Minoso One of the Oldest

This article was written by Tom Hufford

This article was published in the 1977 Baseball Research Journal


    Minnie Minoso’s appearance in three games for the White Sox in September 1976 at age 53 serves as a reminder that major league baseball has had some pretty old performers over the years. The only distinction Minoso gained in his brief stint was to be the oldest player to collect a hit in a regulation game. He banged a single in three trips as a designated hitter in a game against the Angels on September 12. He also became the third oldest to play in the majors.

    Prior to Minoso getting a hit, Nick Altrock of the Washington Senators was the oldest. On October 6, 1929, he played one inning in right field and collected a single in his one time at bat against the Red Sox. He was also 53, but about nine months younger than Minoso.  Altrock, long-time coach and clown of the Nationals, made periodic appearances in Washington end-of-season home games ever since he signed on as a coach with the Senators in 1912. He was a pitcher by trade, but his last stint on the mound was in 1924, on which occasion he also hit a triple. At 48 he was the oldest player to hit a threebagger.  He was a pinch hitter in 1931 and again in 1933 when he was 57.

    He was the oldest to appear in a regulation game until Satchel Paige started on the mound for Kansas City on September 25, 1965.  Paige did a good job, too, giving up only one hit (to Carl Yastrzemski) in three well pitched innings.

    Most of the real graybeard appearances have been token affairs-more of a gimmick than anything else. For those 47 and over, the list is primarily made up of former players who quit the coaching lines on the last day of the season to take a turn at bat or in the field to satisfy their own vanity or as a stunt to stimulate fan interest. This was more common in the old days when playing regulations were not so strict and it was not difficult to “qualify” a player for one-day service.

    This fad was initiated in this century by the New York Giants at the end of the 1904 season. On September 22 of that year, James “Orator” O’Rourke, who had been out of majors for 11 seasons but had been playing minor league ball, returned to the Giants at the age of 52 and caught Joe McGinnity in a full-game victory over the Cincinnati Reds. This was not an ordinary game for the Giants. It was their 100th victory of the season and turned out to be the one that clinched the pennant for John McGraw’s crew. Although charged with one error, O’Rourke played creditably, collected a hit and scored a run. He was the oldest player ever to play a full game.

    Later that season, Dan Brouthers, 46, who had played with McGraw on the Orioles in the 1890s, played a full game for the Giants at first base on October 3. But Christy Mathewson, by fanning 16 Cardinals, stole the show from Big Dan, who failed to hit in four trips.

    In the latter part of the 1909 season, Arlie Latham, who was hired by McGraw that year as the first regularly-employed baseball coach, made four appearances in Giant games. Then 50, Arlie played second twice, was a pinch hitter once and a pinch runner once. In the first game of the August 18 twinbill with the Phils, the former base stealing great was credited with a theft, one of ten in a 14-1 rout of the Phils.  He was easily the oldest player to steal in the majors.

     If any team needed to stimulate fan interest it was the St. Louis Browns. Jimmy Austin, a “Sunday Manager” for the Sabbath-conscious boss Branch Rickey, was a coach on that team in the 1920s. A peppery player for the Browns, the fans usually clamored for the Welshman to take part in the last game of the season. He did so for several years. In 1926 when he was 46 he hit a double to knock in a run on September 26, and then stole home. He was the oldest player to do that. The last day of the 1929 season saw Austin, then 49, play three innings of flawless ball at third base fro the Browns. He wasn’t the only oldtimer playing that day. Johnny Evers, 48, coach and assistant manager of the Boston Braves, played one inning at second and made an en-or. This was also the day Altrock played rightfield for the Nats and got a hit.

    On September 30, 1934, two veteran Browns’ coaches got into the second game of a twinbill with the Tigers. Grover Hartley, 46, went behind the bat, the fifth time he had played that season. Charlie O’Leary, almost 53, who was a weak-hitting shortstop with the Tigers 30 years before, pinch hit for pitcher George Blaeholder in the sixth and singled. He also scored a run, the oldest player to do so.

