19 and was immediately a star. He led the American League in Home Runs at age 20. However, two years later in 1967, he was beaned in the eye. This was the incident that finally prompted MLB to adopt batting helmets. Tony Conigliaro missed all of '68, came back in '69, but was less than average for a corner outfielder. In 1970, his power returned enough to hit 36 dingers, but his peripheral stats were still lagging. Meanwhile, little 22 year old brother Billy came along with a .929 O+S in a 32 game call-up the previous year. So, the Red Sox traded their weak hitting first-baseman Dalton Jones to open up first-base for Yastrzemski. Thus, his incumbency as a left-fielder ended after 9 seasons - not a bad run. There are currently no outfielders with incumbencies as long.


Unsentimental about having brothers play in the same outfield, Tony Conigliaro was traded the next season and Yaz returned to left-field. Tony C. played feebly for one more year, then retired. Yastrzemski almost 6 years older than his mid 60s co-star Conigliaro played another 13 years after he retired.


The Red Sox won the pennant in 1967 - Yaz's Triple Crown season. He continued to play in every all-star game through the age of 39 in 1979. However, he was no longer one of the league's dominant hitters in the latter 70s. However, he did stay in excellent shape. In a couple of 2nd place finishes in 1977 and 1978, Don Zimmer experimented by moving Yaz back to left-field and moving Rice to DH. Even in his last two seasons in '82 and '83 at the ages of 42 and 43, Yastrzemski was still making the all-star game and hitting 8% better than the league.


Below are all the players whose marriage with their team lasted 20 years or more.


Major League All-Time Longest Tenures (20 or more years)


Position      Player                           Team                 starting date – ending date

OF-1B    Carl Yastrzemski Red Sox           1961 -      1983

P        Ted Lyons        White Sox    late 1923 –early 1946

If-OF    Cap Anson        Chicago (NL)      1876 -      1897

OF       Ted Williams     Red Sox           1939 -      1960

OF-1B    Stan Musial      Cardinals         1942 -      1963

OF       Mel Ott          Giants            1926 -  mid 1947

OF       Al Kaline        Detroit       mid 1953 -      1974

OF-1B    Willie Stargell  Pittsburgh   9/16/1962 -      1982

CF       Willie Mays      Giants            1951 -      1971

OF-1B    Hank Aaron       Braves            1954 -      1974

P        John Smoltz      Braves       7/23/1988 –      2008

P        Walter Johnson   Senators (o.) 8/2/1907 –  mid 1927

SS       Luke Appling     White Sox    9/10/1930 -      1950

P        Bob Feller       Cleveland    late 1936 –      1956

SS-3B    Cal Ripken       Baltimore    8/10/1981 -      2001

OF       Ty Cobb          Detroit           1906 -      1925

P        Red Faber        White Sox         1914 –      1933

SS-CF    Robin Yount      Milwaukee         1974 -      1993


Ted Lyons became known as "Sunday Teddy". From the age of 24 to 29, Lyons was a workhorse even by the 1920s standards. An injury in 1931 changed his pitching style. His innings totals steadily declined. Yet, Lyons was so popular, that the White Sox eventually asked him to just pitch on Sundays in order to draw the largest possible crowds. Perhaps, this mild usage helped allow Lyons to pitch effectively up to World War II at age 41. He still wasn't done. In 1946, he returned from the Marines and pitched 5 more starts posting a 2.32 ERA, and then retired to take over as the team's manager.


The White Sox have three players on the 20+ year list including Luke Appling & Red Faber. That's more than any other team. The Red Sox, Braves, and Tigers are the only other teams with two 20+ year players.


Players with 15+ years of Tenure - chronologically


Position      Player                           Team                  starting date – ending date

