Friday, June 28, 2013

The All-Geriatric Team

In July of 2006, 83-year old Jim Eriotes led off a game for the Sioux Falls Canaries. He swung the bat a total of four times, making contact with just one pitch—a foul tip. The strikeout reportedly distinguished him as the oldest man to play in a professional game. Perhaps inspired by this accomplishment, former Negro League great Buck O’Neill logged two plate appearances in a Northern League All-Star game less than a month later. At the age of 94, he was declared the new record holder. But someone had failed to do their homework. In a 1999 publicity stunt, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliff (another Negro League legend) had apparently thrown a pitch for the Schoumburg Flyers of the Northern League. He was 96-years old at the time of his mound appearance.

The oldest players to appear in major league action are as follows:

Satchel Paige: The former Negro League great made a novelty appearance for the Kansas City A's on September 25th, 1965 at the age of 59. He held the Red Sox scoreless for 3 frames, yielding just one hit--a double to Carl Yastrzemski.

Charley O'Leary: An infielder during the Deadball Era, O'Leary was serving as coach for the Browns in 1934 when he entered a game against the Tigers. The 58 year-old veteran had not seen major league action in 21 years. It didn't effect his swing any as he singled off of Elden Auker, becoming the oldest player to hit safely in the bigs. 

Nick Altrock: When arm problems reduced his effectiveness as a pitcher, Altrock joined the Washington Senators coaching staff. He served in that capacity from 1912 to 1953, occasionally seeing action as a player. Altrock is best known as a baseball comedian--using wacky antics in the coaching boxes to distract opponents and amuse fans. In 1933, he made a pinch-hitting appearance at the age of 57 for the Senators, failing to hit safely. 

Jim O'Rourke:  A little know Hall-of-Famer, O'Rourke posted a .310 batting average during a 23-year career that stretched from 1872-1904. His lifetime total of 1,729 runs scored currently ranks 24th on the all-time list. He also played every position on the field including pitcher and catcher at one time or another. In September of 1904, he hit safely for the Giants at the age of 54. He remained the oldest player to hit safely in the majors until Charley O'Leary upstaged him thirty years later. 

Minnie Minoso: A seven-time All-Star, Minoso got his name on a short list of players to appear in the majors during five different decades. He earned that distinction in 1980, when the White Sox--desperate to boost attendance to Comiskey Park--installed him as a pinch-hitter in an October 4th game against the Angels. He failed to hit safely at the age of 54. Given another chance the following day, he was retired in his only plate appearance. The event didn't generate much fan interest as attendance remained below 10,000 for both games.


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