Who’s the oldest major-leaguer you saw play?

I passed along to my father Al Yellon’s article at Bleeding Cubbie Blue on Lennie Merullo, the last living Cub to play in a World Series (an event, as I’ve mentioned many times, that Dad attended as a 10-year-old in 1945).

“My past is coming back to haunt,” Dad replied. “I remember Merullo quite vividly, epitome of good field/no hit. I’m beginning to sound like my mother.”

I hadn’t recalled Grandma Sue talking about too many old-timers beside Carl Hubbell, whom she had very specific memories of, but Dad corrected me when I said she telescoped on Hubbell.

“She was but was also able to talk knowledgeably about Ruth, Gehrig, McGraw and even Mathewson,” he said.

It got me thinking about who is the oldest ballplayer I could speak to having seen play. Since my earliest baseball memory is of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, I’d probably have to start there. Aaron was born in 1934, was 40 when I first recall seeing him and is 79 years old now.

I remember when Frank Robinson became a player-manager of the Cleveland Indians, but Robinson was more than a year younger than Aaron.

There is one guy who technically could unseat Aaron as my oldest ballplayer, though I didn’t see him outside of highlights on the news. That was Minnie Minoso (b. 1925), who came out of a 12-year retirement to play for the White Sox in 1976 and become a four-decade player. (He later became a five-decade player in 1980.)

As for the oldest Dodger I ever saw, I have to discount Robinson, who was with the Dodgers in 1972, before I began paying attention to them. Instead, I’ll happily settle for 1977 pinch-hitting playoff hero Vic Davalillo (b. 1936), followed by the one and only Manny Mota (b. 1938).

 

  • btimmer

    Using only people who are still alive, I would say that the oldest major leaguer I saw play in person was Maury Wills, who is currently 81, and I saw play in my first Dodgers game I remember back in 1971.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I don’t know that you have to limit yourself to the living – it just worked out that way for me.

      • btimmer

        I never saw Willie Mays play in person. I never saw the Giants play at Dodger Stadium until I was in my teens. My parents didn’t want to go to Giants games because the crowds were too big. And I doubt I saw Mays with the Mets.

        • WBBsAs

          I had the good fortune to see the only game the Dodgers ever beat Marichal at Candlestick.

          • Bob_Hendley

            Juan did his share of beating.

    • WBBsAs

      I saw Maury play on TV with the Seattle Rainiers in 1957: http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/team.cgi?id=3ff2118b. I used to have a baseball card of him that filled the back of a package of HyGrade Hotdogs, similar to this one: http://sportspressnw.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Balcena1957HygradeWeinersBaseballCard-1963-e1348937003983.jpg

  • Daniel Zappala

    I remember seeing Rod Carew.

    • Adam Luther

      What a ball player now 68.

  • WBBsAs

    In 1961, I saw Manny Mota, Tom Haller, Gaylord Perry and several others who went on to the Gnats as http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/team.cgi?id=3ff2118b

  • dalegribel

    I watched Satchel Paige pitch in an old timers game. Maybe not the answer you were looking for, but something I’ll always remember.

  • RBI

    Well, this is embarrassing. I decided to look up my first baseball “crush,” Mets first baseman Eddie Cranepool, to see if he was still alive, only to discover he’s not only alive and kicking, he’s a mere seven years older than moi. Back to the drawing board.

  • Howard Fox

    This is a tough one, my first memory of a game was the1959 World Series, White Sox v Dodgers, on black and white TV. I could not tell you who played without googling it.
    My first game attended was, I believe, in July of 1961, Reds at the Dodgers at the Coliseum, won by the Reds by a score of something like 14-3 or something like that. Maybe Jim Gilliam or someone like that would be the oldest?

    • Adam Luther

      Gilliam was 32. What a game that was Frank Robinson had 7 RBI’s: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/LAN/LAN196107090.shtml

    • btimmer

      The Dodgers did indeed lose to the Reds 14-3 in July of 1961. The oldest player in the game was Jim Gilliam who was born a few weeks before Gus Bell of the Reds in 1928.