If-OF    Cap Anson        Chicago (NL)       1876 -      1897

2B       Bid McPhee       Cincinnati         1882 -      1899

SS       Honus Wagner     Pittsburgh         1900 –      1917

OF       Sam Crawford     Detroit            1903 -      1917

OF       Ty Cobb          Detroit            1906 -      1925

P        Walter Johnson   Senators (o.)  8/2/1907 –  mid 1927

OF       Clyde Milan      Senators (o.) 8/19/1907 –      1922

OF       Zack Wheat       Dodgers       9/11/1909 -      1916

OF       Max Carey        Pittsburgh    late 1910 – 8/12/1926

C        Ray Schalk       White Sox     8/11/1912 – 7/04/1928

P        Red Faber        White Sox          1914 –      1933

OF       Sam Rice         Senators (o.)  8/7/1915 -      1933

1B       Joe Judge        Senators (o.) 9/15/1915 -      1932

OF       Pie Traynor      Pittsburgh    late 1921 –early 1937

C        Gabby Harntett   Chicago (NL)       1922 -      1940

3B-IF    Ossie Bluege     Senators (o.)      1923 – 7/13/1939

P        Ted Lyons        White Sox     late 1923 –early 1946

2B       Charlie Gehringer Detroit      late 1925 -      1942

OF       Paul Waner       Pittsburgh         1926 –      1940

OF       Mel Ott          Giants             1926 -  mid 1947

C        Bill Dickey      Yankees       8/15/1928 -      1946

P        Mel Harder       Cleveland     late 1929 –      1947

P        Red Ruffing      Yankees        5/6/1930 -      1946

P        Tommy Bridges    Detroit       late 1930 -      1946

SS       Luke Appling     White Sox     9/10/1930 -      1950

SS-3B    Frank Crosetti   Yankees            1932 -      1948

OF       Joe DiMaggio     Yankees            1936 -      1951

P        Bob Feller       Cleveland     late 1936 –      1956

2B       Bobby Doerr      Red Sox            1937 -      1951

OF       Enos Slaughter   Cardinals          1938 -      1953

OF       Ted Williams     Red Sox            1939 -      1960

SS       Pee Wee Reese    Dodgers        mid 1940 -      1957

SS       Phil Rizzuto     Yankees            1941 – 8/24/1956

C        Jim Hegan        Cleveland     9/09/1941 -      1957

OF-1B    Stan Musial      Cardinals          1942 -      1963

P        Warren Spahn     Braves             1946 -      1964

C        Yogi Berra       Yankees       9/22/1946 -      1963

OF       Duke Snider      Dodgers            1947 -      1962

P        Whitey Ford      Yankees        mid 1950 –  mid 1967

P        Bob Friend       Pittsburgh         1951 -      1965

CF       Willie Mays      Giants             1951 -      1971

OF       Mickey Mantle    Yankees        8/?/1951 -      1968

3B       Eddie Mathews    Braves             1952 –      1966

SS-1B    Ernie Banks      Chicago (NL)  late 1953 -      1971

OF       Al Kaline        Detroit        mid 1953 -      1974

OF-1B    Hank Aaron       Braves             1954 -      1974

RF       Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh         1955 -      1972

2B       Bill Mazeroski   Pittsburgh    7/07/1956 –      1972

3B       Brooks Robinson  Baltimore          1958 -      1975

3B-1B-OF Harmon Killebrew Senators-Twins 9/4/1958 –      1974

OF-1B    Carl Yastrzemski Red Sox            1961 -      1983

OF-1B    Willie Stargell  Pittsburgh    9/16/1962 -      1982

2b-of-3b-1b Pete Rose     Cincinnati         1963 -      1978

1B       Ed Kranepool     Mets          4/14/1964 -      1979

OF       Lou Brock        Cardinals     6/15/1964 -      1979

P        Jim Palmer       Baltimore          1965 – 5/17/1984

P        Don Sutton       Dodgers            1966 -      1980

P        Phil Niekro      Braves         8/8/1966 -      1983

SS       Mark Belanger    Baltimore     9/17/1966 -      1981

C-3B     Johnny Bench     Cincinnati    8/28/1967 -      1983

SS-2b    Dave Concepcion  Cincinnati         1970 -      1988

3B       Mike Schmidt     Philadelphi   9/11/1972 – 5/14/1989

OF       Dwight Evans     Red Sox       9/16/1972 -      1990

2B       Fran White       Royals        9/01/1973 -      1990

SS-CF    Robin Yount      Brewers            1974 -      1993

3B       George Brett     Royals        5/03/1974 -      1993

OF       Jim Rice         Red Sox       8/19/1974 -      1989

2B       Lou Whitaker     Detroit       9/09/1977 -      1995

SS-3B    Alan Trammell    Detroit       9/09/1977 -      1996

2B-3B-DH Paul Molitor     Brewers            1978 -      1992

SS-3B    Cal Ripken       Baltimore     8/10/1981 -      2001

SS       Ozzie Smith      Cardinals          1982 -      1996

2B       Ryne Sandberg    Chicago (NL)       1982 -      1997

OF       Tony Gwynn       San Diego     6/21/1983 -      2001

SS       Barry Larkin     Cincinnati    8/13/1986 -      2004

P        Tom Glavine      Braves        8/17/1987 –      2002

2B-OF-C  Chris Biggio     Houston       6/26/1988 -      2007

P        John Smoltz      Braves        7/23/1988 –      2008

DH-3B    Edgar Martinez   Seattle       9/05/1989 -      2004

1B       Jeff Bagwell     Houston            1991 -      2005

OF       Barry Bonds      Giants             1993 -      2007

3B-OF    Chipper Jones    Braves        late 1993 -     



Has free agency drastically reduced the number of players with a long tenure with one team?


 Imagine a pretty graph here that is not compatible with my web building software. It shows:


Total 15+ yr. players  by decade tenure


Decade    Number of Players

1980s      8  8  8  8  8  8  8  8

          10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10

1960s      8  8  8  8  8  8  8  8

          11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11 11

1940s      7  7  7  7  7  7  7

           9  9  9  9  9  9  9  9  9

1920s      9  9  9  9  9  9  9  9  9

           5  5  5  5  5

1900s      6  6  6  6  6  6


The short answer is not drastically. There were more players who started their 15 year stints in the Majors during the 1970s than any other decade except the 1950s. However, there was a reduction of such players in the 1980s and by 1980, there were also 26 Major League teams compared to 16 teams in the 50s. The overall generally sustained number of long tenured players despite free agency supports the observation that excluding interruption from wars and competing leagues, Major League baseball teams have steadily grown ever more stable. I assume the ability of a team to hold onto a player for a long time is related to their financial security and the strength of the talent they develop or acquire at a young age.


