10 Longest-Tenured Players With One Team in MLB History

Cal Ripken Jr.
Cal Ripken Jr. / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

When Adam Wainwright retired recently it was widely noticed that he spent all 18 of his Major League seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. This was one more than Todd Helton had with the Colorado Rockies and two more than Felix Hernandez with the Seattle Mariners and Joe Mauer with the Minnesota Twins. But the modern player is just not in the same boat as some of the game's all-time greats, who could start playing with one team when they weren't old enough to shave and then stay there for over two decades.

Eighteen different players have put together 20-year tenures with a single team. Only 10 did it for 21-plus years. Below is a list of the longest-tenured players with one team in MLB history.

The takeaway? You have to be damn good to do something like that.

Willie Stargell
Willie Stargell / Rich Pilling/GettyImages

Willie Stargell, 21 seasons

This sweet-swinging first baseman debuted with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1962 and never wore a different uniform before ultimately hanging up the cleats following the 1982 season. A leading member of the We Are Family Buccos who captured two World Series in the 1970s, Stargell was a seven-time All-Star and won his only regular-season MVP award at the ripe ol' age of 39.

His 475 career home runs is good for 32nd on the all-time list and he was recognized for his efforts back in 1988 when he was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first eligible ballot.

Cal Ripken Jr., 21 seasons

The man who revolutionized the shortstop position first appeared for the Baltimore Orioles when he was 20 and last appeared when he was 40. In between he played 3,001 games, including 2,632 straight. Perhaps you've heard about this. It's a bit of a record.

Ripken was so much more than an iron horse, though. Just like Lou Gehrig, the man he passed for the the record, he was Hall of Fame in every way. He was a 19-time All-Star, an MVP, a World Series champion, a Gold Glover -- in fact it's probably a better use of time to say what he didn't accomplish than what he did.

Ted Lyons, 21 seasons

This righthanded pitcher broke through with the Chicago White Sox in 1923 and didn't bid farewell until 1946. He'd be at the top of this list had his career not get interrupted by three years of military service.

An under-appreciated resident of Cooperstown's hallowed halls, Lyons won 260 games during his long and illustrious career and flirted with 300 innings in multiple seasons, which is simply insane. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Walter Johnson, 21 seasons

Hey, speaking of not making them like that anymore ... Walter Johnson. The fireballer won 417 games for the Washington Senators, second-most in baseball history. A four-time MVP who won the pitching triple crown three times and the ERA title five, Johnson is arguably a top-five hurler of all time. Johnson was part of the Senators' 1924 World Series run and could have won more had his teams been any good. His 110 shutouts are almost impossible to believe.

George Brett
George Brett / Rich Pilling/GettyImages

George Brett, 21 seasons

With a lot of these guys, their names have become synonymous with a franchise. When you think about the Kansas City Royals, you think about George Brett — a fiery corner infielder who could hit as well as anyone over the past 50 years.

The lefthander was beloved during his time in KC from 1973-1993 and put together a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. He totaled 3,154 hits and 317 homers in those years, winning three Silver Slugger awards as well as three batting titles to go along with an MVP trophy and a World Series championship in 1985. An all-time MLB great and a historic franchise cornerstone for the Royals.

Mel Ott, 22 seasons

Mel Ott would probably be more memorable but he had the misfortune of playing across town with the New York Giants at the same time Babe Ruth was doing Ruthian things with the Yankees. But the outfielder took a backseat to few others as he starred with one club from 1926-1946.

When it was all said and done he'd hit 511 home runs and put up the 15th-highest WAR among position players in the game's history. Ott was also the first National League player to surpass 500 career home runs and earned the nod for a Hall of Fame induction in 1951.

Stan Musial, 22 seasons

Musial is the Cardinals. He spent 1941-1963 thrilling the local fans with his otherworldly hitting and statesmanship. The lefthanded slugger put together three MVP seasons and excelled in three Fall Classics while he was with the Redbirds.

Stan The Man's consistency was maybe the most impressive part of his body of work (along with being a necessary trait to appear anywhere near this list). He was a 24-time All-Star (two All-Star Games were played per year from 1959-1962) and earned a nomination every year from 1946 until the end of his career. His name rightfully lives on in baseball legend.

Al Kaline, 22 seasons

Kaline came to the Detroit Tigers as an 18-year-old and left as a legend after an insane run. At age 20 he hit .340 to win the American League batting crown and he barely slowed from there putting together a remarkable career. When it was all said and done, Kaline had 18 All-Star nominations, 10 Gold Glove awards, a World Series title, and a well-earned spot in the baseball Hall of Fame class of 1980.

He's another on this list that is inextricable from the team he represented — which is something to be missed.

Carl Yastrzemski
Carl Yastrzemski / Kathryn Riley/GettyImages

Carl Yastrzemski, 23 seasons

Tough name to spell and a tougher out, Yaz was a fan favorite in Boston from 1961-1983. His 18 All-Star Game nods stand along side batting titles, a triple crown and everything else a player could hope to accomplish-- a World Series title excluded, of course. Such are the downsides of playing for the Red Sox for that long pre-2004.

Through that lens, though, Yastrzemski was a true franchise player. It's easy to stay when the wins and championships are flowing. He helped the Red Sox to a lot of good, even great, seasons but was part of the many teams who never got to live in infamy after falling victim to the Curse of the Bambino. Still, his impact in Boston and on baseball as a whole is indelible.

Brooks Robinson, 23 seasons

Robinson's work at the plate was only eclipsed by his best-in-class glove and flair for the dramatic. The HOF third baseman is the second Baltimore Oriole on the list which suggests they are skilled at fostering such a relationship. He joined the team in 1955 and stayed until 1977, helping Baltimore along to two World Series titles and four AL pennants.

Robinson's individual accolades match up with others on this list. He was named an All-Star 18 times over the course of his career and earned an astounding 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards. Robinson's 1983 HoF induction was well-earned.