Depending on your definition of “team,” Octavio Dotel will either break or tie the Major League record for most teams played for when he throws his first pitch of the 2012 season. Dotel signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Tigers this past December, joining his thirteenth different Major League franchise, something no man has ever accomplished before in baseball history.
Dotel is officially surpassing (but realistically sharing) a mark set by Matt Stairs, Stairs played for 12 different teams in 13 different cities – the first and last team he played for (Montreal and Washington) are officially considered to be the same in the eyes of Major League Baseball’s history people.
With this passing of the torch taking place during the upcoming season I thought it’d be a fun time to go back and take a look at all the different uniforms these two record-setters have worn in their years on a Major League diamond.
Matt Stairs began his Major League Baseball career at the age of 24 as an outfielder with the Montreal Expos in the 1992 season, just missing the chance to wear the famous tri-colour Expos caps by a single year. Part-way through the 1993 season the Expos sold Stairs, Mr. Baseball style, to the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League where he played out the remainder of the season before re-signing with the Expos for 1994.
A mere two months after re-signing with the Expos the team sold him once again ending his time in Montreal after only 19 career games for the team. Fortunately for Matt the Expos sold him to a slightly more desirable location than before – Boston. After spending the ’94 season with Boston’s AA club in New Britain, Stairs would suit up 39 times for the Red Sox during the 1995 season during which he hit his first career home run.
Another off-season and another change of scenery for Stairs as he signed on with the Oakland Athletics for 1996. It was in Oakland where Stairs really found his own, hitting 122 home runs over 5 seasons and even garnering some AL MVP votes in 1999. Just when it seemed as though Matt had found a team to settle down with the A’s began to shed salary and Stairs was shipped off to the Chicago Cubs following the 2000 season. Stairs never again played for a team as long as he played for Oakland.
The trade from Oakland to Chicago sent Stairs into a downward spiral of shuffling from team-to-team on a relatively quick basis over the next decade, right up to the end of his career. After 128 games with the Cubs in 2001 Stairs signed with the Milwaukee Brewers playing 107 games in 2002 before signing on with the Pittsburgh Pirates for 121 games in 2003.
Most players aged 36 and jumping from team to team would start to consider retirement, not our boy Matt, he was just getting started.
Two-and-a-half years of relaxing on the sunny, um, beaches (?) of Kansas City followed Matt’s run through four different cities in the previous four seasons. Stairs racked up 39 home runs in 330 games playing for the Kansas City Royals from 2004 through the trade deadline of 2006 before getting shipped off to the Texas Rangers.
Six weeks and 26 games later Matt was waived by the Rangers and plucked by the Detroit Tigers in time for their run toward the post-season. Unfortunately for Matt this transaction took place a couple of weeks AFTER the post-season roster deadline and he was not eligible to play for the Tigers in the World Series that year. Alas, after just two weeks and 14 whole games Matt’s time in Detroit was over.
Thirty-nine years old and still productive at the plate, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Stairs to a contract prior to the 2007 season completing his Canadian team-set collection. Matt saw a bit of a resurgence in his only full season in Toronto hitting .289 with 21 home runs. At the deadline in 2008, Stairs was traded away to the Philadelphia Phillies, ending his streak of consecutive American League teams played for at four. In Philadelphia, Stairs began his career as a pinch-hitter specialist even coming off the bench to launch a game-winning home run in the ’08 NLCS. It was in Philadelphia this season that Stairs won his one-and-only World Series title.
Following the 2009 season the Phillies opted to not re-sign Stairs and he joined up with the San Diego Padres playing 78 games in 2010 and hitting the last 6 home runs of his career.
Stairs made one last go for it in 2011 signing with the franchise it all started with, the Montreal Expos, now relocated and playing as the Washington Nationals. In August, after hitting just .154 through 56 games the Nationals released Stairs and he announced his retirement shortly thereafter, 13 teams and 12 franchises after it all began.
Stairs played for 6 American League teams, 7 National League teams, winning one World Series, and never appearing in an All-Star Game. When he retired at age 43 he was the all-time leader in pinch-hit home runs.
And that brings us to Octavio Dotel, who as mentioned earlier will be suiting up for lucky team 13 in April.
The difference between Dotel and Stairs? Dotel’s playing for his 13th team six-years younger than Stairs was… at this rate it would not be crazy to rule out Octavio making it to 20 teams before he calls it a career.
So you’ve heard about Stairs and Dotel and their gigantic jersey closets, what about the opposites? Those guys that didn’t have to look in the mirror to see which team they were suiting up for on any given day.
You’ve got your Carl Yastrzemski‘s, Brooks Robinson‘s, Robin Yount‘s – all guys who played 20+ seasons for the same team, but, this is a logo and uniform column, those guys changed uniforms a few times during the course of their career with those teams.
So, who played the longest with one team, with one consistant uniform design the whole time, home and road, cap, the same every year?
Well from my research it seems that the honour belongs to the great Mickey Mantle who played 18 seasons wearing the same uniform every time he stepped on the Major League field.
Like Stairs, Mickey’s record is also in danger heading into 2012 – courtesy of fellow New York Yankee Derek Jeter who will be suiting up for his 18th season wearing the exact same uniform, home and away:
They had some competition in this field, Mike Schmidt nearly took the crown but unfortunately for him the Phillies swapped the colour of their road greys, to powder blues in his 2nd and back again for his final seasons. Chipper Jones was a road cap brim colour change away from joining Jeter and Mantle at the top of this list.
One last oddity I decided to look up, most different uniforms with one team – now I’m not at all sure if this is the record, but it was the one that jumped to the top of my head right away. Tim Salmon.
Not only did Tim Salmon go through four major identity changes in his time with the Angels, he also went through three name changes, beginning as a member of the California Angels from 1992-1996, Anaheim Angels from 1997-2004, and finishing up his career as a Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim in 2005. I doubt you’ll see many other (modern) players with that distinction.