However, looking at the most recent trends, it seems to be boiling down to just a few teams that have resources and will to develop and keep players a very long time. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Braves are most obviously teams that do. Reviewing the list of longest tenured players currently in Major League Baseball (see Part II), the franchise closest to joining that group is Toronto.


Another trend working against long tenures in the free agency era is that players are sent back down to the minors more frequently after their first call-up - even after a fully qualifying rookie season. During the early years of "farm systems" in the 40s and 50s (and the Cardinals of the 30s) once a player was on the Major League team, he usually stayed there even if he didn't play frequently. Once the team felt he was ready, he took over his starting job and that was that. It seems in the 60s and 70s, players were kept in the minors playing full time until the team deemed they were ready, but still weren't sent back down as often as they are now.



Longest Tenures for teams with no 15+ year men:


Position      Player                           Team                  starting date – ending date

SP       Eddie Plank      Athletics          1901 -      1914

3B-1B-OF Harmon Killebrew Minn.(excl. Was.)  1961 –      1974

OF       Tim Salmon       Angels        8/21/1992 -      2006

SP       Dave Stieb       Toronto       6/29/1979 -      1992

3B       Tim Wallach      Montréal      9/06/1979 -      1992

SS       Bert Campaneris  K.C.-Oak.     7/23/1964 -      1976

1B       Todd Helton      Colorado      8/02/1997 -

1B       Mark McGwire     Oakland only  8/22/1986 - 7/30/1997

C        Ivan Rodriguez   Texas         8/20/1991 -      2002

OF       Luis Gonzalez    Arizona            1999 -      2006

OF       Carl Crawford    Tampa Bay     7/20/2002 –

2B       Luis Castillo    Florida       8/04/1998 -      2005

3B       Ryan Zimmerman   Nationals     9/01/2005 -



The Athletics - why they have no 15 year men: (click on this for the article)


Teams with the most players with long tenures


At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Pirates, Yankees and Tigers have the most players in their history with long tenures.


The Pittsburgh Pirates are tied for the all-time lead in 15+ year players with eight. From the start of the century, there was Honus Wagner, whose career overlapped that of Max Carey’s. Pie Traynor’s career overlapped that of Carey’s and the Waner brothers. Indeed, Carey was let go by the Pirates to make room for the Waners. Paul Waner made it passed the 15 year mark, but Lloyd missed by less than a season.. Big Poison’s final year was in 1940. Then in 1951 Bob Friend came to Pittsburgh, followed four years later Roberto Clemente, then Bill Mazeroski came in the middle of the following season. By 1962, the Pirates had Willie Stargell, too. There is more on these 50s/60s Pirates in the Pairings section.


The New York Yankees have also had eight players with at least 15 years tenure. In recent years, they have developed many players who were or are close to the 15 year mark. Not listed is Bernie Williams who would have been a Yankee for 15½ years, but was sent back to AAA in his second year for a 3 month refresher that knocks him down to 14 seasons and two months as a continuous Yankee. Mariano Rivera just reached the 14 year mark. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada are not far behind. Roy White of the 70s and latter 60s would be a 14+ year man except for a 3½ month demotion the year after his rookie season. Willie Randolf was a Yankee for 13+ seasons and Don Mattingly was a Yankee for a little less than 13 seasons.


The Detroit Tigers are a close third with seven players who made the 15 year mark, but have more players who nearly missed it spread across many eras. Twenties star Harry Heilman, 30s & 40s star Hank Greenberg, and '68 Champions Norm Cash and Bill Freehan each stuck with the Tigers for 14 seasons. '84 Champion Jack Morris, '68 Champs Mickey Stanley, Mickey Lolich, and Dick McAuliffe, 40s pitching stars Hal Newhouser and Dizzy Trout, and Ty Cobb era players pitcher Hooks Dauss and shortstop Donie Bush each had 13 seasons as Tigers.


The Senators-Twins franchise had six 15 year players, although five of them were finished by 1939. (See The Old Senators under Pairings.) Since then, Harmon Killebrew is the only member of this franchise who lasted at least 15 years. Even if you take away his 2+ years as a Washington Senator, his 14 year tenure as a Minnesota Twin still beats out an impressive list of long time Twins: Tony Oliva (13+), Jim Kaat (almost 13), Kent Hrbek (13+), Kirby Puckett (almost 12), and Brad Radke (12). Killebrew, Oliva, and Kaat were all team-mates for a decade joining Jim Perry in losing to the Dodgers in a close 7 game World Series in 1965 and then winning the American League West in its first two seasons as a division in '69 and '70. Hrbek and Puckett were team-mates for almost 11 years winning World Championships in 1987 and 1991, though no other divisional or wild card claims. Greg Gagne and Dan Gladden were the only other constants on those two championships only four years apart.


