This week’s rankings, with a tip of the hat to Jamie Moyer, the last Baby Boomer to play in MLB, who became the oldest winning pitcher ever on Tuesday night. Jimmy Buffett said he was an over-40 victim of fate. Here’s 30 who were/are over-40 conquerors of their fate. At least temporarily. Previous rankings (4/13) in parentheses:
1. Texas (3): Jamie Moyer, isn’t the only over-40 lefty still getting big outs in the big leagues. Darren Oliver had his best season in 2011 for the Rangers at age 40, compiling a 2.29 ERA in 51 innings. Oliver is still getting outs out of the bullpen, this year for Toronto at age 41 (his ERA is 2.70 in his first 3.1 innings). The remarkable thing about Oliver isn’t that he’s still effective, but that he has a chance to be — from 1995 to 2004 his ERA, predominantly as a starter, was never less than 4.00, and littered with alarmingly high numbers — 5.73, 7.42, 6.02, 5.04, 5.94. After the Rockies released him in spring training of 2005, he missed the entire season. Oliver then became a subject as unlikely as a 49-year-old winning pitcher — an Omar Minaya success story. The Mets signed Oliver, made him a reliever, and his ERA hasn’t been more than 3.78 since. The last four years it hasn’t been higher than 2.88. Not coincidentally, Oliver’s teams haven’t missed the postseason since, and he’s played for three of them (Mets, Angels, Rangers). He might want to forget last year’s World Series, where his ERA was 11.57, which is higher than his career 4.60 mark.
2. Detroit (1): Life began at 40 in the major leagues for outfielder Chuck Hostetler, who was five months short of his 41st birthday when he debuted. Hostetler had retired from the minor leagues before he ever played in the majors. But everyone was a prospect in World War II, and the desperate Tigers signed Hostetler and he hit .298 in 1944. They brought him back for 1945, and both Hostetler and the Tigers probably wished they hadn’t. Hostetler hit just .159 in 44 at-bats during the season, but his real infamy awaited in the World Series. Hostetler pinch-hit in the seventh inning of Game 6 with the Tigers leading the Series 3-2 but trailing the game 5-1. Hostetler reached on an error, advanced to second and then was thrown out at home trying to score on Doc Cramer’s single when, according to wikipedia.org, Hostetler ignored manager Steve O’Neill’s order to stop. To make it worse, Hostetler fell and flopped before being tagged out; the Tigers scored two runs in the inning and eventually tied the game at 7 before the Cubs won 8-7. The Tigers, fortunately for Hostetler, won Game 7, but he never played again in the majors. Detroit News sports writer Joe Falls, 50 years later according to wikipedia: “If anyone symbolized the futility of wartime baseball — both in Detroit and America — it was outfielder Chuck Hostetler of the Tigers, the man who fell on his face in the 1945 World Series.”
3. Tampa Bay (2): Not everyone over 40 has been in the seats at Tampa Bay games (if everyone over 40 in the Tampa Bay area was in the seats, there’s be a lot more occupied seats). Hall of Famer Wade Boggs played his last two seasons for the Rays in pursuit of his 3,000th hit. He finally got it at age 41, in his last .300 season (only twice in 18 seasons did Boggs not hit .300 — at ages 39 and 40). Boggs’ 3000th hit was the last of his 118 career home runs — he and the Yankees’ Derek Jeter are the only players whose 3,000th career hit was a home run. Boggs finished with 3,010 hits, 164 after his 40th birthday.
4. St. Louis (4): Stan Musial went 2-for-4 in his final game in 1963, same as in the first game he played 22 years previous. “No improvement,” was the famous reaction of a sportswriter of the day. Musial was 42 that final season, and he hit just .255. But a year earlier, at age 41, Musial hit .330 and slugged .508, and finished 10th in the MVP voting. Musial was often overshadowed by the other great left-handed hitter of his generation, Ted Williams, and such was the case in 1958. As Musial hit .337 at age 37, Williams hit .388 at age 38. Musial won seven NL batting titles, the last in 1957, when he hit .351, slugged .612 (1.034 OPS) and finished second to Hank Aaron in the MVP voting.
