In modern-day professional sports it seems as if loyalty to one organization for the duration of a single career is nothing but a memory. However, with the season-long swan song of Atlanta Braves stalwart Chipper Jones coming to a conclusion, much thought has been provoked in many fans’ minds about how rare and special a player staying with one team for his entire career really is.
Since the free-agency era, there have only been a handful of major-league players who have remained with one team for the entirety of their career. As each decade passes, that number dwindles lower and lower.
Here are the top 10 players since 1990 to play with one team from start to finish:
1. Cal Ripken, Jr. – Baltimore Orioles (1981-2001): What is there to write about the legendary Cal Ripken, Jr. that has yet to be written? Ripken spent 21 seasons in Baltimore where he not only won a World Series but also won two AL MVP Awards, two Gold Gloves, AL Rookie of the Year, and was named to 19 All-Star games. Over those 21 years, Ripken amassed 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, and a career average of .276. In addition to the above accolades, Ripken most notably reached the unreachable star by not missing a single game for 17-straight years. Each and every one of the 2,632 consecutive games speaks for itself and, that alone, places Ripken in baseball lore for eternity. In 2007, “The Ironman” was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
2. Derek Jeter – New York Yankees (1995-present): For nearly 20 years, Derek Jeter has had the burden of being the face of the most prominent franchise in all of sports, and he has exceeded all expectations in the process. Thus far, Jeter has won five World Series rings, a World Series MVP, and AL Rookie of the Year. He has13 All-Star game appearances and five Gold Gloves. Even at age 38, Jeter shows no signs of slowing down and as each day passes, he continues to add to his Yankee-record 3,296 hits. Over the past 18 seasons, Mr.November has pieced together a legendary career that can be matched by, few and the fascinating thing about it is that Jeter’s legend is still growing as we speak. Although nothing in baseball is guaranteed, it is fair to assume that Derek Jeter will never wear another uniform other than Yankees pinstripes, and he will surely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when his time comes.
3. Tony Gwynn – San Diego Padres (1982-2001): When the California-born Gwynn was selected out of San Diego State University in the 1981 MLB draft, it was only fitting that the team to select him was the San Diego Padres. Twenty seasons, eight batting titles, seven Silver Sluggers, five Gold Gloves, and 15 All-Star selections later, Gwynn crafted a career of historical significance in San Diego that is simply unparalleled. In 2007, Gwynn was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
4. George Brett – Kansas City Royals (1973-1993): Whether it be delivering Kansas City’s only World Series title, an AL MVP Award, an astounding 3,154 hits, or his 13 All-Star game nods, it can be said that George Brett literally did it all during his 21 seasons in Kansas City. His greatness was further cemented in 1999 when Brett was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
5. Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees (1995-present): There is simply no introduction necessary for this man. As it stands, Mariano Rivera is currently the all-time saves leader with 608. Couple that record with his countless postseason performances and accolades, and he has emphatically solidified his legacy as the best closing pitcher in history. Thus far, Rivera has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, and there is no reason to believe he will not finish his Hall of Fame career in the Bronx if he decides to continue on for another year.
6. Robin Yount – Milwaukee Brewers (1974-1993): At the age 18, Robin Yount stepped onto a major-league diamond for the first time wearing a Milwaukee Brewers uniform and, like everyone on this list, he would not remove it for his entire career. Although he was only named to the All-Star game three times, he won two AL MVPs, three Silver Sluggers, a Gold Glove, and compiled an impressive 3,142 hits. In 1999, the Milwaukee all-time hits and home runs leader was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
7. Chipper Jones – Atlanta Braves (1993-2012): There is a certain amount of pressure put on a player drafted first overall, and Chipper Jones dealt with the pressure like any future Hall of Fame third baseman would. In the 1999 season, Chipper took his game to the next level when he won the NL MVP and his first of two Silver Sluggers. Factor in his 2,724 hits, 468 home runs, .304 batting average, a World Series ring, an NL batting title, and eight All Star nods, and it becomes rather easy to see why Chipper Jones will have a plaque in Cooperstown one day.
8. Barry Larkin – Cincinnati Reds (1986-2004): A Cincinnati native, it is no secret as to why legendary Reds shortstop Barry Larkin is revered by the city. Being a hometown kid playing for the hometown team must be a dream come true for any player, but Larkin took this dream to new heights during his 19 years with the Reds when he parlayed his talents into an NL MVP Award, 12 All-Star game selections, and nine Silver Sluggers. In 2012, Larkin was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
9. Craig Biggio – Houston Astros (1988-2007): During his 20 years in the Houston Astros organization, Craig Biggio was widely considered to be one of the best second basemen in the majors. With his 3,060 hits over that time, Biggio ranks 21st all-time in career hits and is considered by many pundits to be an eventual Hall of Famer.
10. Edgar Martinez – Seattle Mariners (1987-2004): Often regarded as the best designated hitter in history, Edgar Martinez spent his entire career in Seattle where he changed the way we looked at the designated hitter position. With two AL batting titles, five Silver Sluggers, and seven All-Star game selections to his name, Martinez quietly put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career in Seattle. I would be remiss if I left out Edgar’s most memorable moment in his 18-year career: his mythical performance in the 1995 ALDS against the New York Yankees and what has since been called “The Double.”
Honorable Mentions: Jeff Bagwell (Houston Astros), Todd Helton (Colorado Rockies), Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Jorge Posada (New York Yankees)
Benjamin Hanes has lived in Atlanta for the past 23 years where he has been a constant observer of all Atlanta sports.