With four 15+ year players by 1950, the White Sox were just behind the Senators at the half century mark, but they haven't come up with anyone since. Mark Buehrle might make it. He needs to continue pitching for the White Sox through 2014. Paul Konerko only needs to stick it out through 2013, but I see that as far less likely.


The Braves have passed both the White Sox and Senators-Twins to tie with Detroit for third with seven 15+ players. In contrast to those teams, all of the long term Braves are from more recent years. Warren Spahn was the first to make it and he started his career after WW II. The Braves have the only current member of the 15 year club in Chipper Jones. Recent ex-Brave John Smoltz was the last player to reach the 20 year mark with one team. Besides Smoltz, Jones and another 15+ year man Tom Glavine, the Braves' 15 year run of 14 division titles ('91-'05) included in part long tenured players Greg Maddux (11), Javy Lopez (10+), and Andruw Jones (11+).


Expansion Teams & interesting tid-bits about players who happened to play for them


Among expansion teams the Colt 45s-Astros, Royals, and Pilots-Brewers each had two 15 year guys, while the Mets, Padres and Mariners had one each. Shut out of 15 year players are the Angels, the (new) Senators-Rangers, the Expos-Nationals, the Blue Jays (for now), and the four most recent expansion teams in Florida and in Mountain time zones. With Robin Yount, the Milwaukee Brewers are the only expansion franchise to have a player make the 2o+ year list.


However, George Brett started his career with the Royals one month after Yount started as a teenager with the Brewers and they retired the same year, thus Brett missed the 20 year mark by just that month. Besides Brett and 17 year Royal Frank White, the Royals have had three more 14 year men: Amos Otis, Hal McRae, and Paul Splittorff. That is quite impressive for a 1969 expansion team. Mark Gubicza was a 13 year Royal. Jeff Montgomery was their relief ace for 12 years. You could count the number of relievers on one hand who have had longer tenures. Dan Quisenberry preceded Montgomery as the Royals' relief ace for 9 years with Steve Farr enjoying a one year reign in-between them.


The third longest tenure by a player on an expansion team is only one month less than George Brett's: Houston's Chris Biggio. Yount, Brett, and Biggio beat out Tony Gwynn's 18½ season Padres stardom by a year.


The Mariners are the youngest of the franchises with a 15 year player. Given they are one of the smaller markets, they have a surprising number of long term players in their short history. Besides Edgar Martinez (15+), Jay Buhner was in Seattle for 13½ years, Ken Griffey Jr. and Dan Wilson 11 each, while Ichiro Suzuki is in his 9th year. Ichiro is the Majors' current leading incumbent outfielder.


The worse player on the 15+ year list is New York Met Ed Kranepool – and that is a huge understatement. The vast majority of these players are in the Hall of Fame.  Kranepool might not have been in the Majors, but for expansion. After a call-up on the original Amazin’ (amazingly inept) Mets of ’62 and a disastrous rookie season in ’63 in which he was returned to the minors, Kranepool was a platoon firstbaseman and occasional outfielder who hit just barely well enough to keep his job for the next 15 years. It mattered not whether the Mets were building ('62-'68), contenders ('69-'76), or rebuilding ('77-'79) – they kept Kranepool coming out there taking up roster space and 300 AB a year. Joe Torre, by the way, was his manager his last two seasons. It would be as if the Rays still had Steve Cox on their team and kept him until 2014. Kranepool averaged 110 games per full season with 13 doubles, 1 triple, 7 home runs, 37 RBI, with a lifetime BA/OBA/Slg. of .261/.316/.377.


The Mets' 1962 expansion-mates in Houston decades later nourished, perhaps, the most underrated player on this list. Bill James thinks Biggio could well be the most underrated player of the last 20 years. “I don't think there is anyone else who is the equal of Biggio in this regard. I think Brett Butler was an underappreciated player, Mickey Tettleton, Darren Daulton, but I don't think there has been anybody else in my lifetime as good as Biggio at consistently playing winning baseball without attention-getting numbers.”


As a lead-in to the next section, The Killer Bees Chris Biggio and Jeff Bagwell lasted as team-mates for 15 years - the duration of Bagwell's MLB career 1991-2005.





It is interesting how many pairings there are of players on the same team basically having long tenures together. It is not surprising really, considering the conditions on the team need to be right for any long pairing to occur.


Crawford . . . and Cobb


After high school in 1898 Sam Crawford joined his local Wahoo, Nebraska travelling baseball team playing for pass-the-hat money. The next year he gave up his barber's apprenticeship to play for Chatham in the professional Canadian baseball league. At some point during the summer he moved up to the Western League playing for Grand Rapids. By September, Crawford was a Cincinnati Red playing every day along side future Hall of Famers Jake Beckley and Sid McPhee. By 1901 he was one of the best hitters in the league. Still just 22 after the 1902 season, the American League and National League were engaged in a bidding war and the young star became a Detroit Tiger for the next 15 years.


