Age just a number for these history-makers

May 24th, 2021

This sporting year has been yet another reminder not to count out the old-timers.

Phil Mickelson won the 2021 PGA Championship on Sunday at the age of 50, becoming the oldest golfer to win a major.

In February, Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knocked off the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. At 43 years old, Brady broke his own record as the oldest quarterback to win the NFL’s title game.

Over the years, baseball also has seen its share of memorable moments involving players who were a bit long in the tooth. Here are the oldest individuals to accomplish a number of MLB feats, from recording a hit to winning a World Series MVP Award and everything in between.

Oldest position player and oldest to record a hit: Charley O’Leary, St. Louis Browns
1934; 58 years, 350 days old
O’Leary wasn’t known for his bat during his playing career; the infielder was a lifetime .226 hitter with three homers in 11 seasons. However, he holds the distinction of being the oldest player to pick up a knock and score a run in an MLB game. In Game 2 of a doubleheader on the final day of the 1934 season, the Browns called O’Leary, then a coach with the club, out of retirement to pinch-hit in the top of the sixth inning. O’Leary singled off Tigers reliever Elden Auker and came around to score on Jack Burns’ double.

Oldest position player to start a game: Jim O'Rourke, New York Giants
1904; 54 years, 21 days old
O'Rourke played almost all of his professional career in the 1800s. But in 1904, he returned to play one final game for the Giants, who were managed by his friend John McGraw. On Sept. 22, at 54 years old, O'Rourke caught a full game behind the plate and even notched a hit and scored a run in New York's 7-5 victory over the Reds.

Oldest pitcher to start a game and oldest to record a strikeout: Satchel Paige, Kansas City A’s
1965; 59 years, 80 days old
More than a decade after playing what was seemingly his final Major League game in 1953, Paige was signed for one game by A’s owner Charlie Finley in an effort to boost attendance late in the ‘65 season. Due to his longstanding ties to the Negro Leagues’ preeminent Kansas City Monarchs franchise, Paige was a legend in the city, and 9,289 fans turned out to see him pitch against the Red Sox at Municipal Stadium, more than the team drew in its five previous home games combined. The 59-year-old righty lounged in a rocking chair while a nurse served him coffee before the game, then started and threw three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out one.

Oldest player to hit a home run: Julio Franco, Mets
2007; 48 years, 254 days old
A pinch-hitting specialist for the 2006 Mets at the very end of his 23-year career, Franco was well past his 48th birthday when he hit his 173rd and final home run on May 4, 2007. That home run was even older than you think -- because Franco hit it off Randy Johnson, who was 43 years old himself at the time.

Franco is also the oldest player to homer in the postseason -- he was 43 years, 59 days old when he hit a home run for the Braves in Game 5 of the 2001 NLCS against the D-backs. His two homers that postseason give him the edge over Dave Winfield, who hit two playoff home runs at age 41.

Oldest pitcher to earn a win: Jamie Moyer, Rockies
2012; 49 years, 180 days old
The crafty lefty Moyer used his pinpoint command to pitch 25 years in the big leagues, and he was still out there shutting down teams at age 49. Moyer's 269th and final career win came on May 16, 2012 -- pretty astonishing considering his first one came on June 16, 1986 (his MLB debut). He held the D-backs to one run in 6 1/3 innings with five strikeouts at Coors Field.

Oldest pitcher to win a postseason game: Dennis Martinez, Braves
1998; 44 years, 150 days old
The longtime Orioles and Expos starting pitcher was a reliever for the Braves in the final season of his 23-year career when he earned the win in Game 4 of the 1998 NLCS against the Padres. He faced only a single batter, getting Chris Gomez to ground out to end the sixth, before the Braves took the lead in the top of the seventh.

The oldest starting pitcher to win a postseason game is Roger Clemens, who was 43 years, 72 days old when he won Game 3 of the 2005 NLCS for the Astros by throwing six innings of two-run baseball against the Cardinals.

Oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter: Nolan Ryan, Rangers
1991; 44 years, 90 days old
It's not surprising that the pitcher who threw seven no-hitters, the most all-time, also threw one at the oldest age. Ryan was 44 when he threw his seventh and final no-no for the Rangers against the Blue Jays on May 1, 1991. The overpowering right-hander struck out 16 in the game.

