Neyer: Satchel Paige’s last stand

From SABR member Rob Neyer at Baseball Nation on September 25, 2013:

Mariano Rivera, just in case you haven’t heard anyone mention this in the last eight minutes, is old.

How old? Well, he won’t become the oldest pitcher to lead his league in saves. For one thing, he’s probably going to finish this season with fewer saves than Jim Johnson. For another, spitballer Jack Quinn was 47 when he led the National League in saves in 1931. Granted, it was only 15 saves. But then again, Mariano Rivera is only 43.

On the other hand, Rivera is the oldest pitcher in major-league history to earn more than 15 saves. In fact, the list of 42-plus pitchers with at least 20 saves is short indeed: Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, and Hoyt Wilhelm (the latter two were both 42 at the time).

Eckersley was just about finished, but Wilhelm was not; the knuckleballer would pitch until he was almost 50, with a few outstanding seasons to come. Dutch Leonard, another knuckleballer, turned in some big relief seasons in his early 40s. But there’s one more geriatric relief pitcher whose exploits are too often forgotten … Satchel Paige, who joined the St. Louis Brown in 1952, when he was 45 years old, and posted two fine campaigns. So fine that he made the All-Star team both years.

Paige returned to barnstorming and the minor leagues in 1954, and thrived for some years. He wasn’t finished in the majors, though. Not quite. Exactly 48 years ago today, Satchel Paige took the mound in a major-league game once more, when he was 59 years old. To this day, Jack Quinn is the only man to pitch after his 50th birthday … and he cleared that bar by just six days.

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Originally published: September 26, 2013. Last Updated: September 26, 2013.