Towards the end of 1905, the Tigers plucked an 18 year old peach of a player from Georgia named Ty Cobb and Detroit had the most formidable hitting duo for the next dozen years.


Crawford and Ty Cobb are no. 1 and 2 in career triples with 309 and 295 respectively. The next closest is Honus Wagner with 275. That's a record which should be safe for awhile. The top three post-wars players in career triples Stan Musial, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Mays have only 177, 166, and 140 triples in their careers. The highest total from a player in the free agent era is Steve Finley with 124, although Curtis Granderson is averaging 15 triples a year. Crawford and Cobb were outfield team-mates for 12¼ summers together.


One was considered quite a gentleman (Crawford) from a northern state. My great-grandmother knew him personally. The other was a southerner (Cobb) with a violent temper - and was unpopular with his own team-mates. Although, Crawford mentored Cobb during Cobb's earliest years with the Tigers, they soon had an unfriendly rivalry which lasted into their retirements.


The Old Senators


The Senators had two term pairings in their early years. Both Walter Johnson and Clyde Milan started their careers with Washington in August of 1907.  Both Sam Rice and Joe Judge came along in the late summer of 1915.




There are several battery-mate pairings here: White Sox Red Faber & Ray Schalk (1914-1928), Yankees Red Ruffing and Bill Dickey (1930-1946), Indians Bob Feller and Jim Hegan (1941-1957), and another pair of Yankees: Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra (1950-1963). Ray Schalk's last year and a half with the White Sox was as a player-manager or more accurately manager-player. In fact Schalk only caught one game in 1928. The longest incumbency, where the catcher is the team's primary catcher and the pitcher stays in the rotation, is not completely on this list. It is Warren Spahn and Del Crandall (1949-1963). The longest pitcher-catcher tenure I could find since then is Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan (1963-1975). A year behind them is Boston's Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek (1997-present - Tek was last called up in September of '97).


The S.F.-Bronx Italians


Joe DiMaggio joined the Yankees in 1936 four years after Frank Crosetti. Both were Itlalian-Americans from San Franciscans and were Yankee team-mates for 13 years. Frank Crosetti's last three seasons were more as a coach than as a player making this arguably a 10 year duo. However, he did play a little and continued as their coach for 25 years, so he deserves to be listed and was in a Yankee uniform throughout DiMaggio's 16 year career.


The original Bobby and Teddy


Ted Williams came up in 1939 only two years after Bobby Doer, but lasted as a Red Sox another nine years after Doer's retirement in 1951.


Mathews and the Braves


Eddie Mathews played for all three Braves cities. He spent his rookie season in Boston, played in Milwaukee for all of their 13 seasons, then spent his last season with the Braves in Atlanta.


Mathews had a high walk percentage – a talent highly underrated in his era. By the end of his career most fans still considered Pie Traynor the greatest third-baseman of all-time. I recall a poll taken possibly the year after Mathews retired which had Traynor number one at third-base thanks to his lifetime .320 batting average set during the high batting average era of the 20s and 30s.. However, in the clear light of modern analysis, Mathews was a much more productive player.


You could pair Eddie Mathews with either Warren Spahn ('52-'64) or Hank Aaron ('54-'66) to get a 13 year pairing. As team-mates Mathews and Hank Aaron hammered 863 home runs), which still holds as the record for team-mates. For comparison, the Bash Brothers Canseco & McGwire only lasted 6 seasons together (Sept. ’86 – Sept. ’92) in which they hit 415 home runs. The other great career team-mate HR pairings were Ruth & Gehrig 10+ yrs. (1923 – 1934):. 785 HR; Mays & McCovey (July 30, 1959 – May 11, 1972) <13 yrs. 784 HR. The next all-time greatest HR pairing I could find was the combination of Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner with 667 HR in their 11 years together (’89-’99). In the shorter lived Caseco & McGwire class are Mantle & Maris (1960-1966). They took 7 years to reach 419 HR. However, they hit an unreachable 115 home runs as team-mates in one season (1961) - unreachable without juiced up baseballs and/or juiced up muscles that is. One never hears anyone mentioning Barry Bonds and Rich Aurilia as a great home run hitting duo, but they came shockingly close to the Maris-Mantle record forty years later powering 110 HR together. Aurilia was a team-mate of Bonds for about 8 seasons in a row (’96-’03), then again in 2007. In those nine years they hit roughly 525 HR together. The only other single season pairing of over 100 HR was the ’98 Cardinals with McGwire & Lankford hitting 101 combined.


Whitey and the Yankees


You could get even longer pairings on the Yankees than those Braves during the same era by pairing Whitey Ford with either Yogi Berra ('50-'63) or Mickey Mantle ('51-'67). Ford and Mantle were a renown real life pair of friends and night life carousers.


