These MLB careers spanned 4 decades

January 7th, 2022

Stretching an MLB career across four decades is not unprecedented, but it is still a rare feat.

It's something that requires incredible durability and longevity, plenty of fortitude, a heavy helping of good fortune, and a dash of timing. After all, beginning your career at the very end of a decade gives you the best shot.

Only 31 players in MLB history have accomplished this feat, including two whose time in the Negro Leagues (which now have official Major League status) pushed them into that group. That number makes it nearly as exclusive as hitting 500 career homers or throwing a perfect game.

Here are all 31 players, grouped by the decades in which they played, beginning with the most recent. For anyone wondering, no players whose careers began in 1999 (or earlier) has remained active in the 2020s.


Jamie Moyer (1986-2012)
The left-hander started more than 600 games, pitching through his age-49 season, which he spent with the Rockies. Moyer ranks second all time behind Phil Niekro in starts (251) and wins (105) in his 40s.

Ken Griffey Jr. (1989-2010)
The Kid's Hall of Fame career began with the Mariners as a 19-year-old in 1989; it ended back in Seattle at age 40 in 2010. In between, he hit 630 home runs -- seventh-most all time -- made 13 All-Star teams, won 10 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers and took home the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1997.

Omar Vizquel (1989-2012)
A slick-fielding shortstop, Vizquel became an 11-time Gold Glove Award winner, earning his first in 1993 and his last at age 39 in 2006. He continued to spend time at short all the way through his final year, when the 45-year-old appeared at five different positions for Toronto.


Rickey Henderson (1979-2003)
In a 25-year Hall of Fame career, Henderson stole more bases (1,406) and scored more runs (2,295) than any player in MLB history. The Man of Steal is both the all-time and single-season steals record-holder, having swiped 130 bags with the A's in 1982.

Mike Morgan (1978-2002)
One of the game's ultimate journeymen, Morgan made only one All-Star team (1991), pitched for 12 teams (11 of them for no more than three years) and was traded six times.

Jesse Orosco (1979-2003)
Orosco's 1,252 games pitched in 24 big league seasons are a Major League record. His best years came with the Mets in the 1980s, when he was a two-time All-Star and a World Series champion in 1986. Orosco memorably struck out the Astros' Kevin Bass to end the National League Championship Series and the Red Sox's Marty Barrett to end the World Series, launching his glove into the air in celebration both times before the Mets dogpiled onto him.

Tim Raines (1979-2002)
Raines finally got his due when he was voted into the Hall of Fame in his 10th and final year on the ballot in 2017. A great leadoff man with a .385 career on-base percentage and 808 steals, he hung on long enough to play with his son, Tim Raines Jr., with the 2001 Orioles.


Bill Buckner (1969-90)
Buckner's legacy has been unfortunately defined by Mookie Wilson's ground ball going through his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, letting the Mets complete one of the greatest comebacks of all time. But Buckner's productivity and longevity shouldn't be forgotten -- he collected 2,715 hits over 22 seasons, and was a .289 career hitter who won the NL batting title with the Cubs in 1980.

Rick Dempsey (1969-92)
He debuted just after his 20th birthday with the 1969 Twins and played his final game just after his 43rd birthday with the '92 Orioles. Through it all, he spent almost all of his time behind the plate, where he ranks 21st all time in games played (1,633).

Carlton Fisk (1969-93)
The Hall of Fame catcher was an 11-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, Gold Glove winner and the AL Rookie of the Year with the Red Sox in 1972. And he's responsible for one of the most iconic moments in baseball history: waving his game-winning home run fair down the left-field line at Fenway Park in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.

Jerry Reuss (1969-90)
The left-hander just squeezed onto this list, pitching exactly one game in the 1960s and four (one start) in the '90s. He started 545 games in the '70s and '80s, ranking sixth during that time.

Nolan Ryan (1966-1993)
The Ryan Express was racking up strikeouts from his teens to his 40s. Ryan is MLB's all-time strikeout king with 5,714, and he led the league in punchouts 11 times -- including six 300-strikeout seasons. He won the 1969 World Series with the Miracle Mets, and went on to star for the Angels, Astros and Rangers in a 27-year career.


Jim Kaat (1959-83)
The Hall of Fame lefty arrived just in time to play for the original Washington Senators in their final two seasons before moving to Minnesota, and he spent 15 seasons with the franchise. A 16-time Gold Glove Award winner on the mound, Kaat helped the Cardinals to a World Series championship at age 43 in 1982.

Tim McCarver (1959-80)
Before his Hall of Fame broadcasting career, McCarver was a two-time All-Star catcher and two-time World Series champion for the Cardinals, for whom he played the first decade of his 21-season career. McCarver also spent time with the Phillies, Red Sox and Expos.

