?The 50 Best Old Guys in Sports History?

Zack Pumerantz@z_pumerantzAnalyst IIIApril 30, 2012

‪The 50 Best Old Guys in Sports History‬

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    Age is the art of making excuses, a subtle word that describes an exhausted, possibly lethargic mindset.

    But just look to the world of sports for motivation, for inspiration from athletes who continue to defy the wrinkly label that has prevented so many elders from further prosperity. 

    So maybe elderly is a stretch, but with 49-year-old southpaw Jamie Moyer still going strong with his eighth team (the Rockies), we're ready to look at others who conquered their aging natures and remained dominant forces on the athletic scene.

    Grey hair and chest-high trousers didn't tarnish these careers, and for that, we're here to pay our respects. 

    Dinner, crankiness and moth balls all before 4 p.m. Classic.

50. Julio Franco

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    While never a superstar, Julio Franco used a muscular physique and obtuse batting stance to become a steady mainstay at first base for 23 years.

    But considering he hit .309 at the age of 45, it's clear nothing other than Franco himself was going to slow the multi-talented Dominican down.

49. Tony Gonzalez

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    While his last 1,000-yard season came at the age of 32, tight end Tony Gonzalez continues to chip away at records and produce solid contributions at 35 years old.

    With 875 yards, seven touchdowns and a studly collection of one-handed catches last season, the former Cal product doesn't seem anywhere close to slowing down.

48. Chris Chelios

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    When he was called up to the Thrashers during the 2009–10 season, NHL defenseman Chris Chelios became the oldest active player in the NHL at 48.

    But age didn't hinder Chelios' physicality, as he consistently occupied leadership roles for the illustrious Red Wings during his "decline". 

    At 40 years old, the ageless wonder ironically had a plus/minus of plus-40. To put that in perspective, this year's league leader had a plus/minus of plus-36 (Patrice Bergeron).

47. Barry Bonds

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    Performance-enhancing substances have seemingly clouded a once-historic career, although Barry Bonds' unfriendly persona didn't quite open the door for forgiveness.

    But let's not forget the slugger's 73 home runs at 36 years old and 40-plus during the next three seasons.

    More powerful with age, Bonds left a sour taste in the mouths of fans as he simultaneously brushed baseballs over McCovey Cove and alienated society.

46. Jeff Feagles

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    With a record 352 consecutive games played, Jeff Feagles beat the odds and made his status as aging punter something to be proud of.

    An innate ability to place the pigskin right in front of the end zone (within the 20-yard-line) made Feagles an integral part of any game.

    The wrinkles may blossom, but the leg never fades.

45. Al MacInnis

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    With 16 goals and 52 assists at the age of 39 (what would be his final full season), defenseman Al MacInnis showed fans that his historic slap shot was still flourishing.

    But let's not forget his first Norris Trophy at 36 years old and his Olympic Gold Medal with Canada's national hockey team at 39.

    An eye injury would force him to retire the following year, but MacInnis was far from finished in regards to talent.

44. Randy Couture

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    A pioneer in the popularization of the UFC, Randy Couture holds the distinction as the only person over the age of 40 to have won a UFC championship fight (completed four times).

    But even more memorable is the fact that Couture is the only athlete in UFC history to win a championship after entering the Hall of Fame.

    He is not to be messed with.

43. Lyle Langlois

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    He's run a marathon in every state, finished an Ironman and biked across the country four times. But that's just a warmup.

    In his early 80s, Lyle Langlois has only just scraped the edge of stardom as he competes for respect throughout the athletic realm.

    A true inspiration.

42. Tim Duncan

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    Putting up 15.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as a 35-year-old is no easy feat, and for Tim Duncan, it's just another team-oriented, flash-less, successful year in the books.

    The four-time world champion has yet to be concerned with impressing viewers. The old man just continues to get the job done.

41. Ben Hogan

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    Twelve PGA Tour wins (including six majors) after a near-fatal accident in 1949 left Ben Hogan fans shocked and amazed.

    Well into his 40s, the legendary golfer was still dominating the green. 

    Winning the 1953 British Open Championship, and in turn becoming just the second player to win all four of the modern major championships, capped a brilliant tenure.