The Pirates combos of the 50s and 60s


Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski came up only a year and a half apart and ended their careers the same year for a total of 17 years together ('56-'72). Clemente's career ended when died in an overloaded plane that crashed attempting to bring aid to earthquake ravaged Nicaragua. He came along to prevent the aid from going to corrupt General Somoza officials. Clemente and Mazeroski's first 10 years as team-mates overlap with Bob Friend and Roy Face. Their last 10 years overlap with Willie Stargell. Yes, for a few years all five were all team-mates. Ten year Pirate Bob Veale came up the same year as Stargell. In 1964, when the two Bobs - of opposite skin color - best overlapped as a duo, they finished 2nd in the league behind only Koufax and Drysdale in strikeouts.


Face didn't quite make the 15 year list, but had the longest tenure of any relief pitcher until Trevor Hoffman and now Mariano Rivera, who is just passing him. Friend and Face have the longest tenure of a starter and a reliever together.


Cubbies of the 60s and early 70s


The 60s had two other teams which kept a large nucleus of players together for a long time. The Cubs brought both Billy Williams and Ron Santo up for good in 1960 joining Ernie Banks as the three stars of the team. Middle infielder Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger were both rookies in 1965. Catcher Randy Hundley and pitcher Bill Hands were traded for to start the 1966 season, which was Ken Holtzman's first full year. The Cubs traded for Ferguson Jenkins in April. This group of nine stayed together until Banks' retirement and Holtzman's trade to Oakland after the '71 season. Bill Hands lasted one year longer. Santo, Beckert, Hundley, and Jenkins were purged in a barrage of trades after 1973. Williams was gone after '74, and Kessinger after '75. As Banks lost his impact, this group of nine didn't give Williams and Santo enough support to be above .500 until 1967, when Jenkins went from reliever to pitching ace. Though, they were winners for the next 6 years, they never won more than 92 games in one season or finished higher than 2nd place.


Tigers of the 60s and early 70s


At the same time over in the A.L. were the Detroit Tigers, who in 1960 added Norm Cash to a line-up that featured their iconic superstar Al Kaline. Although, this was Cash's first full season and Kaline's seventh, Cash was actually a month older than Kaline. Dick McAuliffe was a rookie in 1961. Mickey Lolich, Bill Freehan, Don Wert, and Gates Brown were all rookies of the class of '63. Denny McLain came up in '64, Willie Horton and Jim Northrup in '65, Mickey Stanley completed his graduation to the Majors in '66, and as did John Hiller in '67. That is 13 players: 5 outfielders, three infielders, a catcher, two starters, and a reliever all lasting an impressive amount of years together. Take away McLain & Wert who were traded in 1970 and Hiller the last comer of the group, you still have a Detroit 10 who played together longer than the Chicago 9. They all made it through the 1973 season after which McAuliffe was traded to Boston (he is a New Englander) for Ben Oglivie. Cash, Kaline, and Northrup finished their Tigers careers in 1974. Lolich and Brown were gone a year later, Freehan hung it up after '76 and Horton was traded after one game in 1977. After '78 Stanley retired leaving only John Hiller from the Tigers' championship year of '68. They won 103 regular season games in '68 and won over 90 games in '67, '69, and '71. Detroit finished in first place the strike season of 1972 and came very close to taking the Division Series that year against the eventual World Champion A's.


The Big Red Machine


A.k.a. the Cincinnati Reds of the mid 70s had a core of long-timers on it. Pete Rose moved from position to position as Reds' 16 year fireplug from 1963 to 1978. Tony Perez joined the Reds two years later and left one year earlier for a 13 year marriage. In 1967, a 19 year old rookie Gary Nolan led the staff in ERA and innings and remained with the Reds except for rehab work for over 10 years. Like Rose, Johnny Bench also lasted 16 years with the Reds (plus a month 9/'67 - 1978). Dave Concepcion lasted the longest - a year shy of 20 years (1970-1988). It was when Concepcion took over as the Reds' shortstop, the team gelled and won their first pennant. Clay Carroll on the Reds from '68 to ''75 was already a major part of their pen, while Pedro Borbon took until 1972 to establish himself as a reliable part of their incredible relief corps up through 1978. The Reds took another large step to excellence in '72 as a result of some excellent trades. Three prominent members of the most dominant '75-'76 Reds came in one trade with the Astros: Hall of Fame second-baseman Joe Morgan, the most durable of the Red Machine's starters: Jack Billingham, and Gold Glove winning center-fielder Cesar Geronimo. The only player the Astros received close in value to the least of those three was Lee May. The rest the package going to Houston didn't even add up to the value of Denis Menke who the Reds also received. The next winter the Reds ripped-off Fred Norman from the Padres. Between September of 1973 and September 1974, the Red Machine called up for good the rest of it necessary parts: George Foster (3 top three MVP finishes plus a fourth at no. 12), Ken Griffey (batted over .300 eight times and the only player to have "Senior" added to his name while he was still active), and relievers extraordinaire: Will McEnaney and Rawley Eastwick.