      In the game, Reds manager Fred Hutchison pinch hit for Bell in the 3rd inning to get a platoon edge after Sandy Koufax relieved Roger Craig.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/LAN/LAN196107090.shtml

      • Adam Luther

        Baseball Reference is great for these kind of things! All the Dodger’s pitcher that game did not fair well…and we’re talking future HOF pitchers who couldn’t wait to get the heck out of the Coliseum.

      • foul tip

        Imagine what it was like for ANY hitter all set to hit against some mere mortal, and all of a sudden he’s only facing Sandy Koufax.

      • Daniel Zappala

        And Koufax was followed by Drysdale. I wonder what is the record for most future Hall of Fame pitchers to pitch in the same game for the same team?

  • Adam Luther

    Pete Rose at age 45 with the Reds at Dodger Stadium. Also saw a 40 year old DH Carl Yaz for the BoSox in Anaheim in 1980-he hit a two runner homer for what ended up being the winning run. McCovey at age 39 in ’77.

  • Howard Fox

    This question brings back memories from the early 60s of bazooka gum and baseball player cards, which we would attach to the spokes of our bicycles to make them sound like motorcycles. Yeah, great use of those rookie cards, that, of course never became of value.

  • Mark from Yorktown

    I saw Carl Furillo (b 1922) play for the ’59 Dodgers.

    • Adam Luther

      Anyone see Reese in his last season – 1958 at age 39???

      • package206

        Yes, I did.

      • chuck hoag

        I saw the Dodgers in Ebbets Field in 1956. I was 12 years old. Saw them all, Jackie, Duke, Campy, Furillo, Hodges, Gilliam, and Pee Wee. I remember the game was against the braves and Eddie Matthews hit a home run into the CF bleachers. I am pretty sure Carl Erskine was the starting pitcher for the Dodgers that night.

  • thescrounger

    I saw Walt Alston, Maurie Wills, Catfish Hunter, several others at a trap range in So Cal. Had to be early 70′s…

  • Onlyatriple

    On a vaguely related topic, I have a memory (or I have made up a memory) of seeing Mickey Mantle hit a home run at Dodger Stadium (obviously against the Angels). Can anyone give me a hint on how I could look up whether this memory is based on a real game, or if I made it up as a child? I am sure that Baseball Reference has the answer but I’m not sure how to research it.

    • Bob_Hendley

      Looks like Mantle hit two dingers in Chavez Ravine. One in 1964 and one in 1965. In BR look up in his game logs to see which boxscore might jog your memory

      • Onlyatriple

        thank you, I think it was 1965 as in that game the HR was hit to left field, which is as I remember it. An 8 to 1 Yankee win, with a complete game win by Whitey Ford.

    • Mark from Yorktown

      Mantle homered in game 4 of the 1963 WS in DS. I think it was a really long one too but that’s just my recollection. Not sure

      • Bumsrap

        Maybe against Koufax but didn’t the Dodgers win 2-1?

        • Bob_Hendley

          Dodgers swept!

      • Onlyatriple

        gosh, I hope I would remember if it was a WS game, but then again I would have been very young. No I think it was against the Angels and that 1965 game matches my memory of the home run’s direction.

  • Rick Libott

    Knuckleballer Hoyt Wilheim (born 1922) pitched for the Dodgers, when he was 49 I believe, in 1971-1972. I’m pretty sure I saw him that season.

  • ASW1

    I too remember seeing Manny Mota as a kid. I don’t remember the opponent or the final score, but I remember clearly one game when he was introduced to pinch hit and my Dad telling me something like, “Pay attention now, here comes the best pinch-hitter in the game.” Of course, Mota ends up getting a hit, and while my Dad and I are standing clapping he turned to me and didn’t say anything, but just gave me his old wink and nod.

    I also remember falling asleep on the ride home from the stadium after those games so long ago, and my Dad carrying me into the house after getting home. The last time I went to DS with my Dad a few years back, it was I who drove him home, and it was he who fell asleep on the way. Alas, although I would have if I could, I was unable to carry him to his bed.

    • Jason Ungar

      i was at the game when he broke the all time pinch hit record. I recall that it happened while I was in line getting a dodger dog with my mom.