40. Maurice Richard

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    After scoring 33 goals at age 35, historic goal scorer Maurice "The Rocket" Richard found himself tailing off a bit.

    But that didn't stop him from recording 17 goals at the youthful age of 37 and 19 the following year. 

    Setting a standard for future geezers.

39. Scott Stevens

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    Winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2000 (at 36 years old) was only an appetizer to Scott Stevens' late-career success.

    Always a hard-hitting defensive force, Stevens was a durable captain and lethal checker in leading the Devils to four Stanley Cup Finals appearances (winning three).

    The Hall was eagerly waiting.

38. Rickey Henderson

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    Sixty-six stolen bases at the age of 39 essentially detailed Rickey Henderson's 25-year sprint around the bases. He couldn't be stopped. 

    Nine teams from 1979 to 2003, and the Man of Steal shined on every one of them.

    A pure athlete, Henderson changed the game forever with his speed.

37. Mario Lemieux

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    Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Penguins great Mario Lemieux remained a top-notch animal with every return to the ice.

    Twenty-eight goals and 63 assists as a 37-year-old proved to fans he could still glide with his younger peers.

    But Lemieux wouldn't last much longer.

36. Morten Andersen

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    It's a bit strange to hear that the all-time leading scorer in NFL history is a kicker, but Morten Andersen's 25 years punching pigskins through goal posts can't go unnoticed.

    And with a career-best field goal percentage of 89.3 at the age of 47, Andersen was more of a fine wine than a football player.

    Better with age.

35. John Whittemore

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    Six weeks before his 105th birthday, John Whittemore became perhaps the oldest athlete on the planet when he threw the javelin and discus at a Masters Track competition.

    The athletic specimen still amazed us most with his comment regarding the potential achievement.

    "If I don’t drop it on my foot, I set a world record."

    Well said, John.

34. Herschel Walker

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    While he was a thick and vicious tailback during his NFL days, Herschel Walker earns this spot for his newfound role in the sports world.

    Sure it's still early, but Walker's record of 2-0 in as a mixed martial arts fighter is a bright start to a second career.

    And he hasn't ruled out a return to the NFL. Hmm.

33. Mark Messier

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    During his quarter of a century in the NHL, Mark Messier became a physical force to be reckoned with and helped end New York's 54-year Stanley Cup drought. 

    But his 24 goals at 40 years old and consistent leadership only improved his already-stellar reputation.

    While not a star towards the end of his career, Messier was the mortar that held his teams together.

32. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    A 19-time All-Star all the way up until his retirement and a back-to-back world champion the two years before leaving the game, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seemingly never lost a step during his prime on the court. 

    But even as he aged, Abdul-Jabbar recorded 17.5 points and 6.7 rebounds at 39, 14.6 and 6.0 at 40 and 10.1 and 4.5 at 41. A solid finish to quite the magical career.

    Those goggles were clearly his lifeline.

31. Wilfred Rhodes

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    After playing in 58 Test matches for England between 1899 and 1930, cricket superstar Wilfred Rhodes knew his time was winding down.

    The first Englishman to record both 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in Test matches, Rhodes played his final Test in 1930 at the exuberant age of 52 (the oldest to appear in one). 

30. John Stockton and Karl Malone

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    Killing two birds with one stone, short-short wonder John Stockton and Mailman Karl Malone flourished as quite the one-two punch in Utah for what seemed like several centuries.

    During their final seasons together on the Jazz, Malone recorded 20.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while Stockton tallied 10.8 points and 7.7 assists per game.

    Sturdy, efficient, lethal. What a tandem.

29. Teemu Selanne

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    Since scoring 76 goals in his rookie year with the Winnipeg Jets, right winger Teemu Selanne has remained a potent scoring threat, moments away from exciting fans with a vicious wrist shot.

    Thirty-one goals at age 40, 26 at age 41. The Finnish product has yet to be stopped.

    It must be the glamorous visor that keeps him young.

28. Paolo Maldini

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    Serie A Defender of the Year at 36 years old and Best Defender trophy at 39, the ageless Paolo Maldini had a glorious exit from the game when he retired at 41, still among the best in the game.

    The former Italian footballer put opposing youngsters in their place.

