Pitchers With the Longest Careers

When I first decided to write this blog, the thought in my mind was to do the Top Six Pitchers with the Longest Careers.

However, after researching the topic, bringing the list down to only the six best pitchers with the longest careers was just too difficult.

After all, any pitcher that pitches for almost three decades has to be considered one of the best ever as if he wasn’t, he would not have lasted close to that long in the first place. When you see the list you will see what I mean.

While there are few true superstars on the list, I believe all of them have had stellar careers and deserved mention.

NOLAN RYAN

Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan pitched In the Major Leagues for 27 seasons from 1966-1993.

Nicknamed “The Ryan Express,” Ryan had a blazing fastball that approached 100 mph and flat out dominated hitters on his way to 5,714 strikeouts, an all-time record.

During four decades of dominance, he totaled 324 victories along with a host of Major League records including seven no-hitters, 12 one-hitters and a single-season record 383 batters in 1973.

Ryan pitched for four different teams during his career:

  • 1966-1971: New York Mets
  • 1972-1979: California Angels
  • 1980-1988: Houston Astros
  • 1989-1993: Texas Rangers

TOMMY JOHN

Tommy John pitched in the Major Leagues for 26 seasons from 1963-1989.

While not on the level of Ryan, John was a soft throwing lefty with a sinkerball that resulted in batters hitting ground balls and inducing double plays. John had a career record of 288-231 with a 3.34 ERA and 2,245 strikeouts.

In the middle of the 1974 season, John had a 13-3 record before he permanently damaged the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm, leading to a revolutionary new surgical operation which replaced the ligament in the elbow of his pitching arm with a tendon from his right forearm.

This operation is now known as Tommy John surgery and has furthered the career of many Major League pitchers.

John pitched for six different teams during his career:

  • 1963-1964: Cleveland Indians
  • 1965-1971: Chicago White Sox
  • 1972-1974: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 1975- Out of baseball due to surgery
  • 1976-1978: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 1979-1981: New York Yankees
  • 1982: New York Yankees and California Angels
  • 1983-1984: California Angels
  • 1985: California Angels and Oakland Athletics
  • 1986-1989: New York Yankees

JAMIE MOYER

Lefty Jamie Moyer is the only pitcher on this list that is still an active player and has pitched in the Major Leagues for 26 seasons.

On April 17, 2012, Moyer became the oldest pitcher in MLB history and he is currently the oldest active player in the major leagues at age 49. He will be 50 in November.

He has the most wins, losses, and strikeouts of any active Major League pitcher. As of the posting of this blog, Moyer has a career record of 269-209 with 2,441 strikeouts.

Moyer is one of only 29 players in baseball history to have pitched in Major League games during four different decades.

Moyer pitched for nine different teams during his career:

  • 1986-1988: Chicago Cubs
  • 1989-1990: Texas Rangers
  • 1991: St. Louis Cardinals
  • 1993-1995: Baltimore Orioles
  • 1996: Boston Red Sox
  • 1996-2006: Seattle Mariners
  • 2006-2010: Philadelphia Phillies
  • 2012: Colorado Rockies
  • Currently: Baltimore Orioles

JIM KATT

Lefty Jim Katt pitched in the Major Leagues for 25 seasons from 1959-1983. He has a career record of 283-237 with 2,461 strikeouts.

Kaat was a three-time All-Star and won the Gold Glove Award a record 16 consecutive times from 1962–1977. He is now second for career Gold Gloves by a pitcher behind Greg Maddux’s 18.

He is also one of the 29 players in baseball history to have pitched in Major League games during four different decades.

Katt pitched for five different teams during his career:

  • 1959-1973: Washington Senators / Minnesota Twins
  • 1973-1975: Chicago White Sox
  • 1976-1979: Philadelphia Phillies
  • 1979-1980: New York Yankees
  • 1980-1983: St. Louis Cardinals

CHARLIE HOUGH

Charlie Hough pitched in the Major Leagues for 25 seasons from 1970-1994.

Hough was best known for his “dancing knuckleball” pitch that he threw around 80% of the time along with a fastball and slider. Hough was also well known for throwing a lot of complete games and led the league in 1984 with 17.