  • Bob_Hendley

    Harvey Kuenn, born Dec 1930, was a spry 34 when I saw him play in 1965, but in the last years of a rapidly declining carreer. (to think that Hammerin’ Hank had 40 dingers at age 39!)

  • NoahUCLA

    I think I saw Mota, but I don’t remember for sure. I do remember Sutton and Reggie Smith, who were born on the same day in 1945!! I also saw Jerry Grote and Tommy John in 1981.

  • LittleBlueBicycle

    In person, probably Dave Cash, the star prospect of the 1966 Salem Rebels.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Game Thread, World Series Game Five.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    I saw Albie Pearson play for the Angels in 1961 at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. He’s now 79.

    If there were spring training records I might be able to confirm that I saw Koufax pitch a few innings against the Washington Senators in DC in the mid-1960s.

  • JonnyTAFKAJ

    Love seeing those old baseball cards like the one above of Vic Davalillo….

    So, I have to include this one where Wes Parker totally ‘photo-bombs’ Steve Garvey’s baseball card. :-)
    http://www.uncledocscardcloset.com/2013/01/name-game-1973-topps-steve-garvey.html

    • Bob_Hendley

      Mr. Garvey at the hot corner. Oh, the horror!

      • WBBsAs

        Odd that he was so bad at third, and so good at first (where, of course, he didn’t have to make the same throws).

  • Howard Fox

    I remember going to the game where Bob Gibson was pitching at Dodger Stadium with a 41 inning scoreless streak, going up against Don Drysdale, post Drysdale 58-2/3 streak. I looked for all the world that Gibson would pass him us, but we scratched out a run in the first inning to break the streak.
    Lost the game, but no one cared, cause we preserved Drysdale’s record.

  • DXMachina

    The first game I ever attended was the ’62 Mets against the Cardinals at the Polo Grounds in New York. Stan Musial played left field for the Cards that night at age 41, so he’s the oldest for me. Gil Hodges played first base for the Mets, so I count him as the oldest Dodger I ever saw play, even though he was wearing a Mets uniform at the time.

    • Bob_Hendley

      Along with his 3 MVP awards, he placed second in voting four times.

  • Spence

    Red Sox should pinch hit for Lester. Chance to break the game open.

  • Ker Garin

    Hoyt Wilhelm was 49 when the Dodgers picked him up in the second half of 1971…I remember that he may as well have been 69, he looked that weathered…Manny Mota and Maury Wills were also on that squad and they seemed like ingenues compared to Wilhelm…

  • TAFKA_Gagne55

    Jesse Orosco for me.

  • Jack Rosenberg

    Livan Hernandez. Must have been 60.

    • foul tip

      Maybe 160?

    • dalegribel

      So you saw him just this last year?

  • JonnyTAFKAJ

    Off topic here…… Brian Wilson’s an absolute ‘keeper’ for 2014 – IMHO. :-)

    • WBBsAs

      Unproven, a distraction in the long term, and likelier to seek a job where he doesn’t have to play second fiddle to Kenley.

      • foul tip

        Apart from WBB’s gnatural disdain for all things tainted by ever being associated with Gnatdom, Wilson would be a lot solider bet than some.

        Hard to know how much weight to lend to what he says. But he was quoted not long ago saying he was born to pitch, not born to pitch just the 9th. So, despite the widespread belief he’ll insist on closing, he might be OK with setup again and occasional closing if Kenley were overworked or slumping or somesuch.

        Wilson also lives in LA and was quoted as being very happy with the Dodgers.

        And he might even do well enough to redeem himself with WBB. What if he pitched like he did this year all through a new Dodger contract, better than he ever did as a Gnat?
        Wouldn’t that be the best way to get at the Gnats?

        • Bob_Hendley

          Whether he sets up or closes, he will be wanting closer money and years.

          • foul tip

            If his demands are over the top, that’s one thing.

            But if they’re just on the high side, could be a very good investment.

            Especially since the Dodgers now deal in play money.

          • Bob_Hendley

            Agree.