    Still in St. Louis, the late Gabby Street was not averse to stunts, such as catching balls thrown from the top of the Washington Monument. Late in the 1931 season he pulled one on the diamond. Then almost 49 and manager of the pennant-winning Cardinals, he went behind the bat for three innings against the Dodgers on September 20.  Sylvester Johnson was hurling for the Cards and the Johnson-Street battery was supposed to be a reminder of the famous Johnson-Street battery with Washington 20 years before.

    Some oldtimers got into regulation games, not because of any stunt, but because of an immediate and desperate need for their services. In the summer of 1906 the Detroit Tigers found themselves in a tight spot when several of their regular players, Ty Cobb included, were down with injuries. The call went out for help and 46-year-old Sam Thompson, who had played with Detroit 20 years before, volunteered. He helped out in 8 games, getting some timely hits, including a triple, and playing both games of a doubleheader.

    Another emergency came up in May 1912 when Cobb received a three-day suspension. There would have been little difficulty, but the whole Tiger team supported Cobb and refused to play unless the suspension was lifted. To avoid a $5,000 fine which would result from forfeiture, Tiger Manager Hugh Jennings fielded a team of local collegians, semipros, and two former players-Joe Sugden, 41, and Jim McGuire, 48. Sugden, who played first, and McGuire, who caught, both singled in the fifth inning and scored the only two runs for the Tigers in the 24-2 farce against the Athletics. By playing in this one game in 1912, McGuire officially established the all-time record for number of years played, 26. In this same game, Jennings, then 43, pinch hit, but failed to deliver. He pinch hit again for the Tigers in 1918 when he was 49.

    Who was the oldest regular roster type player to take part in a game? There were two relief pitchers who stood out in this regard.  One was of recent vintage, Hoyt Wilhelm, who was released by the Dodgers five days before his 49th birthday in 1972. The other was Jack Quinn, one of the last of the spitball pitchers, who pitched one game for the Reds shortly after his 49th birthday on July 5, 1933.  Quinn was the oldest pitcher to win a game and lose a game. The win came August 14, 1932 when he was with the Dodgers. Carl Hubbell and Van Lingle Mungo were hooked up in a 1-1 duel when Quinn relieved Mungo in the ninth. In the 10th the Dodgers went ahead when Hack Wilson doubled and Tony Cuccinello drove him home for a 2-1 win for Quinn. The final loss came on June 28, 1933, shortly before his 49th birthday and his release.

    Wilhelm was a poor hitter and established no bat marks for old-timers. Quinn was somewhat better and did hit a 3-run double for the Dodgers on June 7, 1932. He was almost 48 and became the oldest player to hit a double and drive in a run. Quinn also hit a home run on June 27, 1930 when he was with the Athletics, and just eight days shy of his 46th birthday. He was the oldest player to connect in this century. However, going back to 1897, Cap Anson closed out his long career with two home runs against St. Louis on October 3. He was 46’/2 and the oldest non-pitcher to perform on a regular basis. He played in 114 games and batted .302 that final season, figures more generally associated with a star ten years younger.

     Satchel Paige was another who performed at age 46 like some one ten years younger. In 1952, he led the American League in relief wins and innings pitched. He started occasionally and his best showing in the majors came on August 6 when he outdueled Virgil “Fire” Trucks 1-0 in 12 innings. He was 46 and no one that old had pitched a complete game before, say nothing of a shutout in extra innings. He tossed another shutout in September 1952. It was very appropriate that this remarkable player should have the added distinction of being the oldest player, at 59 in 1965, of appearing in a major league game.

    From Joe Nuxhall at 15 to Ole Satch at 59, that is a stretch of 44 playing years into which all other players log their careers of varying lengths. In listing the oldest players to perform in the majors each year of this century, we thought it might be interesting to carry in the same tabulation the youngest player each year. Obviously, there is much less flexibility at the early end of the scale. The youngest players were either 15, 16, 17, 18, or 19, while the oldest ranged from 40 to 59.  Who was the “oldest” youngest player to make his debut in this century. It was Rowland Office of the Braves in 1972. He was about two months short of his 20th birthday.

    Also, there were very few repeaters among the youngest players, which is only logical. While Hoyt Wilhelm was the oldest player in the majors for seven consecutive seasons, only Merito Acosta, Mel Ott, Bob Feller and Harry Chiti were the youngest for more than one season. It is interesting to note that Lew Krausse, Sr., was the youngest in 1931 and his son was the youngest in 1961. While almost all of the oldest are recognizable names (14 are in the Hall of Fame), there are many of the youngest who never really made it in the majors. Only five have been selected for the Hall of Fame, thus far.