5. N.Y. Yankees (6): Jim Kaat pitched little more than a season, and won just two of his 283 career games for the Yankees, but he broadcast their games for more than a decade over two different stints and won plenty of respect. Kaat earned it in his first career as well, pitching effectively for 25 seasons, until he was 44 — his ERA was 3.89 in 1983, his final season, as a lefty reliever for St. Louis. Kaat was primarily a reliever after his 40th birthday, winning 22 games, saving 12 and appearing four times in the Cardinals’ seven-game victory over Milwaukee in the 1982 World Series. The switch from the starting rotation probably cost Kaat 300 wins — he was at 261 after 21 years (1959-1979) predominantly as a starter. He won 18 games for the AL champion Twins in 1965, but lost Game 7 of the World Series to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers 2-0 (Kaat was gone three batters into the fourth); his best season was 1966 when he led the AL in wins (25), complete games (19) and innings pitched (304.2), and was fifth in the AL MVP voting (Kaat received no Cy Young Award votes, because there was only one awarded for all of baseball at that time, and everyone not named Koufax was shut out). Kaat was an excellent athlete — he hit 16 career home runs and won 16 straight Gold Gloves from 1962-1977 — the first 14 in the AL, the last two in the NL (only Greg Maddux, with 18, has won more).
6. Atlanta (13): Phil Niekro was the oldest pitcher to win his 300th game, not doing so until he was 46, one of 16 games he won for the Yankees in 1985. Of course, Niekro pitched until he was 48. He might have been the unlikeliest 300-game winner — when he celebrated his 40th birthday, he had just 179 wins. He won 121 games after that milestone (and lost 103). In 1979 he both won 20 and lost 20, finishing 21-20 for the Braves in 44 starts, completing a league-leading 23 of them. Niekro was 17-4 for the division-winning ’82 Braves, and won Gold Gloves in 1982 and 1983 — at ages 43 and 44. He led the NL in starts in 1979 and 1980 at ages 40 and 41, and won 16 games for the Yankees in 1984 and 1985, at ages 45 and 46. That didn’t satisfy the Yankees and owner George Steinbrenner — after re-signing Niekro for 1986, they released him in March. Two-hundred-and-sixty-eight of Niekro’s 318 victories were for the Braves; he pitched one last time for them at age 48 in 1987.
7. Washington (9): Deacon McGuire spent some of his best years playing for a 19th-century version of the Washington Senators that was much like the 20th-century version. Only worse. McGuire’s Senators, for whom he played from 1892 until traded in 1899, played to a .366 winning percentage, despite McGuire, their catcher, hitting .300 for four straight seasons. The Senators’ best season was 1897 when they finished 61-71. Mercifully, the Senators folded after 1899, only to return in 1901. By then McGuire was in Brooklyn, and he wound up a 26-season career at age 48, though his final four seasons included just token appearances. One of 29 players to have played in four decades, he played mostly for teams or nicknames that no longer exist: Brooklyn was the Superbas, Detroit the Wolverines, Philadelphia the Quakers, Cleveland the Blues, New York the Highlanders, Boston the Americans, and the Rochester Broncos, not the minor league Rochester Red Wings. McGuire hit .278 from 1884-1912, and most of the records he set (most games caught, 26 seasons played, most teams played for) have long been broken; his mark for most career assists for a catcher still stands, though sources differ on the number (either 1,835, 1,859 or 1,860).
8. L.A. Dodgers (11): Jack Quinn had been the oldest to win a major-league game, before Moyer made him “old” news. Quinn was 49 years and 70 days old when he came out of the bullpen for Brooklyn to beat Carl Hubbell and the New York Giants 2-1 in 10 innings on Aug. 14, 1932. It was the last of 247 big-league games Quinn won in a 23-year career (that total includes 35 in the Federal League in 1914-15). Quinn wasn’t done trying. Two years later, he won one final game, for the minor-league Hollywood Stars in 1934, at the age of 51. Quinn’s final four seasons were spent almost exclusively in the bullpen — only seven of his last 130 appearances were starts, but he led the NL in saves for the Dodgers in 1931 with 15 and 1932 with eight at ages 48 and 49. Quinn is still the oldest pitcher to have started a World Series game, pitching the first five innings at age 46 in 1929 for the Philadelphia A’s in their 10-8 Game 4 victory over the Cubs, though Quinn left trailing 4-0, which became as much as 8-0 before the A’s scored 10 runs in the seventh.
