20 Best "Old Guys" in Baseball History
They say that baseball is a young man's game.
The constant running, training and wear-and-tear placed on a man's body can be grueling. Over the years, it can cause even the healthiest of men to break down.
Every so often, there are those players that defy that logic. Some may call it luck, while others consider it good genes; at the end of the day, however, it all boils down to the love of the game.
To take a look at MLB History, there have been numerous players who have managed to stay in the game through their late 30s. At that point, the numbers drop off.
The purpose of this list is to look at those players to managed to play at a high, or fairly high, level after reaching the age of 40.
More so, if they were a position player, they must have put in over 100 games of work. If they're a pitcher, they must have 100 innings pitched under their belt.
With those caveats in mind, here is a look at the 20 greatest "old guys" in MLB history.
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What Chipper Jones is doing this season is absolutely impressive for a 40-year-old man. That said, he falls just short of the requirements for this piece.
First, he has only played one season as a card carrying member of the "over the hill" gang. Second, he has only played in 91 games to date.
Through his first 90 games this season, Jones managed to drive in 49 runs from 98 hits adding 21 doubles and 14 home runs.
In addition, he has 58 RBI and a stolen base.
More impressively, his batting line looks like vintage Chipper: .301/.383/.500/.883.
During his 23-season career, Julio Franco played for eight different franchises right up to the ripe old age of 48.
Ancient in terms of baseball players. Young at heart.
In some 637 games played after 40, Franco scored 181 runs while adding 409 hits. Of those, 72 were doubles, seven triples and 32 were home runs. Franco added 213 RBI and 21 stolen bases to his .245/.310/.354/.664 post-40 batting line.
Omar Vizquel is this generation's Julio Franco. That seems somewhat odd to say, considering Vizquel started his career in 1989 and ran parallel to Franco for many, many years.
At 45, Vizquel has played in 52 games this season for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Since the season that saw him turn 40, he has played in 517 games, adding 160 runs with 398 hits, 55 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, 129 RBI and 38 stolen bases.
His twilight batting line results in a .247 BA, .299 OBP, .303 SLG and .602 OPS.
Jim Thome, a six-time All-Star and lock for Cooperstown someday, turned 42 years old this season and is playing in his second season as a member of the "over the hill" club. Though 141 games, he has scored 47 runs, adding 104 hits, 21 doubles and 22 home runs since
In addition, Thome has added 71 RBI with a .254/.354/.464/.818 batting line.
Suffice to say, as great as Thome has been throughout his career, he still has a long way to go to catch up with the next 20 players.
20. Hank Aaron
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Hammerin' Hank played three seasons as a member of the "old guy" club. He spent one season in Atlanta and two in Milwaukee.
Aaron was 42 when he retired, but before doing so he played in 334 games, scored 114 runs, managed 262 hits with 40 doubles, two triples, 42 home runs while adding 164 RBI and a stolen base.
He would post a .244/.329/.405/.734 batting line as well.
19. Pete Rose
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Pete Rose, aka Charlie Hustle, played six seasons as a member of the "old guy" club.
He would eventually retire in 1986 at the age of 45 years old as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.
Rose would play 732 games, adding 699 hits, scoring 323 runs, 92 doubles, 18 triples and five home runs. He would add 12 stolen bases and 282 RBI.
In his six seasons as an over-the-hill player, his batting line was .268/.354/.323/.677.
18. Honus Wagner
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Hall of Famer Honus Wagner spent four seasons playing in his 40s.
From 1914 through 1917, he still was putting up formidable numbers that some players dream of putting up in their early 30s.
Wagner, 43 years old when he hung up the cleats, played in 583 games, scored 188 runs, added 479 hits, 69 doubles, 36 triples, eight home runs and drove in 191 RBI.
In addition, he swiped 61 bases and posted a .270/.332/.353/.686 batting line.
17. Mariano Rivera
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At 42 years old, Mariano Rivera was shortchanged this season in adding to his already Hall of Fame-worthy career.
The perennial All-Star owns a 5-6 record with a 1.96 ERA in 134 games during his tenure as a member of the "old guy" club.
Obviously, Mariano has never started a game, but in his 129.2 innings pitched, he racked up 113 strikeouts with an even more impressive 0.897 WHIP with 82 saves.
16. Roger Clemens
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In 2007 at the age of 44, Roger Clemens pitched in his final game as a Major League Baseball player.
Perhaps that sentence should have an asterisk, with the looming possibility of him making the leap back to MLB sometime soon.