    In the list below it is necessary to explain that the selection of the youngest or oldest player is at any one point in the season when that person played. For example, when Mel Ott broke in in April 1926, he was 17 years and about two months old. By the close of the 1926 season he was 17 years and seven months old. It is possible that another person played in September 1926 who was 17 years and three months-actually several months younger than Ott was in September.  But Ott was still the youngest to play during the 1926 season. Also, depending on when a player’s birthday falls and when he plays, he could have the same age, like 42 for Ellis Kinder in 1956 and 1957.

 

YOUNGEST AND OLDEST PLAYERS, 1901-1976

Year

Youngest Player

Age

 

Oldest Player

Age

1901

Larry Hoffman, 3B, Cubs

19

 

Chief Zimmer, C, Pirates

40

1902

Jim St. Vram, P, Cubs

19

 

Chief Zimmer, C, Pirates

41

1903

Owen Shannon, C, Browns

17

 

Chief Zimmer, C, Phils

42

1904

Art Bader, OF, Browns

18

 

Jim O’Rourke, C, Giants

52

1905

Ty Cobb, OF, Tigers

18

 

Jim McGuire, C, Yanks

41

1906

Jack Rowan, P, Tigers

19

 

Sam Thompson, OF, Tigers

46

1907

Bill Bailey, P, Browns

18

 

Jim McGuire, C, Red Sox

43

1908

Amos Strunk, OF, A’s

18

 

Jim McGuire, 1B, Indians

44

1909

Stuffy McInnis, SS, A’s

18

 

Arlie Latham, 2B, Giants

49

1910

Dave Skeels, P, Tigers

17

 

Jim McGuire, C, Indians

46

1911

BobWilliams, C, Yanks

17

 

Cy Young, P, Braves

44

1912

MikeLoan, C, Phils

17

 

Jim McGuire, C, Tigers

48

1913

Merito Acosta, OF, Nats

17

 

John Ryan, C, Nats

44

1914

Merito Acosta, OF, Nats

17

 

Clark Griffith, P, Nats

44

1915

Lew Malone, 2B, A’s

18

 

Fred Clarke, OF, Pirates

42

1916

Charlie Grimm, OF, Pirates

18

 

Harry Davis, IB, A’s

43

1917

Bruce Hitt, P, Cardinals

19

 

Harry Davis, lB. A’s

44

1918

Ed Corey, P, White Sox

18

 

Hugh Jennings, 1B, Tigers

48

1919

Phil Weinert, P, Phils.

18

 

Nick Altrock, P, Nats

43

1920

Emmett McCann, SS, A’s

18

 

Jimmy Austin, 3B, Browns

40

1921

KennyHogan, OF, Reds

18

 

Irv Wilhelm, P, Phils

43

1922

Jim Brillheart, P, Nats

18

 

Jimmy Austin 3B, Browns

42

1923

ShineCortazzo, PH, W.Sox

18

 

Jimmy Austin 3B, Browns

43

1924

Fred Lindstrom, 3B, Giants

18

 

Nick Altrock, P, Nats

48

1925

Jimmie Foxx, C, A’s

17

 

Jimmy Austin, 3B, Browns

45

1926

Melvin Ott, OF, Giants

17

 

Jimmy Austin, 3B, Browns

46

1927

Melvin Ott, OF, Giants

18

 

John Quinn, P, A’s

43

1928

Mel Harder, P, Indians

18

 

John Quinn, P. A’s

44

1929

JoeCicero, OF, Red Sox

18

 

Nick Altrock, OF, Nats

53

1930

Bob Brown, P, Braves

19

 

John Quinn, F, A’s

46

1931

Lew Krausse, P, A’s

19

 

Nick Altrock, PH, Nats

55

1932

Clar. Fieber, P, W. Sox

19

 

John Quinn, P, Dodgers

48

1933

Frank Hayes, C, A’s

18

 

Nick Altrock, PH, Nats

57

1934

Phil Cavarretta, 1B, Cubs

18

 