This group (all of the above except Menke) won 108 games and the World Championship against an outstanding Boston team in 1975, then returned in 1976 with 102 wins and a perfect sweep through the post-season. The Red Machine was completely dismantled by 1981 except for two parts: Bench and Concepcion. That year Bench was moved to first-base and then on to third-base for his last two seasons. Concepcion continued as the Reds shortstop until August 1986 then moved over to second-base to make room for a rookie named Barry Larkin.


Passing the torch


Although, Harry Heillman replaced Sam Crawford in Detroit's rightfield, Lloyd Waner replaced Max Carey in Pittsburgh's centerfield, Mickey Mantle replaced Joe DiMaggio in the Bronx's centerfield, and Carl Yaztrzemski replaced Ted Williams in Boston's leftfield and was in turn more or less replaced by Jim Rice, outfielders get moved more often than infielder - often to another outfield spot, sometimes to first-base or DH. Each of those outfielder strings had one of its components playing a different outfield position than their usual for most of a year during the middle of their reign. However, if you count outfield as one position, the Pirates centerfielders of 1911-1940 take the award for longest incumbency by just two players.


Otherwise, the team and single position with the longest time held by only two regulars is Cincinnati shortstop. From 1970 to 2004 - that is 35 years! - that job was held Dave Concepcion or Barry Larkin. This clobbers Baltimore shortstop '68-'96 (29 years) a position primarily claimed each of those summers by just Mark Belanger or Cal Ripken. Belanger did not quite hand over shortstop directly to Ripken, however. For the first three months of 1982, Baltimore shortstop was the providence of utility infielder Len Sakata and an all field no hit rookie named Bobby Bonner. On July 1, Cal Ripken had played 4/5 of his minor league games at third-base, a mixture of short and third during his 23 game call-up the previous August, but started every game at third-base up to that point of the 1982 season. Earl Weaver moved the 6'4" Ripken to shortstop to give a power hitting rookie name Floyd Rayford a shot at third-base. Rayford lasted a week, but Ripken stayed at shortstop for the next 14½ seasons.


Most seasons one position held primarily by just two players:


40 Pittsburgh OF Max Carey       1911-1926  Lloyd Waner      1927-1940

35 Cincinnati SS Dave Concepcion 1970-1986  Barry Larkin     1987-2004

31 Yankees    OF Joe DiMaggio    1936-1951  Mickey Mantle    1952-1966

31 Red Sox    OF Ted Williams    1939-1960  Carl Yastrzemski 1961-1969

29 Baltimore  SS Mark Belanger   1968-1981  Cal Ripken       1982-1996

27 Detroit    OF Sam Crawford    1903-1915  Harry Heillmann  1916-1929



The Great Infielder Era


Just by looking at the 15+ year list, one can see the decade from 1972 to 1982 was the most bountiful in the development of outstanding and loyal infielders - of the shortstop, second and third-base variety. Take away the loyalty part of it, probably no other ten year span produced as many outstanding all-around infielders. Mike Schmidt was a rookie two years before George Brett and the two of them may have passed Mathews as the greatest third-basemen ever. Robin Yount and Frank White came along at the same time as Brett. White and Brett edge out Biggio and Bagwell as the longest lasting pair of team-mates on any expansion team (<16 years).


Second-base great Bobby Grich's first full season was 1972.


Buddy Bell and Toby Harrah were outstanding third-basemen whose careers were split in half at their prime by being traded for each other. Bell a rookie in '72 was traded by Cleveland to Texas for Harrah, who misses this criterion by a year. He was a rookie with the New Washington Senators soon-to-be Texas Rangers in 1971.


It was in 1973 that the longest lasting infield of all-time gelled (and no others are close): Around the Dodgers' horn were Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Dave Lopes, and Steve Garvey. Together the four of them played as an infield unit for 8½ seasons making it to the World Series four times and winning it once. Joining them during that reign was catcher Steve Yeager.


The Dodgers' rivals in three of those World Series were the New York Yankees whose keystone was manned by six time all-star Willie Randolf for 13 years '76-'88 before signing with the Dodgers as a free agent.


Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker are discussed below. Their rookie season was shared with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor: 1978. (Whitaker won the official Rookie of the Year award, but The Sporting News awarded Molitor.) Yount and Molitor were team-mates for the duration of Molitor's 15 year career in Milwaukee 1978-1992.


Third-baseman Bob Horner took the honor more decisively in the National League and continued to pound NL pitchers for the Braves when healthy for 9 years until his injuries become insurmountable. The runner-up Rookie of the Year in the N.L. in '78 was yet another infielder - yet another Hall of Famer: Ozzie Smith. Although, Smith was a Padre for only four years, he was a Cardinal for 15.


By the way, the no. 3 finisher in the AL ROY in '78 was not Trammell, it was Angels third-baseman Carney Lansford who played three years for California, two for Boston, and ten for Oakland. Lansford's excellence was under-noticed. He was outstanding defensively and averaged an 11 % higher O+S than average over his 15 year career - a figure largely dragged down by injuries in four of his last five seasons.