Regardless, in his five seasons as a member of the "old guy" club, the Rocket posted an impressive 63-33 record, was an All-Star three times, won a Cy Young Award and finished third in the 2005 Cy Young race.
He would post a 3.05 ERA during that time, but more notably was the fact that he led the National League at the age of 42 with a 1.87 ERA.
In 135 games, Clemens made 134 starts while adding one shutout in 849.2 innings of work. He managed to rack up 763 strikeout's with a 1.147 WHIP.
15. Willie Mays
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Arguably the greatest player of all time, WIllie Mays kept up that pace as a member of the New York Mets at the age of 42.
In 290 games as a member of the "old guy" club, Mays would score 141 runs, add 218 hits, 45 doubles, seven triples, 32 home runs, 108 RBI and add 28 stolen bases.
At the age of 40, his 112 walks led the National League, as did his .425 on-base percentage.
After turning the dial out of his 30s Mays owned a .244/.376/.409/.785 batting line.
14. Barry Bonds
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Literally, just writing that name probably brought out some feeling of either utter hatred or support from most readers.
Either way, Bonds was an extremely productive member of the "old man" club. (Steroids and steroid opinions aside for now.)
In his 270 games, Bonds scored 157 runs, had 205 hits, 28 doubles, 59 home runs, 153 RBI and eight stolen bases. At the plate, Bonds would add a .277/.446/.592/1.038 batting line.
Aside from becoming the all-time Home Run King, Bonds, at the ages of 41 and 42 respectively, led the National League in OBP with a .454 and .480. He would also lead the league in walks both years with 115 and 132 respectively.
13. Randy Johnson
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The Big Unit, Randy Johnson, spent six seasons in his 40s as a member of the "old guy" club.
Johnson played until he was 45 years old, posting a record of 73-52 with a 4.00 ERA in his 164 games played, 159 of which were starts.
He would throw two shutouts in 1013 innings pitched and rack up 1004 strikeouts. In 2004, he led the National League in both strikeouts with 290 and added a .900 WHIP.
He owed just a 0.997 WHIP in his twilight days.
12. Phil Niekro
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Phil Niekro went deep into his 40s as a member of the "old guy" club. He would play nine seasons, until the age of 48 and post a record of 114-103.
During those years, he owned a 3.94 ERA in 300 games played, starting 294 of them.
Niekro would add seven shutouts in 1977 innings pitched with 1148 strikeouts.
In addition, he racked up a save and owned a 1.267 WHIP. During his 40s, Niekro would add three Gold Gloves and two All-Star appearances.
11. Nolan Ryan
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The Ryan Express rolled on until the age of 46.
Nolan Ryan was one of the most dominant and feared pitchers of all time. In his seven seasons after 40, Ryan would go 71-66 with a 3.49 ERA in 196 games.
He would start all 196.
Ryan would throw seven shutouts in 1271.2 innings pitched with 1437 strikeouts with a 1.177 WHIP.
At the ages of 40 and 41 respectively, Ryan led the NL with 270 and 228 strikeouts. At the ages of 42 and 43, he led the AL in strikeouts with 301 and 232 strikeouts.
At 43 and 44, he led the league in WHIP with 1.034 and 1.006 respectively.
10. Carl Yastrzemski
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From 1980 through 1983, Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski continued to produce at a high level for the Boston Red Sox.
A two-time All-Star in his 40s, Yaz would play in 446 games and score 176 runs for the Sox. In addition, he knocked 410 hits, 81 of which for doubles, three for triples and 48 were home runs.
Though the old man never swiped a bag in his advanced age, he was quite capable of driving in runs, adding 231 RBI to his .266/.351/.414/.765 batting line.
9. Jack Quinn
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In the 10 seasons he spent playing as a member of the "old guy" club, Jack Quinn remained a consistent, reliable pitcher.
From 1924 through 1933 and the ripe old age of 49, Quinn continued to toe the rubber.
He would post a 96-80 record with a 3.53 ERA in 342 games, making 153 starts. In addition, Quinn would add 12 shutouts in 1435.2 innings pitched with 376 strikeouts and a 1.392 WHIP, adding 42 saves.
What is impressive about Quinn is his longevity and continued performance, which mirrored the efforts he put forth in his 20s and 30s.
8. Carlton Fisk
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In his illustrious 24-year career, Carlton Fisk would spend his five twilight seasons as a member of the Chicago White Sox.
