Thursday, May 13, 2010

Celebrating the Graybeards of Baseball

Age and athletics are usually mutually exclusive. By the time a player reaches an age when experience becomes a benefit, his body wears down and doesn't work like it used to. As they say, youth is wasted on the young.

However, there a a few men who artfully defy this expectation, who keep going despite the odds and aches. These guys are smart and have perfected the art of reinventing themselves. They won't beat their opponents with great power or blazing speed. They'll do it with cunning, wit, and wile. These guys may creak when they get out of bed in the morning (or when they get off the recliner in the clubhouse), but they soldier on and make it happen well enough to do it again tomorrow. As a woman in my mid forties, I can appreciate, and even adore, this quality.

So, as the young gals in their "Marry Me Mauer" t-shirts see these guys and say "no thanks" (actually, they probably say "ew"), I raise my beer glass, and my eyebrows, and say "well done, gentlemen, keep it up" (and I may even say "how you doin'?).

Here's a list of the MLB players who are, or will be by season's end, 40 or older (Darren Oliver, you're oh so close, but you just missed it) and are currently signed with a big league team (sorry, Alan Embree).

Jamie Moyer, SP (PHI)
Age: 47 (DOB: 11/18/1962)
MLB Debut: 6/16/1986, Chicago Cubs
Notes: The oldest active player in MLB. On May 7, 2010, he became the oldest MLB pitcher to toss a complete-game shutout, beating the previous owner of that record, Phil Niekro, by almost a full year. On the day of Moyer's MLB debut, the Billboard number one hit was On My Own by Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald.
Other players to debut the same year: Barry Bonds, Bo Jackson, Fred McGriff, Greg Maddux, Bobby Bonilla, Terry Mulholland

Tim Wakefield, SP (BOS)
Age: 43 (DOB: 8/02/1966)
MLB Debut: 7/31/1992, Pittsburgh Pirates
Notes: The MLB's favorite knuckleballer is in the first year of a two-year contract with the Red Sox. He developed his knuckleball while still in the minors after a scout told him he wouldn't make it as a corner outfielder. On the day of Wakefield's MLB debut, Death Becomes Her starring Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, and Goldie Hawn released.
Other players to debut the same year: Alan Embree, Pedro Martinez, JT Snow, Bret Boone, Miguel Batista, Jeff Nelson

Omar Vizquel, SS (CWS)
Age: 43 (DOB 4/24/1967)
MLB Debut: 4/3/1989, Seattle Mariners
Notes: Oldest non-pitcher in MLB. His career .985 fielding percentage is the highest for a shortstop in MLB history. Two-and-a-half weeks after Vizquel's MLB debut, Chinese students start protesting in Tianamen Square.
Other players to debut debut the same year: Albert Belle, Joe Girardi, Ken Griffey Jr., Kenny Rogers, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile

Trevor Hoffman, RP (MIL)
Age: 42 (DOB 10/13/1967)
MLB Debut: 4/06/1993, Florida Marlins
Notes: Drafted by the Marlins in the expansion draft in 1993, then traded mid-season to the Padres for Gary Sheffield. He's the all-time leader in saves with 595. When Hoffman debuted, The Client by John Grisham topped the New York Times Best Sellers List.
Other players to debut the same year: Brad Ausmus, Jim Edmonds, Derek Lee, Manny Ramirez, Eddie Guardado, Brian Shouse

Matt Stairs, RF (SD)
: 42 (DOB 2/27/1968)
MLB Debut: 5/29/1992, Montreal Expos
Notes: He has played for 12 major league teams, giving him the record for a non-pitcher for the most teams. He ranks first for active players in pinch-hit home runs with 12. A few days before Stairs' MLB debut, Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show for the last time.
Other players to debut the same year: Tim Wakefield, Doug Brocail, Jeff Kent, Javy Lopez, Russ Springer, Bob Wickman

Brad Ausmus, C (LAD)
Age: 41 (DOB 4/14/1969)
MLB Debut: 7/28/1993, San Diego Padres
Notes: He's currently on 60-day DL and recently underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk, and he likely won't return before the All-Star break. This is his first stint on the DL. In the month of Ausmus's MLB debut, Microsoft released the Windows NT operating system.
Other players to debut the same year: Darren Oliver, Todd Jones, Eduardo Perez, Rondell White, Chipper Jones, Steve Trachsel