9. Toronto (7): Can a .272 career hitter with only one season of more than 180 hits get to 3,000? Probably not, but Omar Vizquel is still trying at age 44. Vizquel is at 2,842 and holding because he rarely plays for this year’s Blue Jays. But 357 of his hits and 34 of his 401 stolen bases have come after his 40th birthday. Vizquel hasn’t played regularly since 2007, and has averaged 267 at-bats over the last four. He may not get to 3,000, but he may get to Cooperstown.
10. Philadelphia (8): The 1983 Phillies were called the Wheeze Kids, only they weren’t kids. Three of them were ex-Cincinnati Reds, 40 or approaching it and semi-regulars. Joe Morgan had the most to do with the Phillies winning the pennant, perhaps because he was the youngest. Morgan turned 40 in the season’s final month, when he was at his best. He hit .337, had a .452 on-base percentage and hit five homers in the final month, a vast mark-up from his season totals: .230 average, 16 homers and 18 steals. Pete Rose turned 42 in April, and he played like it. Somehow he got 555 plate appearances in a season in which he hit but .245 and slugged just ,286 (remarkably, he walked 52 times and struck out but 28 times; he could put the ball in play, but not hard). Tony Perez, 41 in May, was better than Rose, but not much. Perez hit four points less (.241), but was a source of power (.371 slugging) compared to Rose (the unfortunate Len Matuszek wasted away behind the two Hall of Famers; Matuszek had 11 extra-base hits in 87 plate appearances, Perez 19 in 285 and Rose 17 in 555).
11. Arizona (6): The D’backs were in just their fourth season when 38-year-old Randy Johnson helped them win the 2001 World Series — winning both his starts and then relieving Curt Schilling in Game 7 and getting the final four outs the day after throwing 104 pitches to win Game 6. Ironically, Johnson’s postseason success was limited: he was 5-0 in 2001, 2-0 in his first postseason series with Seattle in 1995, but 0-9 otherwise. Johnson continued to pitch past his 46th birthday, and he had to to win 300 games. Johnson didn’t debut in the majors until he was 25, and he won just seven games in his first full season. But he was 24-5 at age 38, and he won 76 games after his 40th birthday to finish with 303.
12. Miami (16): Kunckleballer Charlie Hough was the starter for the Marlins in their very first game; he won that one and his next one, but was just 7-16 thereafter in 1993. Hough was 45 that year and retired at age 46 after 1994, winning 14 and losing 25 for the Marlins. That brought his final mark to 216-216, with a 3.75 ERA; Hough won 67 games after his 40th birthday. He pitched an AL-high 285.1 innings at age 39 in 1987, and he won 10 games or more for nine straight seasons for Texas from 1982-1990.
13. San Francisco (17): Hoyt Wilhelm didn’t make his major-league debut with the New York Giants until he was three months shy of 30 in 1952, but he compensated by pitching until he was nearly 50 years old. His last major league appearance was just 16 days shy of No. 50. Wilhelm started his career as a reliever — his first 321 and his last 441 appearances were out of the bullpen. In between he did both, going 11 innings for a no-decision in his first start, a 2-1 12-inning loss to Boston for Baltimore in 1958. He had his best season in 1959, when he made 27 starts for the Orioles, won 15 games and led the AL with a 2.19 ERA. Pitched in 1,070 games for nine teams over 21 seasons; made his only World Series appearance with the Giants, his original team, in their 1954 sweep of the Indians.
14. Chicago White Sox (21): Ted Lyons pitched only for the White Sox, and at the end of his career, extended it by pitching only on Sundays. Lyons became known as “Sunday Teddy.” But Lyons thrived — in 1942, his final full season, he was 14-6 with an AL-leading 2.10 ERA. After the season, he enlisted in the Marines and missed the 1943, ’44 and 45′ seasons. World War II might have cost Lyons 300 wins — he won 38 in the three years preceding the war and finished with 260. He won the last one when he returned in 1946 at age 45, and stopped pitching only when the White Sox made him manager. His career 3.67 ERA is the second-highest in the Hall of Fame, but other advanced metrics (a 118 ERA+, 58.8 WAR) make a case for enshrinement.