Finally, 1982 was the rookie season for three more Hall of Fame infielders: Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, and Ryne Sandberg. Ripken was the ROY that year, Boggs finished third behind first-baseman Kent Hrbek, but ahead of third-baseman and team-mate Gary Gaetti who had an 18 year career in the Majors. I think of Gaetti as a Twins lifer, but he played only the first half of his career in Minnesota. In the National League, Sandberg finished way down in the voting. The top two vote getters were five time all-star second-baseman Steve Sax and career .290 hitting second-baseman Johnny Ray.


Whitaker and Trammell


The two infielders who have played the longest together are Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker and no others are close. They were called up together and even played their first game together on September 9, 1977. Trammell lasted only one more year than Whitaker who retired after 1995. That is over 18 years together. Neither infielder played for another team. Both accumulated what are generally considered borderline Hall of Fame credentials. In fact, their career hitting stats and Gold Glove counts are incredibly close with a slight edge in both career OBA and career SlgA to Whitaker who played the slightly less scarce position. Trammell and Whitaker weren't just the infielders who played the longest together as team-mates, they are the longest lasting pair of team-mates at any position.


P.S.: Tom Brookens was a utility infielder and periodic starting third-baseman for Trammell and Whitaker for 10  of those years ('79-'88). Jack Morris - another borderline Hall of Famer had his first full season the same year as Whitaker and Trammell as well as 8 time All-Star catcher Lance Parrish. The four of them lasted 9 full seasons together ('78-'86). Outstanding no.2 starter Dan Petry was a rookie a year after this bunch (along with Brookens) and stayed with Detroit one year longer than Parish. Kirk Gibson came up in September of that year and also lasted through 1987. That's six home grown Tiger team-mates over the 9 years '79-'87. Chet Lemon and Larry Herndon joined the team via trades in 1982. Part time players Johnny Grubb and Dave Bergman joined the team in 1983 and 1984. Darrel Evans was Detroit's first major free agent purchase also in 1984. These eleven are the Tigers who were on both the '84 Championship teams and the '87 best W-L record during the regular season baseball team.



any two  Lou Whitaker & Alan Trammell   Det. 9/77 -      1995    



1-2-S-3B Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey Dodgers 6/23/73 -      1981

2B-SS-3B D.Lopes-B.Russell-R.Cey  Dodgers    1973 -      1981

2B-SS    Lou Whitaker – Alan Trammell Det.   9/77 -      1991 +95

1B-2B    Lou Gehrig – Tony Lazzeri  Yankees  1926 -      1937

SS-3B    Lou Boudreau – Ken Keltner Cle.   ?.1939 -      1949



any 2    Paul & Lloyd Waner      Pittsburgh   1927 -   e. 1940

any 3    Kaline-Brown-Horton     Detroit  late ‘64 -      1974

any 4  Kaline-Northrup-Horton-Brown  Det. late ‘64 –  late ‘74

5 Kaline-Northrup-Stanley-Horton-Brown Det. l. ‘65 –  late ‘74

RF-CF-LF Clemente-Virdon-Skinner Pittsburgh   1957 -      1962/63

RF-CF-LF Evans-Lynn-Rice         Red Sox      1975 -      1980

RF-CF-LF Hooper-Speaker-Lewis    Red Sox      1910 -      1915

RF-CF-LF Kaline-Stanley-Horton   Detroit   1967/68 -      1972



SP & C   Warren Spahn – Del Crandall Braves   e.49 -      1963

SP & C   Red Farber – Ray Schalk White Sox    1914 -   e. 1927


Pitching Mates

any 2 P John Smoltz & Tom Glavine   Braves    mid 1988 -     2002

2 SP    Hal Newhouser & Dizzy Trout Detroit  late 1939 – mid 1952

SP-SP   Don Drysdale & Sandy Koufax Dodgers   mid 1955 -     1966

SP-RP   Bob Friend & Roy Face       Pittsburgh    1955 -     1965

2 SP    Red Ruffing & Lefty Gomez   Yankees  late 1930 -     1942

2 SP Tommy Bridges & Schoolboy Rowe Detroit       1933 –  e. 1942

SP-RP   Mickey Lolich & John Hiller Detroit     e.1967 -     1975

SP-RP Mike Mussina & Mariano Rivera Yankees       2001 -     2008


I'll shut up now and let you figure out the list above and ponder your own tangents. I've already started working on the top franchise for each position. In other words, obviously Boston is the top franchise for left-fielders with one Hall of Famer after another since 1939. Even Manny might make it there some day. The Yankees are the obvious choice for centerfield and Detroit with Crawford, Heillmann, Kaline, Gibson, and now Magglio Ordonez (if he gets out of his slump) for rightfield.


I've made a huge project looking for the most reliable statistical indicator of a position player's future success besides age/level. I also need to tweak my study challenging the contention that minor league innings do not matter in regards to the Verducci effect (where pitchers increase their workload by too much at too young of an age.)


I'm looking forward to completing these projects, but request your patience as I will be taking some time off this summer.


John Carter