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:
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.
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?
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.
Crank, Mickey Vernon died last September. Click my name for the NYT obit.
Some impressive names on that list. As always, it'll be a mighty sad day when any of them pass on.
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.
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:
(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?
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.