The oldest professional baseball player in history

21 Apr

Writing as to the oldest professional baseball player in history is no easy task. Granted a simple biopic would be no problem, but the problem is nobody is truly sure who the oldest player ever was. Some purists say it is Nick Altrock who at age 56 pinch hit for the Washington Senators in 1933. Others say it was Minnie Minoso, and others swear it is Leroy “Satchel” Paige. The problem lies in birth certificates. Paige and Minoso either no longer had or declined to present them which makes their true ages unknown whereas Altrock was confirmed.

Still even if we accept (Which most historians do) that Minoso and Paige were older than Altrock as lying about being older at that point in their lives is contrary to conventional logic we still don’t know which was actually older. Paige and Minoso were also motivated to lie about their age as they began careers when baseball was segregated. Paige played his last game in 1965 for the Kansas City A’s at the believed age of 59. Many people generally believe he could have been as old as 65. Paige was commonly known to dodge issues of age, in part because he wanted to be considered younger and therefor more “signable” when integration entered the world of Major League Baseball. His own mother stated he was three years older than he claimed but Paige maintained she was in her nineties and forgetful when she stated that. However any way you slice it Paige was at the least 59.

Minnie Minoso was a position player making his final appearance for the Chicago White Sox in 1980 at the believed age of 57 although like Paige it is commonly accepted he lied about his age to appear younger at the time of his signing in 1948 by Cleveland. Even at the time of his last appearance reports of his age are conflicted as some sources listed him as 54, others 57, and yet another as 58. Quite frankly it was anybodies guess. His official year of birth is listed as 1925 however that was a year he supplied, not one taken from an official document.

Where this gets cloudy is that in 2003 Minoso drew a walk at the age of 77 as per his possible 1925 birth date for the Independent minor league team the St. Paul Saints. He was paid for the game, however this was something like his 1976, 1980, and 1990 one to three day contracts with the Chicago White Sox which were purely promotional. Again some argue as Minoso did not appear in an Actual MLB game his appearance with the Saints does not count.

So you have your pick of the oldest player. Nick Altrock is the oldest validated by birth certificate player to appear in an MLB game. Minnie Minoso is the oldest known player to appear at any professional level, at least in the United States. Satchel Paige is however likely the oldest player to regularly appear in a game and any doubt about his age shouldn’t be about whether he was younger, but older. Even though his appearance was purely staged as he spent his time in the bullpen being tended to by a “nurse” he did pitch against Boston for three innings and whether it was a one game contract or not, he is in my opinion the oldest player in baseball history, well at least Major League baseball History.

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