There are certain players who, when you think of a team, you can’t help but think of that player wearing that uniform. There’s something about putting on that uniform every day that sticks in people’s minds. You’ll always be in that uniform … even if someday you wear somebody else’s.
Take, for example, Ryan Zimmerman, who announced his retirement Tuesday after a distinguished career with the Nationals that stretched back to the franchise's first season in Washington in 2005.
With that in mind, we take a look at the player on each team who has worn their team’s jerseys the most often: The player who has played the most games with each individual franchise. For franchises that moved over the years (think Nats, Dodgers or Giants), we included the leader for games played in their current location, while also noting the overall franchise leader.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Tony Fernandez, SS (1,450)
Runner-up: Carlos Delgado, 1B (1,423)
Fernandez actually played for seven teams in his career, but 12 seasons of his 17-year career came with the Jays; he edges out Delgado by 27 games. The Jays have several players on the roster right now, one suspects, they’d love to see pass Fernandez someday.
Orioles: Cal Ripken Jr., SS/3B (3,001)
Runner-up: Brooks Robinson (2,896)
The streak may have ended at 2,632 games, but Ripken actually played 3,001 games for the Orioles. Robinson is a lot closer to Cal than you might otherwise think.
Rays: Evan Longoria, 3B (1,435)
Runner-up: Carl Crawford (1,235)
Longoria is the only active player on this list, even though he left town four years ago. Fred McGriff, delightfully, is 10th on this list at 577 games .. right ahead of Desmond Jennings.
Red Sox: Carl Yastrzemski, OF (3,308)
Runner-up: Dwight Evans, OF (2,505)
For a team with as rich of a history as the Red Sox, it’s jarring to see someone with that much of a lead over second place. Of course, Yaz is second on the all-time games played list behind Pete Rose, but Yaz only played for one team.
Yankees: Derek Jeter, SS (2,747)
Runner-up: Mickey Mantle, OF (2,401)
Lots of huge names on this list, obviously, though Yogi Berra (2,116 as a player) passes Jeter if you count all the many games he wore the uniform well after his playing days were over.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cleveland: Terry Turner, INF (1,619)
Runner-up: Nap Lajoie, 2B (1,614)
A surprisingly unknown player for a team with such a long history, Turner played exclusively during the dead-ball era and finished his career with eight home runs. He had seven homers through 1906, and then hit one more in 4,958 plate appearances from 1907 through 1919.
Royals: George Brett, 3B (2,707)
Runner-up: Frank White, 2B (2,324)
Brett played two full decades for the Royals, from his age-20 season to his age-40. Did you realize he stole 201 bases in his career?
Tigers: Al Kaline, OF (2,834)
Runner-up: Ty Cobb, OF (2,806)
Kaline is one of the more underappreciated players in baseball history … but certainly not by Tigers fans.
Twins: Harmon Killebrew, 1B/3B/OF (1,939)
Runner-up: Joe Mauer, C/1B (1,858)
Killebrew also played a few seasons for the Senators before the club moved to Minnesota, so if you count his entire franchise total, he’s at 2,329, and then there are a bunch of Senators who would be before Mauer. But if we’re just looking at the Minny years, Mauer is No. 2.
White Sox: Luke Appling, SS (2,422)
Runner-up: Paul Konerko, 1B (2,268)
Appling was the all-time games leader when he retired, well earning his famous “Old Aches and Pains” nickname. As for Konerko, it’s easy to forget he actually debuted with the Dodgers and played part of two seasons in L.A. (and one in Cincinnati!) before landing on the South Side.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Garret Anderson, OF (2,013)
Runner-up: Tim Salmon, OF (1,672)
Anderson had injury problems late in his career, but his longevity is under-considered: He ended up with 2,500-plus hits, after all.
A’s: Rickey Henderson, OF (1,704)
Runner-up: Sal Bando, 3B (1,410)
We’re only looking at the Oakland years here … if we count the franchise’s time prior to moving to Oakland (including Kansas City and Philly), the answer is Bert Campaneris (1,795).
Astros: Craig Biggio, 2B/C (2,850)
Runner-up: Jeff Bagwell, 1B (2,150)
It’s probably fair to say that moving away from being a catcher helped to extend Biggio’s career a bit, yes? There is probably not another franchise with a more obvious top two than this one.
Mariners: Edgar Martinez, 3B/DH (2,055)
Runner-up: Ichiro Suzuki, OF (1,861)
Ichiro didn’t debut with Seattle until he was 27, so he’d be the clear leader here had he not spent his formative years playing in Japan.