          • foul tip

            You know, Wilson almost fits in with talk about the oldest player. He looks kinda like the last of the Mohicans, circa Revolutionary War.

          • SaMoDodger

            Could that possibly be more than the idiotic contracts Ned has handed out to guys like Guerrier and League? I’d be ok with giving Wilson $2 years @ $10 million per year, just in case Kenley struggles or has another heart episode.

        • WBBsAs

          I thought he was a pleasant surprise in a Dodger uniform, but I doubt his ability to keep it up.

      • JonnyTAFKAJ

        I would agree with your assessment if it wasn’t for three things….
        ….
        1. This guy can still pitch. And, pitch very well.
        2. The guy’s got ‘brass ones’
        3. I want somebody to push Kenley. He’s a great talent, but sometimes that
        cutter seems to flatten out and become very hittable – especially when he’s tired.
        ….
        Are there any FA’s that could deliver the same level of experience and performance?
        (just asking…. as I have yet to explore this off season’s FA pool)

        • btimmer

          Wilson is also a reliever who is 31, who will likely want more money and years than the Dodgers will offer him. Someone will overpay for a reliever who is working on his second replacement ulnar collateral ligament.

          • JonnyTAFKAJ

            - I’m not going to assume what his contract demands will be.
            - If they are unreasonable, then, I’m with you 100% btimm….
            - On a side note, I just kinda have a good feeling about the guy.
            I suppose that’s just my personal bias when it comes to him. :-)

          • Bob_in_Vegas

            I’m with you on the good feeling. I stood with everyone else when he came in Game 3 of the LCS — and I suddenly realized we’re giving a Standing O to a former Giant!

        • Bob_Hendley

          You want someone to push Kenley when he is tired?

          • JonnyTAFKAJ

            :-) – with Bob.

        • foul tip

          If Kenley’s tired, how about pitch instead of him a day or two instead of pushing him?

        • JonnyTAFKAJ

          Ok….. Ok…. (laughing) … I know Bob Henley was joking, foul tip… you too? :-)
          ….
          I suppose I shouldn’t have combined 2 semi-related concepts in 1 sentence.
          ….

          What I meant was…
          1. I like having Wilson (given his credentials & ability) to ‘push’ Kenley, and help us (and Kenley) to get the most out of himself.
          2. When he’s over-worked, or just having an off-day, he is extremely hittable. So, having another quality, late-inning option, such as Brian, makes sense to me. That’s all.
          ….
          My bad! – I think I failed to convey my thoughts well. sorry.

    • ASW1

      Some team is going to offer Wilson a lot of money to be their closer and Wilson, knowing that Kenley already has that role wrapped up with the Dodgers, will jump at the opportunity.

  • http://farinella.com/ David Farinella

    I have a very vague memory of being at DS and hearing “Now batting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Manny Mota.” It’s either a childhood memory or something I remember from the movie Airplane.

    • SaMoDodger

      Only if he was pinch-hitting for Pedro Borbon. Oddly, they were never teammates.

  • SaMoDodger

    I saw Willie Mays stumbling around the outfield with the Mets. Sad.:-(

    But the oldest man I ever saw play baseball was Otis Nixon. He had to be 96 if he was a day.

    • Bob_Hendley

      Born in 1980, when Angel Berroa played for the Dodgers in 2008 at age 28, he looked like Wesley Snipes grandfather.

    • WBBsAs

      I saw an aging Willie McCovey stumble around first base, but he did that even when he was young.

  • NoahUCLA

    I haven’t seen any analysis on Corey Seager’s fielding. Will he make a decent shortstop in the majors (assuming he can hit), or does he need to be moved to second or third? We seem to have a lot of these guys that can play short, but are probably more suited for other positions like Hanley, Dee and maybe Guererro.

    • Bob_Hendley

      At 6’4″ (Cal’s height) they have always talked about 3rd.

      • NoahUCLA

        I guess he’s 2-3 years away if he even makes it to the big leagues, but does that mean Guererro projects as our long term ss with Hanley at second if we sign him long term?

    • Howard Fox

      this is the same Seager we took with the pick immediately before Wacha?