27. Mark Allen and Dave Scott

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    While he became the first six-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion, it was Dave Scott's return at age 40 in which he took second place at the Hawaii Ironman World Championships that had fans drooling.

    Only rival Mark Allen would match Scott's success, winning six Ironmans, the last coming in 1995 at age 37.

    A brutal Iron War between these two.

26. Darrell Green

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    A 4.43 40-yard dash at 50 years old headlined a quick and agile career for Darrell Green.

    The oldest cornerback ever to enjoy the gridiron (42 years old) and a four-time winner of the Fastest Man competition, Green can undoubtedly strap some pads on these days and chase down any scat back.

25. Kurt Warner

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    A rookie at 27 years old, a Pro Bowler at 28, a World Champion at 29. 

    A glamorous start, sure, but it was Kurt Warner leading the Arizona Cardinals to their first Super Bowl berth ever at the age of 37 that carved his legacy even deeper. 

    The former MVP may have retired, but he can still chuck it with the best of them...glove-clad of course.

24. Randy Johnson

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    16-14 with a 2.60 ERA at the age of 40 was the icing to quite the career for 6'10" lefty Randy Johnson.

    The Big Unit was dominant well into his late 30s before starting to become human in his mid-40s.

    But the intimidating southpaw was always ready to thrill the crowd.

23. Kelly Slater

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    While he does own the ASP world title a record 11 times, it's Kelly Slater's holding as the youngest (20) and the oldest (39) to win the title that has the surfing world in awe.

    Consistency is an understatement.

22. Grant Hill

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    While he never became the franchise-caliber superstar he was projected as after getting drafted third overall in 1994 out of Duke, Grant Hill built a quietly fantastic career for himself.

    Now the second-oldest player in the NBA (to Kurt Thomas) at 39, Hill's age hasn't put a damper on his efficient career.

    He has yet to dip below double-digit points per game in his 17 years.

21. Richard Petty

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    Sure he won the NASCAR Championship seven times, a record 200 races during his career and seven Daytona 500s, but Richard Petty was known best for his durability and consistency.

    Five hundred and thirteen consecutive starts from 1971-1989, every single one a must-see event.

20. George Foreman

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    Once a bruising boxer, now a grill master.

    It was his comeback in November of 1994, at the age of 45, when George Foreman regained the Heavyweight Championship by knocking out Michael Moorer.

    Becoming the oldest heavyweight ever must have made it a bit easier to sell over 100 million grilling units worldwide.

19. Roger Clemens

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    13-8 with a 1.87 ERA as a 42-year-old Astro headlined Roger Clemens' consistently ferocious career on the mound.

    The fireballing right-hander won the Cy Young Award at 41, with 18 wins, before mowing down hitters for three more years and then fading from the baseball scene. 

    But his prolific career now seems tainted by steroid chatter.

18. Dale Earnhardt

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    Arguably the face of NASCAR during his time, Dale Earnhardt was still going strong until the tender age of 49, when an unexpected crash ended his life early and broke hearts throughout the racing world.

    He won 76 races in his career, including a Daytona 500 victory in 1998, always intimidating the promising youth.

17. Jack Nicklaus

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    When a 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus won his 18th and final major championship at the 1986 Masters Tournament, it was clear even age couldn't stop the immortal golfer.

    Following a 25-year reign, Nicklaus remains perhaps the greatest of all time.

16. George Blanda

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    Twenty-six seasons of professional ball, four different decades, an untouched legacy. 

    The oldest quarterback ever to start a title game was an All-Pro in '73, two years before his retirement, and even earned the nickname "The Grand Old Man" when it was all said and done.

    A classy career for the all-purpose baller.

15. Martin Brodeur

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    With three Stanley Cup championships during his 19-year tenure with the Devils and only two years in which his team didn't make the playoffs, goalie Martin Brodeur never quite had time to relax and age, if you will.

    The four-time Vezina Trophy winner finished this past season with 31 wins and a .908 save percentage...at age 39.

    Still going strong is the future Hall of Famer.

14. Mariano Rivera

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    Twenty-five saves in 15 consecutive seasons, an ERA under 2.00 in 11 seasons. Mariano Rivera's consistency can't ever be questioned.

    But his supposed old age can, considering he finished with 44 saves and a 1.91 ERA at 41 years old last season.

