Stair-way to threadom: The most decorated ballplayer in history

Last week at Uni Watch, a reader speculated that Joe Smith — if that’s his real name — had worn 33 distinct uniforms in his NBA career, which now includes a record-tying 12 franchises for which he’s played. Paul Lukas declared those 33 different styles to be an NBA record and then wondered who might hold the same distinction in other leagues. I took that as a challenge.

Paul speculated that Mike Morgan, the pitcher who shares the MLB record with 12 teams in his career, or Kenny Lofton, who donned 11 clubs’ colors, might be baseball’s most uniformly decorated player. Not counting batting practice/Spring Training or minor league uniforms, I found 33 different uniforms worn by Lofton (including one documented throwback design) in 17 seasons and 39 by Morgan in his 22 years. (In his three seasons with the Diamondbacks, 2000-02, Morgan wore at least eight different designs. There was the 2000 home/road uniform, the new home/road unis in 2001-02 and various alternates and variations, like “Arizona” in purple, black and gray and the “A” in sleeved, sleeveless and black. I think that franchise has had more jersey designs in 14 seasons than the Yankees and Red Sox have had, combined, in their existence.) But neither Morgan nor Lofton top MLB’s list.

Matt Stairs blows them both out of the water. Since breaking in with the Expos in 1992, Stairs has equaled Morgan’s record by playing for 12 clubs and is trying to make his 13th this spring in Nationals camp [Update: It occurred to me while shoveling New Jersey’s latest snowfall that Stairs started his career with the Expos/Nationals franchise, so he wouldn’t set a record with his 13th club if he makes the team this spring, but he would still add to his uniform total.] With several uniform design changes, the proliferation of alternate jerseys and the rise in throwback nights, his clubs have sported 46 different jerseys — and there are probably a few (or several) throwbacks that we don’t know about. I’m comfortable giving Stairs the title.

The retro replicas included are basically because I happened upon them while looking for other photos, though the Padres’ 1984 and 1978 designs worn last year were easy to remember. If Stairs makes the Nationals, he’ll have four jerseys to add to his list, because in addition to home and road tops, Washington has red and blue alternates as well. That would bring his known total to an even 50.

So here’s the breakdown. Settle in for a trip down (or up?) the sartorial Stair-way.


Expos (1992-93): Home and road.
Red Sox (1995): Home (unable to find Stairs in the road uni).
A’s (1996-2000): Home, road, black alternate, green alternate.
Cubs (2001): Home, road, alternate.
Brewers (2002): Home, alternate (unable to find a road shot).
Pirates (2003): Road. Could not find photos of Stairs sporting the home white, black alternate or, sadly, the 1903 throwbacks (hey! Kenny Lofton! Plus, that 2004 date is wrong, because Boston and Pittsburgh did not play that year) worn against the Red Sox. [Update 2/23/11: Stairs was on the DL for that Pirates-Red Sox series, so it’s unlikely he wore the throwback uniform.]
Royals (2004-06): They changed their uniforms during Stairs’ Kansas City tenure, so we have 2004-05 home, 2004-05 road, 2006 home, 2006 road, blue alternate, black alternate and the Kansas City Monarchs throwbacks.
Rangers (2006): Home, home vest alternate, blue alternate, road vest. Couldn’t score a shot of him in the sleeved road jersey.
Tigers (2006): Home, road.
Blue Jays (2007-08): Home, 2007 road, 2008 road, light blue alternate, black alternate. It’s unclear if Stairs, a Canadian, ever wore the Jays’ red Canada Day alternates, because the club was on the road for the holiday both years. If they did, then add another jersey to Stairs’ total.
Phillies (2008-09): Home, road, alternate.
And the bonus: Team Canada in red and white from the World Baseball Classic.

2 comments on “Stair-way to threadom: The most decorated ballplayer in history

  1. In 2003, it looks like Stairs missed the entire Pirates-Red Sox series. If he was on IR, he may not have gotten to wear the throwback uni. OTOH, the Pirates may well have worn Negro League throwbacks at some point that season.

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