Arthur Rhodes, RP (CIN)
Age: 40 (DOB 10/24/1969)
MLB Debut: 8/21/1991, Baltimore Orioles
Notes: He's one of those left-handed relievers who pitch just well enough to have a job. In 2001, he (then with the Mariners) and Omar Vizquel (then with the Indians) became embroiled in "Bling-gate" (my word) in which Vizquel complained that Rhodes' earrings were causing a prismic reflection that blinded the batters. An arguement ensued between the teams and Rhodes was ejected from the game. On the day of Rhodes' MLB debut, Bryan Adams' hit (Everything I Do) I Do It For You topped the Billboard charts.
Other players to debut the same year: Jeff Bagwell, Eric Karros, Kenny Lofton, Mike Mussina, Mike Remlinger, Mike Timlin

Ken Griffey, Jr., DH (SEA)
Age: 40 (DOB 4/13/1989, Seattle Mariners
Notes: Debuted with Omar Vizquel. Often considered one of the classiest players in baseball, remaining out of any steriod suspicions. Early in his career, he signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike and Nintendo. Two-and-a-half weeks after Junior's MLB debut, Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner released.
Other players to debut the same year: Sammy Sosa, Steve Finley, Jose Vizcaino, Jason Grimsley, Mike Stanton, Wilson Alvarez

Mariano Rivera, RP (NYY)
Age: 40 (DOB 11/29/1969)
MLB Debut: 5/23/1995, New York Yankees
Notes: Often regarded as the best closer in baseball, he's known for primarily throwing, and locating, one pitch -- a sharp-breaking cut-fastball. On the day of Mo's MLB debut, the Alfred P Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by Timothy McVeigh.
Other players to debut the same year: Mike Sweeny, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Ron Mahay, LaTroy Hawkins

Takashi Saito, RP (ATL)
Age: 40 (DOB 11/29/1969)
MLB Debut: 4/9/2006, Los Angeles Dodgers
Notes: Played 13 seasons with the Yokohama BayStars before signing with the Dodgers as a 36 year-old rookie. He is known for his outstanding control of his slider. On the day of Saito's MLB debut, the Olsen twins tops Forbes Magazine's list of richest people under 25.
Other players to debut the same year: Delmon Young, Pat Neshek, Alexi Casilla, Glen Perkins, Matt Garza

Jim Edmonds, CF (MIL)
Age: 39 (DOB 6/27/1970)
MLB Debut: 9/09/1993, California Angels
Notes: Known for his spectacular defense, he's received eight Gold Glove awards. He did not play in 2009, but signed with the Brewers this past January. The day after Edmonds debuted, The X Files debuted on television.
Other players to debut the same year: Trevor Hoffman, Julian Tavarez, Carlos Delgado, Chris Gomez, Shawn Green

Mark Grudzielanek, 1B (CLE)
Age: 39 (DOB 6/30/1970)
MLB Debut: 4/28/1995, Montreal Expos
Notes: Remember last year when the Twins signed him to a minor-league contract for like fifteen minutes and how pissed he was when they released him? Yeah, he got the last laugh by signing with the Indians this past January. When Grudzielanek debuted, The Rainmaker by John Grisham topped the New York Times Bestsellers List.
Other players to debut the same year: Gregg Zaun, Jeff Suppan, Craig Counsell, Billy Wagner, Mariano Rivera, Johnny Damon

Craig Counsell, 2B (MIL)
Age: 39 (DOB 8/21/1970)
MLB Debut: 6/10/1992, Colorado Rockies
Notes: Known for his crazy batting stance, where his bat pointed straight up and his back nearly faced the pitcher. He's recently tweaked his stance to a more traditional style. Shortly after Counsell's MLB debut, then-Vice President Dan Quayle showed off his spelling skills by making an elementary school student put an "e" at the end of "potato."
Other players to debut the same year: Ron Villone, Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Shannon Stewart, Mike Cameron, Juane Castro

Jim Thome, DH (MIN)
Age: 39 (DOB 8/27/1970)
MLB Debut: 9/04/1991, Cleveland Indians
Notes: Recently, Sports Illustrated polled ballplayers and they voted him the second nicest guy in baseball. His 500th home run was a walk-off game winner, the only one to do that. Around the time of Thome's MLB debut, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System reached North America.
Other players to debut the same year: Pudge Rodriguez, Bernie Williams, Arthur Rhodes, Reggie Sanders, Roberto Hernandez

Keep it up men. Middle-aged folks everywhere are rooting for you.


The following websites gave me a ton of information for this little project: player pages


Tricia said...

Sweet. Thanks for doing the research on this. I had no idea there were that many active players 40 or older. Yay! p.s. That "how you doin,'" made me LOL.

JimCrikket said...

As I close in on birthday #54 later this summer, I'm not altogether sure whether reading about these guys makes me feel younger or older... but I enjoyed the read, either way. Thanks!

linda said...

Good post!
I have been watching Thome, and he does seem like a nice man.