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    No idea…saw my 1st of many games in 1963

  • Jason Ungar

    well at least the dodgers saved some money on Gold Glove Bonuses.

  • NoahUCLA

    I saw the Dodgers picked up Wallach’s contract for next year (if he doesn’t become a manager elsewhere). Is there anyone else who they’ve picked up from the coaching staff?

  • SaMoDodger

    Jamie Moyer was 49 when I last saw him pitch. I was hoping he’d make it to the half-century mark in uniform.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Game Thread, Game Six, WS 2013.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    I feel like this is clear in the post, but FWIW, I was looking at earliest birthdate of anyone I saw play, not oldest at the time they played. Not that the other isn’t interesting as well.

    • SaMoDodger

      I believe the earliest birthdate of anyone you saw play is buried in the details of some box score. The first game I ever attended was a Washington Senators game in 1970. The only players I remember from that game were Frank Howard and Eddie Brinkman, because the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake.

      But looking back over that roster, I see John Roseboro was also on that team, and four years older than Howard. But if he was in the lineup that night, he made no impression on me.

      • WBBsAs

        First MLB game I ever attended was in Dodger Stadium in 1966 (first game of a DH). Dodgers swept, but my most vivid memory is that Koufax blanked the Astros in first game.

  • WBBsAs

    Cubs prospect retires from baseball to write for The New Yorker: http://tinyurl.com/ls7zmqa

    • foul tip

      And may find more success writing, if that story is any example.

      • SaMoDodger

        Would that make him a one-hit wonder?

  • Bob_in_Vegas

    Wacha’s magic wore off two games too late for the Dodgers.

  • Spence

    So is Ben Cherington > Theo Epstein in Boston fans eyes?

    • WBBsAs

      It’s interesting what Cherington did in adding a bunch of journeymen players, all of whom worked out well, when I expect most of us thought it would be a rebuilding year.

      • Spence

        He also shed alot of bad contracts like A-Gon and CC.

        • WBBsAs

          They looked bad to Boston, but the Dodgers got something out of them, especially from AGon.

          • Spence

            803 OPS at 1st base for $20mils kinda sucks imo.

          • NoahUCLA

            We did better than our friends down the freeway, so far.

      • rumped6

        I liked what the Red Sox did strategically much more than I liked the

        Dodger moves (thought the Ds and Jays would be among last season’s big
        disappointments), but was not crazy about some of the signings.
        But, wow! did they get it right.
        I’ve also been a long-time skeptic where Theo is concerned, and wonder what

        this championship might reveal about who was responsible for what ten years ago.

        And I wonder what the nutritional/chemical regimen has been for the Series MVP?
        Did I read best OPS for his age since Bobby Bonds’ kid? Again, put me with the skeptics about David Ortiz (whom I campaigned for the Ds to sign, along with Mueller and Millar, in 2003), when he was just David Ortiz, and not giving Boston kids lessons in unharnessed rage, and then refusing to take any responsibility.

        • SaMoDodger

          Dodgers did a whole lot better than the Jays.

  • Bob_in_Vegas

    The Closer in in the 7th inning?! That’s not in the book!!!!!!

  • WinnipegDave

    Next game on the schedule – March 22, 2014: Dodgers vs DBacks.

  • Howard Fox

    Maybe its me, and maybe I just don’t understand baseball. But I watch Wacha struggling from the get go, and into the 3rd another walk, then he hits a batter.
    Its game 6, do or die. I know the Cards are not there if Wacha hasn’t done what he has done. But its game 6, down 3-2. Its all hands on deck. Why didn’t Matheny start changing pitchers? This is not the time to see if he can work his way out of a jam. There was no second chance here. There were 10 pitchers in the bullpen.
    In my mind, Matheny handled this the way Mattingly handled game 6 of the NLCS. I know Kershaw is the best pitcher on earth, presumed Cy Young winner, etc etc. But we didn’t have time to see if he could find himself.
    Sometimes I just don’t get it, but that is why they are the managers and I am, well, just me. I just felt in both cases, there was no time for sentimentality and “loyalty” for what they have done to get us here.