From 1988 through 1993 Fisk would earn a Silver Slugger award and make an All-Star appearance.
At age 45 when he retired, Pudge had played in 537 games, scored 205 runs, added 473 hits—83 of which were doubles, and four were triples.
He would knock 72 home runs, add 282 RBI and stole 12 bases while posting a .252/.325/.406/.731 batting line.
7. Ted Williams
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The Kid, Teddy Ballgame, The Splendid Splinter...whatever you want to call Ted Williams, just be sure you call him one of the greatest players to ever swing a bat.
While Williams only played two seasons as a member of the "old guy" club, he certainly earned his cut. In 216 games he scored 88 runs, managed 167 hits, 30 doubles, 39 home runs, 115 RBI and a stolen base.
In addition, Teddy Ballgame posted a .285/.412/.532/.944 batting line bolstered in large part by his .316 average at age 41.
It is worth mentioning that Williams led the American League in batting average, OBP and OPS in 1958 at the age of 39 as well.
6. Cy Young
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Cy Young pitched five seasons into his 40s, retiring at the age of 44.
From 1907 through 1911, Young posted a 75-60 record with a 2.36 ERA in 153 games. He started 142 of which, adding 15 shutouts in 1226.1 innings pitched.
Additionally, Young would retire 579 batters via strikeout while maintaining incredible command, owning just a 1.073 WHIP. He would also add four saves to the mix.
Suffice to say, there's a reason he has an award named after him.
5. Stan Musial
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At 42 years old, in 1963, Stan Musial decided to hang up his cleats after 22 seasons in the big leagues. He played three seasons at 40 or older.
In his 382 games, Stan the Man scored 188 runs with 479 hits, 69 doubles, 36 triples, eight home runs, 61 stolen bases and 191 RBI.
He would add .291/.371/.467/.837 batting line.
As he was in his heyday, so he was in his 40s: an All-Star, through and through.
4. Satchel Paige
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Though he only threw three innings in 1965 for the Kansas City Athletics, Satchel Paige made history as being the oldest man to play in a Major League Baseball game.
Beyond that, the history books often times forget about how great of a pitcher Paige truly was.
His statistics in Major League Baseball all came after he had turned 40. Adding his last season in the Negro League to his MLB stats, Paige certainly put up some impressive numbers.
He would post a 29-31 record with a 2.55 ERA in 182 games, 27 of which were starts. Five of those would be for shutouts.
Paige threw for 495 innings and racked up 305 strikeouts with a 1.027 WHIP and 32 saves.
3. Rickey Henderson
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Rickey Henderson played five seasons into his 40s for five different teams.
The greatest threat on the bases in the history of Major League Baseball was a profound player that defied Father Time, playing at an extremely high level until the age of 44.
In those five seasons, Henderson would play a total of 469 games and score 281 runs.
In addition, he racked up 377 hits, 68 doubles, six triples and 31 home runs. While his speed wasn't exactly what it was in his 20s and 30s, Henderson still stole 136 bases as a member of the "old guy" club while posting a .241/.369/.356/.765 batting line.
It is entirely worth noting that at age 39, while playing in Oakland, Henderson would lead the American League in steals one last time with 66.
2. Cap Anson
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Adrian "Cap" Anson was a third baseman and catcher would played professional baseball for 27 years. He spent 22 of those seasons as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Anson would play until the age of 45, racking up six seasons as a member of the "old guy" club.
In that span, he would play in 677 games, score 443 runs and compile 823 hits. Broken down, that resulted in 136 doubles, 26 triples and 13 home runs.
Additionally, Anson stole 90 bases and posted a .321/.403/.410/.813 batting line.
His numbers between the age of 40 and 45 are better than a majority of players today between the age of 20-25.
1. Ty Cobb
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Ty Cobb—the Georgia Peach—played but two seasons as a member of the "old guy" club, until the age of 41. His numbers in that period were just as impressive as they were in his prime.
He would play 228 games and score 158 runs while racking up 289 hits.
Those hits resulted in 59 doubles, 11 triples, six home runs, 133 RBI and 28 stolen bases while posting a .343/.419/.460/.879 batting line.
Looking at the ratio of games played versus his production, Ty Cobb ranks first among his peers in regards to runs scored, hits, doubles and RBI versus games played while coming in second in triples behind only fellow Hall of Famer Honus Wagner.
Cobb would score 0.69 runs per game while obtaining 1.27 hits, 0.26 doubles, 0.05 triples and 0.53 RBI to lead all of his peers on this list.
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