15. L.A. Angels (12): Tommy John was 31 in 1974 when he had the surgery that bears his name; it seemed unlikely that the best part of his career was ahead. But John won 164 games — more than half of his 288 — and made all five of his postseason appearances after the surgery. He had all three of his 20-win seasons after the surgery, and both of his second-place Cy Young Award finishes (1977 with the Dodgers, 1979 with the Yankees). John never got on the right side of the Dodgers-Yankees World Series battles — he was a Dodger in 1977 and 1978 when they lost, a Yankee in 1981 when they lost. That was no fault of John’s — he was 6-3 in the postseason with a 2.65 ERA and 2-1 in the Series. Forty-eight of John’s wins came after age 40, the first 20 of those in his two-and-a-half years with the then-California Angels. His last great year was 22-9 in 1980 for the Yankees at age 37. John pitched in 26 seasons and missed one — 1975, while recovering from the surgery; he threw his final pitch three days after his 46th birthday.
16. Colorado (20): Six easy steps: Jamie Moyer, who won his 268th game on Tuesday, was a teammate as a rookie of Davey Lopes on the ’86 Cubs; Lopes was a teammate as a rookie on the ’73 Dodgers of Jim Brewer; Brewer was a teammate as a rookie on the 1960 Cubs of Richie Ashburn; Ashburn was a teammate as a rookie on the 1948 Phillies of Schoolboy Rowe; Rowe was a teammate in his second year in 1933 of Goose Goslin, who was a longtime teammate of Walter Johnson, who won 417 career games, or 149 more than Moyer. Of course, Moyer isn’t done yet.
17. Cleveland (27): Satchel Paige was 42 when he debuted in the major leagues in 1948, thanks to the segregation that barred him during his best years. Paige was good that year no matter what the age, winning 6 of 7 decisions and compiling a 2.48 ERA for the world champion Indians. Paige became the first African-American to pitch in the World Series when he got two outs in Game 5. Paige pitched another season for the Indians and three more for the St. Louis Browns and won 12 games in 1952, when he turned 46. He pitched a final time in 1965 for the Kansas City Athletics, when he was 59, starting and throwing three shutout innings and retiring the last seven batters. He allowed only a Carl Yastrzemski double; Yaz, according to sabr.org, had once watched his father bat against Paige in a semipro game. Records of the Negro Leagues are incomplete, and Paige’s career major-league numbers — 28-31 and a 3.29 ERA — don’t do justice.
18. Baltimore (22): No one has pitched in more major league games than lefty reliever Jesse Orosco’s 1,252 — more than a quarter of them, 364, after his 40th birthday (it would have been more but for an elbow injury at age 43 in 2000, which limited him to just six games; he came back to pitch three more seasons). His 336 games for the Orioles from 1995-99 are second among his nine teams behind the 372 he pitched for the Mets, but it also indicates his specialization. For the Mets, Orosco pitched 595.2 innings from 1979-87 and saved 107 games; for the Orioles he pitched but 244.1 innings and saved only 11. Career numbers were a 3.16 ERA and 144 saves; in the postseason he won three games for the ’86 Mets in the NLCS and saved two with 5.2 two-hit innings in the ’86 World Series, including Game 7 when he was famously photographed celebrating the Mets triumph. A quarter of a century later, Red Sox fans like this one haven’t gotten over it. Maybe in another quarter century.
19. Milwaukee (10): No 20-game winner was older than Warren Spahn, who was 42 when he won 23 for Milwaukee in 1963 — the last of 13 20-win seasons. Spahn lost only seven that year, and one of those took 16 innings. Spahn pitched all of that entire game — 15.1 innings to be exact — until Willie Mays’ home run won the game 1-0 for Juan Marichal. That was one of Spahn’s league-leading 22 complete games — the seventh straight season Spahn led the NL in complete games, from ages 36-42. From 1957-1963, Spahn won 20 games every year but one; in 1962 he only won 18. Spahn had to pitch so well so long into his career to win 363 games because he didn’t win his first until he was 25, having lost 1943-45 to World War II. Spahn had 288 wins on the day he turned 40; he won 75 more and threw 76 complete games after.