Willie McCovey (1959-80)
"Stretch" won NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1959, hitting .354/.429/.656 to overcome playing in just 52 games. He went on to a first-ballot Hall of Fame career, mostly with the Giants, swatting 521 home runs along the way -- the final 28 in his 40s.


Minnie Miñoso (1949-80)
The Hall of Famer was a pioneering player and White Sox icon in the early years after the breaking of MLB's color barrier. After starting his professional career in Cuba and the Negro Leagues, he joined Cleveland in 1949, becoming the first black Cuban player in the AL or NL and later the first black player in White Sox franchise history. Miñoso, a nine-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, played in five games in his 50s after coming out of retirement with the White Sox in 1976 and '80. His final appearance at age 54 made him the fourth oldest player in history (Nick Altrock -- 57, Charley O'Leary -- 58 and Satchel Paige -- 59). Incredibly, he played in five different decades.


Willie Mays (1948-73)
While the Say Hey Kid didn't make it to the Giants until 1951, when he took NL Rookie of the Year honors, his baseball development came as a teenager learning the game with the Birmingham Black Barons in the late 1940s. In fact, a home run Mays hit for Birmingham not long after his 17th birthday in August 1948 should eventually raise his official MLB total from 660 to 661. Mays of course went on to stardom and glory with the Giants, and while his final season is often held up as an example of a great player hanging on too long, it should be remembered that Mays still hit .275/.406/.475 with 13.4 WAR from 1970-72, at ages 39-41.


Satchel Paige (1927-65)
It's hardly an exaggeration to use the word "unique" to describe Paige's career -- and the man himself. The great pitcher's official Major League ledger now spans from 1927 (when he was a 20-year-old with the Black Barons) to 1965 (when at age 59 he made a scoreless three-inning appearance for the Kansas City A's). Paige didn't get his first shot in integrated baseball until joining Cleveland in 1948, when he was already 41 years old, yet he still managed to record a well above-average 124 ERA+ over 476 career innings in the AL.


Mickey Vernon (1939-60)
The sweet-swinging first baseman won one of his two batting titles by batting .353 in 1946, after missing the previous two years to military service. Following his final nine games with the Pirates in '60, Vernon became manager of the expansion Washington Senators the next year.

Ted Williams (1939-60)
Williams is one of the true legends of the sport. The Red Sox icon is a Hall of Famer, a two-time MVP, a two-time Triple Crown winner, a 19-time All-Star, a six-time batting champion and MLB's last .400 hitter. The Splendid Splinter hit 521 home runs, was a career .344 hitter and is the Major Leagues' all-time leader in on-base percentage with a .482 career mark.

Early Wynn (1939-63)
The Hall of Fame righty made it to exactly 300 career wins while starting 611 games (19th all time) and throwing 4,564 innings (22nd). Wynn won a Cy Young Award at age 39 in 1959 and posted a 2.28 ERA over 55 1/3 innings in his final season in '63.


Bobo Newsom (1929-53)
Newsom pitched for nine different teams in his 20-year career, which began with the Brooklyn Dodgers at age 22 and ended with the Philadelphia Athletics at age 46. Newsom won 211 career games, made four All-Star teams with the A's, Tigers and St. Louis Browns, and was a part of the Yankees' 1947 World Series-winning team.


Eddie Collins (1906-30)
The second baseman played six games as a teenager for the 1906 Philadelphia Athletics, launching a Hall of Fame career during which he reached base safely 4,891 times -- a total surpassed by only nine players in baseball history. Collins was a four-time World Series champion over his 25 seasons with the A's and White Sox.

Jack Quinn (1909-33)
Quinn, born in Stefuro, Slovakia (then part of Austria-Hungary), won 247 games and two World Series titles pitching for eight different teams over 23 Major League seasons. He's the oldest pitcher to start a World Series game (he was 46 when he pitched Game 4 of the 1929 World Series for the A's), and the oldest to start on Opening Day (he was 47 when he pitched Opening Day for the Dodgers in 1931). One of the last players allowed to throw a spitball, he pitched until he was 50 years old.


Nick Altrock (1898-1933)
This was a strange baseball career, to say the least, and one of two to overlap five decades. For a brief time in the mid-1900s, Altrock was a top pitcher who helped the White Sox win the 1906 World Series. But when arm troubles struck, Altrock stuck around as a comedy act and very occasional player. Doing much more clowning than anything else, Altrock pitched 40 innings and took 16 plate appearances after the 1909 season. That included one final plate appearance at age 57 for the '33 Senators.

• Kid Gleason (1888-1912)
• Deacon McGuire (1884-1912)
• Jack O'Connor (1887-1910)
• Jack Ryan (1889-1913)

• Dan Brouthers (1879-1904)
• Jim O'Rourke (1872-1904)