Chas. O’Leary, PH, Browns

52

1935

Walt Ripley, P, W. Sox

18

 

Dolf Luque, P, Giants

44

1936

Bob Feller, P, Indians

17

 

Jess Haines, P, Cardinals

43

1937

Bob Feller, P, Indians

18

 

Jess Haines, P, Cardinals

44

1938

John Lucadello 3B, Browns

19

 

Fred Johnson, P, Browns

44

1939

Hal Newhouser, P, Tigers

18

 

Fred Johnson, P, Browns

45

1940

Sam File, SS, Phils

18

 

Charlie Root, P, Cubs

41

1941

Vern Freiberger, 1B, Ind.

17

 

Charlie Root, P, Cubs

42

1942

Ted Sepkowski,2B,Ind.

18

 

Ted Lyons, P, W. Sox

41

1943

Carl Scheib, P, A’s

16

 

John Cooney, OF, Dodgers

42

1944

Joe Nuxhall, P, Reds

15

 

Merv Shea, C, Phils

44

1945

Erv Palica, PR, Dodgers

17

 

Hod Lisenbee, P, Reds

46

1946

Art Houtteman, P, Tigers

18

 

Ted Lyons, P, W. Sox

45

1947

Bud Swartz, P, Browns

18

 

Red Ruffing, P, W. Sox

43

1948

John Antonelli, P, Braves

18

 

Earl Caldwell, P, W. Sox

43

1949

Jim Baumer, SS, W.Sox

18

 

Satchel Paige, P, Indians

43

1950

Harry Chiti, C, Cubs

17

 

Luke Appling, SS, W. Sox

43

1951

Harry Chiti, C, Cubs

18

 

Satchel Paige, P, Browns

45

1952

Jim Waugh, P, Pirates

18

 

Satchel Paige, P, Browns

46

1953

R.G. Miller, P, Tigers

17

 

Satchel Paige, P, Browns

47

1954

Harm Killebrew, 2B, Nats

17

 

Connie Marrero, P, Nats

43

1955

Alex George, SS, A’s

16

 

Ellis Kinder, P, R. Sox

41

1956

Jim Derrington, P, W. Sox

16

 

Ellis Kinder, P, W. Sox

42

1957

Rodney Miller, PH, Dodgers

17

 

Ellis Kinder, P, W. Sox

42

1958

Dick Ellsworth, P, Cubs

18

 

Enos Slaughter, OF, Yanks

42

1959

Tim McCarver, C, Cards

17

 

Enos Slaughter, OF, Braves

43

1960

Danny Murphy, OF, Cubs

17

 

Mickey Vernon, PH, Pirates

42

1961

Lew Krausse, P, A’s

18

 

Early Wynn, P, White Sox

41

1962

Ed Kranepool, IB, Mets

17

 

Early Wynn, P, White Sox

42

1963

Jay Dahi, P, Astros

17

 

Early Wynn, P, Indians

43

1964

JohnOdom,P,A’s

17

 

Warren Spahn, P, Braves

43

1965

Joe Coleman, P. Nats

18

 

Satchel Paige, P, A’s

59

1966

Will Montanez, lB. Angels

18

 

Hoyt Wilhelm, P, W. Sox

43

1967

Gary Nolan, P, Reds

18

 

Hoyt Wilhelm, P, W. Sox

44

1968

John Mayberry, Astros

18

 

Hoyt Wilhelm, P, W. Sox

45

1969

Mike McQueen, P, Braves,

19

 

Hoyt Wilhelm, P, Braves

46

1970

Bert Blyleven, P, Twins

19

 

Hoyt Wilhelm, P, Cubs

47

1971

Jay Franklin, P, Padres

18

 

Hoyt Wilhelm, P, Dodgers

48

1972

Rowl. Office, OF, Braves

19

 

Hoyt Wilhelm, P, Dodgers

48

1973

David Clyde, P, Texas

18

 

Don McMahon, P, Giants

43

1974

Robin Yount, SS, Brewers

18

 

Don McMahon, P, Giants

44

1975

Jack Clark, 3B, Giants

19

 

Henry Aaron, DH, Brewers

41

1976

Al Griffin, SS, Indians

18

 

Minnie Minoso, DH, W. Sox

53

 

 

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