The Top 10 Accomplishments By Aging Athletes
The past few months have seen some remarkable performances by athletes who many of us thought had passed their primes. 37-year-old Kurt Warner had arguably the best year of his career, and led the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl. Shaquille O'Neal is having a resurgent year, also at age 37, and recently chalked 45 points and 11 rebounds in the All-Star game. 45-year-old Jamie Moyer helped pitch his Phillies to a World Series Championship.
With that said, here are my personal top 10 accomplishments by athletes who simply refused to act their ages:
Number 10: Karl Malone
On November 30, 2003, Karl Malone became the oldest player in NBA history to post a triple-double. During the playoffs of the same season, he dropped 30 points and grabbed 13 boards against the Rockets, becoming the oldest player in playoff history to score 30 points.
Number 9: Martina Navratilova
One of the greatest female tennis players of all time, Martina Navratilova took home the mixed doubles title at the 2006 U.S. open, her 59th Grand Slam title overall. At the time, she was only a month shy of her 50th birthday.
Number 8: Julio Franco
Julio Franco gets the nod at No. 8 due to being the oldest baseball player to do, well, just about everything.
He was the oldest regular position player in MLB history. He was the last active player who was born in the 1950s. He is the oldest player to homer, hit a grand slam, hit a pinch-hit home run, hit two home runs in a game, steal two bases in a game, or pinch run.
Number 7: Dara Torres
Dara Torres is the only U.S. swimmer to ever appear in five Olympics. In 2000, at age 33, she was already the oldest member of the U.S. Olympic swim team. In 2008, at the age of 41, she competed in the 50 meter freestyle, 4x100 medley relay, and 4x100 freestyle relay, and won a silver medal in each one. In qualifications for the 2008 Olympics, she set the U.S. record for the 50 meter freestyle, breaking her own record set 26 years earlier at the age of 15.
Number 6: Phil Niekro
In 1982, at the age of 43, knuckleballer Phil Niekro lead the Braves staff with a 17-4 record and a 3.61 ERA. That year he clinched a playoff spot for his team by throwing a complete game shutout AND hitting a two run home run in the final game.
He topped this performance in 1986, against the Blue Jays, when at age 46 he became the oldest player in league history to pitch a shutout. That game also happened to be Niekro's 300th career win.
Number 5: Barry Bonds
Whether you hate the man or love the man, steroids or no steroids, you can not argue with the fact that Barry Bonds put up MASSIVE numbers as he aged.
In 2004, the season in which he turned 40, one of the most potent offensive forces ever to step on a baseball diamond had perhaps his best season, hitting .362, walking 232 times, posting a whopping .609 on base percentage (a single season record), and slugging .812 (fourth best all time).
He also managed to hit 45 home runs and strike out only 41 times en route to winning his fourth straight MVP award, his seventh overall.
Number 4: George Foreman
The man may now be best known for his lean, mean, grilling machines, but George Foreman was a punching machine at an age where most men have learned to settle their disputes with words, not fighting. At age 45, he knocked out 26-year-old Moorer in 10 rounds, becoming the oldest fighter to ever win a major heavyweight title.
Number 3: Gordie Howe
Gordie Howe makes the list so high due to sheer longevity. He played in parts of five different decades (six if you count a gimmick appearance in 1997).
In 1980 at the age of 51, 34 years after his NHL debut, he was still playing productively, playing in all 80 games, scoring 15 goals and helping lead the Hartford Whalers to the playoffs.
Number 2: Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus won his first major championship in 1962, at age 22. 24 years later, aged 46, he won the Masters by shooting a seven-under 65 in the final round, the oldest winner in the history of the tournament.
The Golden Bear made a valiant run at creating even more history in 1998, when the 58-year-old finished sixth at the Masters.
Number 1: Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan first broke into the majors in 1966. Close to 30 years later, he was still dominant, pitching over 100 mph and throwing the final two of his seven no-hitters past 40 years old, becoming the oldest to ever throw one at age 44.
Of course it must be mentioned that in his final season, at the age of 46, Ryan laid one of the most memorable beat downs in baseball history upon 26-year-old Robin Ventura, who, needless to say, regretted charging the mound. Ryan did not give up a hit the rest of the night.
His arm finally gave out at the end of the 1993 season, but it went out with a bang, the final pitch of Ryan's career was clocked at 98 mph. He played in a Major League record 27 seasons.