Rangers: Michael Young, SS/2B (1,823)
Runner-up: Elvis Andrus, SS (1,652)
Young came that close to a World Series twice, but his 13 years in Arlington outlasted everyone.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Chipper Jones, 3B (2,499)
Runner-up: Dale Murphy, OF (1,926)
If you include all of Braves history, Hank Aaron (3,076 games with the franchise) is the runaway leader, but he spent much of his career with the Milwaukee Braves, and played in “just” 1,270 games in Atlanta.
Marlins: Luis Castillo, 2B (1,128)
Runner-up: Jeff Conine, OF (1,014)
I, like you, thought the answer would be Conine. He was 114 games short. Castillo actually leads the Marlins in (take a breath) games, at-bats, plate appearances, runs, hits, triples, stolen bases, caught stealing and sac bunts.
Mets: Ed Kranepool, 1B (1,853)
Runner-up: David Wright, 3B (1,585)
It’s still Ed! Wright’s injuries kept him from catching him. But because Kranepool spent so much time as a part-time player, Wright has way more plate appearances with the Mets than Kranepool (6,872 to 5,997) … not to mention a lot more hits, homers, RBIs, runs and pretty much everything else.
Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B/1B (1,799)
Runners-up: Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond (927)
The Nationals’ first Draft pick represented the franchise honorably for nearly two decades and now holds many of its most significant offensive records.
Reminder: We are only looking at the Washington years with the names above. If we include the Montreal years (pre-2005), the top 10 is all players who racked up their totals mostly with the Expos. We say “mostly” because of Jose Vidro (No. 6 on the list), who played in 1,186 games for the franchise, with 213 of those coming in Washington.
Phillies: Mike Schmidt, 3B (2,404)
Runner-up: Jimmy Rollins (2,090)
Believe it or not, Rollins actually had more at-bats than Schmidt with the Phillies (8,628 to 8,352), which can be attributed to Rollins almost always batting leadoff and walking a lot less often than Schmidt.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Robin Yount, SS/OF (2,856)
Runner-up: Paul Molitor, 3B (1,856)
We will all think of Yount every time we see that specific hat logo, forever. Bet you did not realize that he played in exactly 1,000 more games in Milwaukee than Molitor.
Cardinals: Stan Musial, 1B/OF (3,026)
Runner-up: Lou Brock, OF (2,289)
The Man set the precedent, and the example, for Cardinals baseball that the franchise attempts to live up to still today.
Cubs: Ernie Banks, SS/1B (2,528)
Runner-up: Cap Anson, 1B (2,277)
Mr. Cub played in three different decades at the Friendly Confines and, of course, never sniffed a World Series or postseason game. He’s the all-time record holder in most games played without ever reaching the playoffs, and it feels pretty safe that such a sad record will stand the test of time.
Reds: Pete Rose, 1B/3B/OF (2,722)
Runner-up: Dave Concepcion, SS (2,488)
Rose still tops this list despite spending time with the Expos and Phillies.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Luis Gonzalez, OF (1,194)
Runner-up: Paul Goldschmidt (1,092)
Gonzalez played 1,194 games for the D-backs, but it’s fair to say he’ll be remembered for one -- that walk-off in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series -- most of all.
Dodgers: Bill Russell, SS (2,181)
Runner-up: Willie Davis, OF (1,952)
Russell is not the guy you would have thought, right? The shortstop/outfielder played 18 years in Dodger Blue, and appeared in four different World Series. Of course, we’re only looking at the L.A. years here. If we count the franchise’s time in Brooklyn (prior to 1958), Zack Wheat (2,322 games) becomes No. 1.
Giants: Willie McCovey, 1B (2,256)
Runner-up: Willie Mays, OF (2,095)
The totals above include only the San Francisco years. If we include Mays’ seven seasons with the New York Giants (1951-57), he moves to No. 1 with 2,857 games played with the franchise, and Mel Ott -- who exclusively played for the New York Giants -- would be No. 2 at 2,730. McCovey’s entire Giants career came in San Francisco (he also spent some time in Oakland and San Diego).
Padres: Tony Gwynn, OF (2,440)
Runner-up: Garry Templeton, SS (1,286)
It speaks to Gwynn’s longevity and identity with this club that he has almost twice as many games played as No. 2 on this list.
Rockies: Todd Helton, 1B (2,247)
Runner-up: Charlie Blackmon, OF (1,269)
Helton's Hall of Fame case still feels like a referendum on how voters treat Colorado, and Coors Field. How many players is it going to take leaving the Rockies and continuing to hit well (Matt Holliday and DJ LeMahieu, to name two) for people to properly realize that great hitters like Helton are not simply Coors creations?