20. Cincinnati (14): Pete Rose was 44 in 1985 when he broke Ty Cobb’s record for most career hits, but there was one sure way to stay in the lineup: he was the Reds’ player-manager. Rose could justify it. Sort of. He led the team in on-base percentage at .395, thanks mostly to 86 walks (vs. 35 strikeouts; he batted just .264), and his backup was 43-year-old Tony Perez, who hit .328 with six homers in 183 at-bats. Of course, Rose playing meant natural first baseman Nick Esasky played left field and up-and-comer Eric Davis played sparingly. But what’s a few altered careers in pursuit of an all-time record?
21. Boston (15): Carlton Fisk, who hit the most famous home run in Red Sox history, went to college on a basketball scholarship at his home-state University of New Hampshire. It’s a good thing he never grew bigger than 6-foot-3, because the Soxes — Red and White — might have missed the catcher who once caught the most games ever (since passed by Ivan Rodriguez). Fisk hit 72 of his 376 career home runs after he turned 40, and he was a Silver Slugger catcher, 15th in the MVP voting and an All Star after that birthday — all in different seasons. He caught 2,226 games in his 24-year career, and 473 of those came post-40. Fisk hit 19 home runs at age 40, and 18 each at age 42 and 43. He played his last game just six months shy of his 46th birthday.
22. N.Y. Mets (18): Julio Franco has probably played in more unusual places than anyone else, including New York. His passport includes stamps in Japan, South Korea, Mexico — he hit .437 in the latter in 2001, when he turned 43 late in the season. Debuted in playoffs with Cleveland at age 38 in 1996, then returned for six straight seasons from ages 43-48 for the Braves and Mets. Hit .309 in 320 at-bats for the Braves in 2004 when he finished the season 46 years old. Finished career with 2,586 hits, but 23-season career dropped his lifetime batting average under .300 to .298.
23. Seattle (23): Ken Griffey played past his 41st birthday, or long enough to be next to son Ken Griffey Jr. in the outfield. Griffey hit .282 in his final 100 at-bats in 1991, and hit .377 in his final 77 at-bats of 1990, after being united with his son in the Mariners’ outfield (Junior was 21, dad 40). Senior, on an 0-2 count, hit a two-run homer in the first inning on Sept. 14, 1990, and was congratulated at the plate by Junior, who was the next hitter. “That’s how it’s done, son,” said Senior, according to mlb.com. Junior took three balls and then homered off the unfortunate Kirk McCaskill, the only back-to-back home runs by father and son. The Angels came back to win, 7-5. The Mariners’ shortstop that night 22 years ago? The still-active Omar Vizquel, then 23.
24. Minnesota (25): It’s hard to believe anyone had a higher post-40 batting average than Sam Rice, who batted .321 after his 40th birthday, including .349 at age 40 in 1930 and two more .300 seasons. Rice retired at age 44 with 2,987 hits, although he didn’t get his first hit until he was 25 after dabbling as a pitcher in 1915-16 (1918 was lost to military service). Rice hit .300 12 times as an everyday player and never batted less than the .293 he hit in his final season for Cleveland in 1934, after playing 19 as a Washington Senator (that franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961). But it’s defense which Rice is best remembered for, despite a lifetime .322 average. Rice’s work in Game 6 of the 1924 World Series saved a 2-1 Senators’ win, according to sabr.org, but that was merely a prelude to his catch in Game 3 of the 1925 Series. According to his profile at sabr.org, Rice — just shifted from center field to right to start the eighth inning of Game 3 — ran down Earl Smith’s drive, backhanded it, fell over the temporary fence in right-center field and into the temporary seating there, falling out of view. After a long pause, Rice re-emerged and displayed the ball, and Smith was called out. For years after when Rice was asked if he caught the ball, his stock answer was: “The umpire said I did.” In a letter revealed after Rice’s death in 1974, he maintained, “At no time did I lose possession of the ball,” although even that meaning is debated. Regardless, the Senators held on to win Game 3, the Pirates came from 3-1 down to win the Series in 7 (sound familiar Orioles’ fans?) and Rice’s catch goes down with Dwight Evans’ in Game 6 of 1975 as one of the best ever. Rice was a 1963 selection for the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee.
