Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 14, 2009
BASEBALL: Full of Years

The recent spate of deaths in the game brought this to the fore of my mind - my older brother and I were having a discussion over the weekend about who the oldest living baseball stars are, specifically with reference to Tommy Henrich being the oldest remaining star of the Yankees. According to this website, the oldest living Major League ballplayer is Tony Malinosky, who appeared in 35 games in 1937 for the Dodgers and will turn 100 in October. Henrich, who just turned 96 in February, is 6th on the list, with the top player of any note being Lonny Frey. As best I could figure, here's a list covering the high points among players who are now past the age of about 85, covering the last of the guys who made their mark in the majors before World War II (I've almost certainly missed some people and probably listed somebody here who died recently); they are a generation passing from the scene:

PlayerBornDebut
Lonny Frey19101933
Connie Marrero19111950
Tommy Henrich19131937
Eddie Joost19161936
Phil Cavaretta19161934
Buddy Lewis19161935
Dom DiMaggio19171940
Virgil Trucks19171941
Bob Feller19181936
Bobby Doerr19181937
Johnny Pesky19191942
Ralph Houk19191947
Stan Musial19201941
Dave Philley19201941
Eddie Robinson19201942
Boo Ferriss19201945
Ralph Kiner19201946
Alvin Dark19221946
Mel Parnell19221947
Red Schoendienst19231945
Bobby Thomson19231945
Jerry Coleman19241949
Yogi Berra19251946
Minnie Minoso19251949
Bobby Shantz19251949

Of course, when you look through the registers by year, you can really see the impact of the war, especially around 1924 (the generation that was 18 years old in 1942), in terms of there simply being fewer guys born that year who were able to have long and successful big league careers; there was only one pitcher born that year who went on to win 100 games (Alex Kellner) and nobody who got 2000 career hits, although there were some successful sluggers like Gil Hodges and Ted Kluzewski.

UPDATED: A commenter points out that Mickey Vernon, listed in the original chart, died last fall at age 90.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Interesting post Crank. I have long wondered about the dwindling number of surviving players from decades past. Are there any obscure players left from the 1920s or are they all gone now?

Posted by: feeblemind at April 14, 2009 7:44 PM

I would guess there might also be a few Negro League players of some substance. It's not likely Minoso is the only prominent black player left of that generation, but he could be the only one left who made a real mark in the majors.

Posted by: Jerry at April 14, 2009 10:25 PM

Crank, Mickey Vernon died last September. Click my name for the NYT obit.

Posted by: Kevin at April 15, 2009 12:23 AM

Some impressive names on that list. As always, it'll be a mighty sad day when any of them pass on.

Posted by: Mike at April 15, 2009 7:43 AM

Interesting list. Makes one wonder if athletes have greater longevity compared to contemporaries? I seem to remember a study years ago that used info from the Baseball Encyclopedia to advance the notion that left handed people tend to live longer or something like that.

Posted by: largebill at April 15, 2009 1:05 PM

I was curious to how the oldest baseball player list would stack up to the oldest football player list. Much to my surprise, there is actually a specific website for this as well:

http://www.oldestlivingprofootball.com/

(under navigation, select oldest living pro football)

There seem to be a lot of very old football players, the oldest of course did not play in the modern NFL.

You would think that pro football players today would, on average, live shorter lives than major league baseball players. After all, how many people do you know over 80 who are 250+ pounds?

Posted by: MVH at April 15, 2009 1:18 PM

Great fun to read.

One nit, you note that regarding the

"impact of the war, especially around 1924 (the generation that was 18 years old in 1942), in terms of there simply being fewer guys born that year who were able to have long and successful big league careers; there was only one pitcher born that year who went on to win 100 games (Alex Kellner) and nobody who got 2000 career hits,

Perhaps literally true but exceedingly fine. For instance Red Schoendienst (1923) & Yogi (1925) got >2000 hits.

Posted by: From Inwood at April 20, 2009 4:16 PM
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