A few years ago, I did a blog post about veteran minor leaguer Cosmo Cotelle, who played for over twenty teams in a twenty year career without ever tasting even a cup of coffee in the majors. Cotelle played for ten different major league organizations and five levels of minor league ball from 1919 to 1940. Despite a lifetime aggregate batting average of .320 in the minors, Cotelle never got the call. He reached the highest level of minor leagues several times, but never made it that last step. This was not so unusual at the time, as there were only sixteen major league clubs, so about 400 total jobs. Once a player reached the majors he did anything to stay there, including playing hurt. With up to 300 teams in the minors, that meant as many as 7500 players competing for a handful cherished slots in the bigs.
In Cotelle’s case, it was a typical situation of a very good player perhaps not having that something extra to earn a look in the big leagues.
The pitcher Bill Sisler holds the record for most teams played for at an astounding fifty. But what is more interesting is that he seems to have been a lousy player whose main talent was talking himself into jobs. He never lasted more than a few games with any club, yet he continued to talk his way into new contracts. Sisler’s best record was 8-10 with the 1942 Staunton Presidents of the Class C Virginia League. It would be great fun to do an entire collection of the fifty caps worn by Sisler, though I’m not sure how big a market there would be. For more on Sisler check out Tim Hagerty’s column at The Sporting News.