25. Oakland (29): No one was more in awe of Rickey Henderson than Rickey Henderson, but with good reason. He was 44 when he took his last major league at-bat in 2003 — he tried for years to make one more comeback. At age 39 he led the AL in steals (66) and walks (118) for Oakland despite hitting just .236. He hit .315 for the Mets in 1999 at age 40, and someone must have had the same high opinion of Rickey that Rickey did: he played for five teams — Mets, Mariners, Padres, Red Sox and Dodgers — and stole 145 of his major-league best 1,406 bases after age 40 (he was caught 45 times). He hit just .233, .227, .223 and .208 in his final four seasons, but still walked 216 times in his final 1,278 plate appearances. Played for nine teams, one of them — the Athletics — on four different occasions.
26. Houston (26): Nolan Ryan won 71 games, threw two of his seven no-hitters and led either league in strikeouts four times after his 40th birthday. At age 42, in his first season with Texas, Ryan topped 300 strikeouts and threw 239 innings in 32 starts — more than seven innings a start. At age 40 for the Astros, Ryan led the NL with a 2.76 ERA and 274 strikeouts, and won just eight games (losing 16). Ryan was almost a 300-game winner and loser — he won 324 and lost 292 — and the career record-holder in walks allowed and strikeouts. One of four players the Mets traded for Jim Fregosi after the 1971 season; none of the players involved in the deal appeared in the majors after 1978, or 15 years before Ryan finally retired.
27. Pittsburgh (24): Tim Wakefield was the last active major leaguer to play on a winning Pittsburgh Pirate team (who knows how long it will before there’s another?). Wakefield played less than half a season as a 25-year-old rookie for the 1992 Pirates, but he had a full season of impact. He was 8-1 in 13 regular-season starts, and then won complete-game starts in Games 3 and 6 of the postseason. Wakefield was so effective in that NLCS it’s half a surprise he didn’t come on for Doug Drabek in Game 7 instead of Stan Belinda (who, yes, was squeezed by the home-plate ump, the late John McSherry). Wakefield played only two years for the Pirates and his final 17 for the Red Sox, for whom he won 49 games after 40 and 186 of his career 200 (180 losses). He was 45 when he finished his final season — a 7-8 2011.
28. Kansas City (19): The Royals were the last of eight teams Gaylord Perry threw the spitball for, going 4-4 at the age of 44. Perry won 314 games, though no one is sure how many of them were on the up and up and how many were soiled by his best pitch. He turned 40 when he finished his second Cy Young season, going 21-6 with the Padres in 1978, and he won 51 of his 314 games after he turned 40. For all Perry’s success, his teams had much less. He made one postseason appearance with the 1971 Giants. Perry’s brother Jim won 215 major league games; together the Perrys combined for 529 wins, trailing only Phil and Joe Niekro’s 539.
29. Chicago Cubs (28): Ted Williams may have hit .388 at age 38; the Chicago Colts’ Cap Anson hit .388 at age 42 in 1894. Anson had two more .300 seasons, hitting .331 at age 44 in 1896, and stopped playing after 1897 only because he was fired as manager. Anson was 45 when he played his final game. Anson retired with a .334 average and 3,435 career hits, although those totals were more difficult to accumulate with the shorter schedules of his day. Anson led the NL in 1881 with just 137 hits. Anson is in the Hall of Fame, and his innovations as manager are numerous, but he is often remembered for his role in perpetuating segregation in MLB. There is some debate as to the extent of the influence Anson had, and therefore the blame, but little as to his intent.
30. San Diego (30): Dave Winfield was drafted in three sports, but he apparently made the right choice. No other sport would have allowed him to become a star as quickly — he was 22 when he became a starter for the Padres without a day in the minor leagues — nor would have permitted him to continue playing until he was 43, as he did in 1995 with the Indians. Winfield became a champion for the first time at age 41 in 1992, when he helped the Blue Jays beat the Braves in 6. Winfield was born on the day of Bobby Thomson’s home run to beat the Dodgers, but if there was a shot heard round Winfield’s world, it probably had something to do with George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ owner he played for and feuded with. Winfield hit 59 of his home runs post-40.
sources: SABR.org, baseballreference.com, wikipedia.org, baseball-almanac.com, john-k-davis.suite101.com, jameslincolnray.suite101.com, mlb.com