  • Charles Moehringer

    I think we should have some kind of contest here: The “Greatest difference in personal age to ball player age for a player seen live”. For example, my son saw Nolan Ryan pitch at Yankee Stadium in 1990 and Ryan is 40 years older than my son (born in 1987).

    • Mark from Yorktown

      If I took my wife’s mother (who is 94) to a ballgame she would be 70 years older than most of the people on the field.

      • Charles Moehringer

        I guess I’m talking about the reverse – watching players older than yourself. I took my mother-in-law to a game when she was 92.

  • btimmer

    Wait, baseball season isn’t over. In Japan, Rakuten beat Yomiuri 4-2 in 10 innings to take a 3-2 lead in the Japan Series. After a travel day, the Eagles go for their first Japan Series flag (they literally give you a flag in Japan, it’s quaint) at home in Sendai. Tanaka on the mound for the Eagles as they go for the kill.

    • WBBsAs

      Is it streamed online and, if so, when?

      Also, Caribbean baseball is just starting…

  • JonnyTAFKAJ

    I took a look at the list of Dodger free agents and noticed the name, Michael Young.
    ….
    From what I hear and read, you won’t find a better, more-likeable guy and teammate than this guy.
    ….
    However, my first thought was…. Jim Thome
    Why? – Because he was another very likeable trade-deadline acquisition that, despite his best efforts, failed to be much of a difference-maker. :-/

    • Bob_Hendley

      MY put up an OPS+ of 102 for LA, just like he did for the fillies. What exactly were you expecting performance-wise that makes you disappointed?

      • JonnyTAFKAJ

        Maybe a ‘clutch dinger’ or two…. :-)
        ….
        But, I do recall him coming up as a PH a few times, and not being successful.
        ….
        I really wasn’t all that disappointed or anything. He was a solid 3B / PH option.

        • SaMoDodger

          If Michael Young will sign for Jerry Hairston money, then I say keep him. Otherwise, I think there are plenty of other glue guys who cost a lot less.

        • WBBsAs

          Myung is a terrible defensive player at any position. His bat’s no longer good enough to keep him around.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    “Today, the Dodgers declined the 2014 options on both Mark Ellis and Chris Capuano.” Still could resign at lower salary.

  • JonnyTAFKAJ

    I have a question for you….

    Just thinking here about how much we all love our home-grown Matty Kemp and our long-time Dodger, Andre Ethier.

    ….
    Both: talented, fan-favorites who have worn Dodger Blue for a long time, however, both have had a big tendency to spend time on the DL in the last few seasons.

    ….
    Would any of you consider trading either of them? both? neither? – if the right deal came along?

    Or, are they essentially ‘untouchables?’

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I’ll trade anyone for the right deal. But you have to ask what are the odds that the right deal comes. I say next to no chance such a thing comes for Kemp and frankly, I’m not convinced such a deal exists for Ethier. Trading people when their value is reduced is a dangerous game.

    • SaMoDodger

      I don’t see how you could get anywhere near the right value for either of these two guys coming off injury-plagued years. Unless the Dodgers find somebody who wants Carl Crawford’s expensive deal, I imagine all four outfielders will return and compete for playing time in 2014.

    • WBBsAs

      Kemp, I think, is pretty untouchable because of his talent and his contract. Ethier could bring something, but Dodgers would probably have to eat some of his contract. Given last year, though, they might do well to keep both of them, plus Puig and the untradeable Crawford (who did OK coming back from major injury, but was still a bit fragile).

  • SaMoDodger

    One fewer potential job for Tim Wallach: Nats sign Matt Williams.

  • NoahUCLA

    Other than the possibility of signing Tanaka, I’m not excited about the idea of going out to get an over the hill 8 million dollar pitcher for next year like Colletti loves to do. We have Fife, Bills and Beckett, plus Lee and Stripling knocking on the door. Nolasco is going to command major money I think. Not sure there is anybody out there worth getting. I say spend money on power arms for the back end of the bullpen. If we had 2 solid relievers to go with Kenley, then I would feel much better about our pitching situation. I don’t think League, Marmol, or Beli are the answer.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    New post up top.