He had a career record of 216-216 with 2,362 strikeouts and a 3.75 earned run average.

Hough pitched for four different teams during his career:

  • 1970-1980: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 1980-1990: Texas Rangers
  • 1991-1992: Chicago White Sox
  • 1993-1994: Florida Marlins

PHIL NIEKRO

Hall of Famer Phil Niekro pitched in the Major Leagues for 24 seasons from 1964-1987.

Niekro was also best known for throwing knuckleballs and his 318 career victories are the most in baseball history by a knuckleball pitcher.

He currently ranks 16th on the overall all-time wins list with a career record of 318-274 with 3,342 strikeouts and a 3.35 ERA.

Niekro pitched for four different teams during his career:

  • 1964-1983: Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves
  • 1984-1985: New York Yankees
  • 1986-1987: Cleveland Indians
  • 1987: Toronto Blue Jays
  • 1387: Atlanta Braves

STEVE CARLTON

Steve Carlton pitched in the Major Leagues for 24 seasons from 1965-1988.

Carlton, nicknamed “Lefty”, won four Cy Young Awards and has the second-most lifetime wins and strikeouts of any left-handed pitcher.

He is still the last National League pitcher to win 25 or more games in one season and the last pitcher to throw more than 300 innings in a season.

Carlton had a career record of 329-244 with 4,136 strikeouts and a 3.22 earned run average.

Carlton pitched for four different teams during his career:

  • 1965-1971: St. Louis Cardinals
  • 1972-1986: Philadelphia Phillies
  • 1986: San Francisco Giants
  • 1986: Chicago White Sox
  • 1987: Cleveland Indians
  • 1987-1988: Minnesota Twins

DENNIS ECKERSLEY

Dennis Eckersley, nicknamed “Eck”, pitched in the Major Leagues for 24 seasons from 1975-1998

Eckersley had success as a starting pitcher but became a Hall of Famer because of his accolades as a closer. He is the first of only two pitchers in Major League history to have both a 20-win season and a 50-save season in a career.

He had a career record of 197-171 with 2,401 strikeouts and 390 saves.

Eckersley pitched for five different teams during his career:

  • 1975-1977: Cleveland Indians
  • 1978-1984: Boston Red Sox
  • 1984-1986: Chicago Cubs
  • 1987-1995: Oakland Athletics
  • 1996-1997: St. Louis Cardinals
  • 1998: Boston Red Sox

ROGER CLEMENS

Roger Clemens, nicknamed “The Rocket”, pitched in the Major Leagues for 24 seasons from 1984-2007.

Clemens was one of the most dominant pitchers in major league history and used to intimidate batters with his hard-throwing pitching style.

He was an 11 times All-Star and won seven Cy Young Awards in compiling a 354-184 record, 4,672 strikeouts, the third-most all time and a 3.12 ERA.

Clemens pitched for five different teams during his career:

  • 1984-1995: Boston Red Sox
  • 1997-1998: Toronto Blue Jays
  • 1999-2003: New York Yankees
  • 2004-2006: Houston Astros
  • 2007: New York Yankees

JESSE OROSCO

Lefty Jesse Orosco pitched in the Major Leagues for 23 seasons from 1979-2003.

He holds the major league record for career pitching appearances with 1,252 career games pitched in, mostly as relief pitcher.

Orosco had a career record of 87-80 with 1,179 strikeouts and 144 saves.

He is also one of the 29 players in baseball history to have pitched in Major League games during four different decades.

Orosco pitched for five different teams during his career:

  • 1979, 1981–1987: New York Mets
  • 1988: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 1989-1991: Cleveland Indians
  • 1992-1994: Milwaukee Brewers
  • 1995-1999: Baltimore Orioles
  • 2000: St. Louis Cardinals
  • 2001-2002: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 2003: San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins

With the wear and tear that pitching a baseball takes on throwing arms, it is amazing that there have been players that have pitched in the Major Leagues for close to 30 years and this does not include the many years they pitched in the minor leagues, college, high school and little league.

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