Oldest Opening Day starting pitcher: Jack Quinn, Brooklyn Robins
1931; 47 years, 287 days
Before Quinn took the ball in Brooklyn’s first game of the 1931 season, the oldest pitcher to start an Opening Day game dating back to ‘01 was Pete Alexander (42 years, 49 days old) in ‘29. Quinn was more than five years older in 1931. Surprisingly, that turned out to be the final start of Quinn’s career, as the righty made his last 94 appearances in relief across 1931-33.

Oldest MLB home run champion: Darrell Evans, Tigers
1985; 38 years, 133 days
Evans hit 41 homers as a spry 26-year-old in 1973, but he took more than a decade to reach the 40-homer plateau again. By the time 1985 rolled around, Evans appeared to be slowing down, as he had just 16 home runs over 131 games for the ‘84 World Series-champion Tigers. But Evans’ power roared back in ‘85. In a battle of grizzled veterans, Evans outpaced a 37-year-old Carlton Fisk for the AL home run crown, 40 to 37. Dale Murphy led the NL with 37 homers, which gave Evans the MLB home run title as well. He was 38 years and 133 days old when the season concluded, making him the oldest to lead MLB in round-trippers.

Oldest MVP and oldest batting champion: Barry Bonds, Giants
2004; 40 years, 71 days old (at end of season)
With his fourth straight NL MVP Award (and seventh overall) in 2004, Bonds became the first player in his 40s to win an MVP Award in any of the four major North American sports leagues, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That season saw Bonds set single-season records for walks (232), intentional walks (120) and OPS (1.422), breaking marks he set in previous years. Despite getting only 373 at-bats, Bonds still managed to blast 45 homers and drive in 101 runs. Previously, the oldest baseball player to win an MVP Award was a 39-year-old Willie Stargell, who split the award with Keith Hernandez in 1979.

Bonds also won his second career batting title with a .362 mark, making him the oldest to accomplish that feat, too. Bonds edged out Ted Williams by a matter of months. The Splendid Splinter won the AL batting crown at 40 years and 29 days old in 1958.

Oldest Cy Young Award winner: Roger Clemens, Astros
2004; 42 years, 61 days old (at end of season)
Clemens won more Cy Young Awards, seven, than any other pitcher. The last of those came in his first season in Houston as a 42-year-old. The Rocket went 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strikeouts in 33 starts that season and led the Astros to the NLCS.

Oldest All-Stars: Satchel Paige, St. Louis Browns (pitcher) and Pete Rose, Reds (position player)
1953; 47 years, 7 days old (Paige) and 1985; 44 years, 93 days old (Rose)
Paige spent most of his career playing in the Negro Leagues before making his MLB debut at the age of 42 in 1948. He continued to pitch at a high level into his mid-40s and earned his first All-Star selection in 1953. Paige duplicated that feat the following year and pitched in the 1954 All-Star Game at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, becoming the oldest player (pitcher or otherwise) to make an All-Star Game appearance.

The oldest position player to appear in an All-Star Game is Rose, who pinch-hit for Fernando Valenzuela in the top of the eighth inning during the 1985 All-Star Game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and grounded out.

Oldest World Series MVP: Willie Stargell, Pirates
1979; 39 years, 225 days old
In 1979, Stargell swept the regular-season NL MVP Award, the NLCS MVP Award and the World Series MVP Award. The 39-year-old star of the "We Are Family" Pirates, Stargell batted .455 with two home runs in the NLCS and .400 with three home runs in the Fall Classic -- including the go-ahead homer in Game 7 -- to become the oldest player to win both kinds of postseason MVP (LCS and World Series).

Oldest manager: Connie Mack, Philadelphia A’s
1950; 87 years, 283 days old
Only two octogenarians have managed an MLB game: Mack and Jack McKeon. After three seasons with the Pirates, Mack spent an unfathomable 50 years managing the A’s, winning nine AL pennants and five World Series titles along the way. Although he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1937, Mack continued to manage Philadelphia until ‘50.

Oldest manager to win a World Series: Jack McKeon, Marlins
2003; 72 years, 336 days old
McKeon didn't even start the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship season as the team's manager -- that was Jeff Torborg, who was let go after a 16-22 start. The 72-year-old McKeon took over, led Florida to a 75-49 record the rest of the way, upset the Yankees in the World Series and was named NL Manager of the Year.