There are 32 teams in the NFL, 30 in MLB, 30 NBA teams, and 32 in the NHL. Some players spend their entire careers with one. Baseball Hall of Famer is a good example. Al Kaline played his entire 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers. However, some players are traded from team to team, and others who are dropped from one, sometimes end up with another.
One category of players who move often is journeymen. Journeymen athletes are good enough to stay in their league for many years, but not quite good enough to feature in any franchise’s long-term plans. Throughout sports history, there have been a handful of journeymen who bounced from team to team, never settling in one place. In fact, there are 10 players who suited up for a dozen or more teams in their careers.
To determine the player who played for the most teams, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Sports Reference family of sites on professional athletes who played for at least 12 NFL, MLB, NHL, or NBA franchises. Only players who made the active roster for a franchise were considered.
Of the 10 different players who have played for at least a dozen teams in their careers, five were in the MLB, four in the NBA, and just one in the NHL. No NFL player has ever suited up for a dozen teams.
Though being a journeyman player is not the most glamorous pro sports occupation, it is still impressive. The record holder played for 14 different MLB teams, meaning nearly half the teams thought he was good enough to be on their roster. This required consistency, longevity, professionalism, and adaptability, moving from Baltimore to San Diego to nearly a dozen other major cities over the course of 17 years. This long, winding career may never be equaled.
The player who played for the most teams was Edwin Jackson. Here are the details:
> Teams played for: 14
> League: MLB
> Career length: 2003-2019
No professional athlete in the modern history of the NFL, NHL, NBA, or MLB played for as many teams as Edwin Jackson, at 14. The pitcher made his MLB debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003 at just 19 years old. In 2006, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he also spent three seasons. Jackson was traded to the Detroit Tigers ahead of the 2009 season. There, he made his lone All-Star game, going 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA.
After the season, he was traded four times in 20 months, going from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Chicago White Sox to the Toronto Blue Jays to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he was part of their 2011 World Series-winning team. Beginning in 2012, Jackson signed a string of free agent deals, playing for the Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, Washington again, the Oakland A’s, a second stint in Toronto, and finally back to Detroit for a few games in 2019 to round out his career.
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