    All using solely an untouchable cut fastball.

13. Cal Ripken, Jr.

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    Two thousand six hundred and thirty two straight games during 17 seasons in Baltimore; do we really need to detail Cal Ripken, Jr.'s elderly prowess?

    Let's not forget the .340 he hit at 38 years old.

    The truest of Ironmen.

12. Bernard Hopkins

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    After defeating Jean Pascal last year at age 46 to become the oldest boxer to ever win a world title, we knew Bernard Hopkins was something special. 

    While his recent loss to Chad Dawson hinted towards a dwindling career, Hopkins can clearly still throw those fisticuffs with vigor.

11. Wayne Gretzky

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    Sure, he scored 25 goals at 36 and 23 at 37, but it was Wayne Gretzky's 72 and 67 assists respectively that showed the hockey world that he was still a playmaker.

    Perhaps the best ever to play the game seemed too eager to approach the ice during his time as Coyotes head coach.

    Stick to the press box, big guy.

10. Jamie Moyer

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    Since being drafted in the sixth round of the 1984 amateur draft, aging southpaw Jamie Moyer has won 268 games with just pinpoint precision and a determined nature.

    He became the oldest to win a Major League game (April 17 of 2012) and has 104 wins since turning 40 (second-most in history).

    Early-morning vitamin regimens can't ruin this guy's love for the game.

9. Jerry Rice

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    After recording only 805 yards in '02 at the wise age of 38, many believed Jerry Rice was finished, a bit past his prime at split end.

    But the crafty wide receiver knew better, eventually heading to the Oakland Raiders and recording 1,139 yards at age 39 and 1,211 at age 40.

    The league never found a way to stop the old man.

8. Satchel Paige

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    After becoming a legend in the Negro Leagues, a 42-year-old Satchel Paige made his way to the majors and continued to dominate.

    The oldest rookie ever to play in MLB left a legacy that included a vicious fastball, world-class stamina and a respected reputation.

    Perhaps the greatest hurler ever to reach the mound.

7. Dominik Hasek

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    He may be remembered as the oldest active goalie in the league at the time of his retirement (43 years old), but Dominik Hasek's long tenure of dominance only grew with age.

    The Czech legend went 38-11 as a 42-year-old with a save percentage of .913. Few 20-year-olds come close.

6. Brett Favre

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    When he wasn't sexting young gameday hosts or contemplating retirement after his departure from Green Bay, No. 4 was actually racking up some pretty stellar numbers.

    His one year with the Jets was solid, but with the Vikings in 2009, he threw for 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

    Oh, and let's not forget the 297 consecutive starts (321 including playoffs). Quite impressive.

5. Jacques Plante

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    Well into his 40s, legendary six-time champion goaltender Jacques Plante was still dominating the game of hockey.

    24-11 with a 1.88 goals allowed average at 42 years old set a standard for old-timers worried about age.

    It doesn't exist.

4. Sir Stanley Matthews

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    A supposed near-vegetarian who allegedly strayed from alcohol, Sir Stanley Matthews made England fans very happy for over 30 years.

    The oldest player ever in England's top football division and the oldest player ever to represent the country, Matthews played his final competitive game in '85 at the age of 70, shattering all doubts.

    As close to an ironman as they come.

3. Nolan Ryan

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    During a record 27 years of dominance, Nolan Ryan struck out 5,714 batters.

    But while fireballing pitchers routinely slow down past 35, the Ryan Express only improved with age.

    Past 40 years old, Ryan was still chucking the ball at 95-plus miles per hour and completing the final two of his seven no-hitters.

    A golden arm indeed.

2. Gordie Howe

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    Sure, he's the only player to have competed in the NHL in five different decades, but it was Gordie Howe's longevity that cemented his legacy as one of the greatest ever.

    The ambidextrous winger made 23 All-Star appearances and is the oldest to appear in a National Hockey League game (52 years old).

    The man, the legend.

1. Phil Niekro

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    With a baffling knuckleball and golden arm, Phil Niekro was able to dominate well past his 40s, winning a record 121 games after the historic birthday.

    The quirky hurler frustrated batters for 23 years, each hitter more dumbfounded than the next.

    An epic finish.