By Gene Elston
Editor’s note – This article originally appeared on AstrosConnection.com on March 22, 2002.
How could anyone forget the coming of the 21st Century and the problems that arose because it was erroneously believed the first decade of the new Millennium would begin in the year 2000.
Many people are confused about the calendar system now in universal use. Our era, known as Anno Domini (A.D.) began in the year “one” (there is no year “zero”). The first decade ran from year 1 through year 10.
Statistics and records are two of the many things that have made the game of baseball so great. However, it has been some twenty or so years since I have seen anything in print regarding the players who have participated in the most decades. And, that story was in error in many cases since the author was counting the beginning of the decade as year 00. I thought it was time to correct and update the decade story.
Playing in four or five baseball decades is not easy to achieve. A lot depends on Mother Nature – those having the best chance to reach those marks are those born within the final four years of a decade – for example – 1947 through 1950.
Our research shows only one player saw action in five decades and he was P/OF/1B NICK ALTROCK who broke in at age 22 with Louisville in 1898. That would be his only season in the National League. He would not appear in the majors again until 1903 with Boston in the American League. Note that at this point in his career he has already played in two different decades. His fifth decade came in the 1930s when he played one game in 1931 and one in 1933. The final game of his career was with Washington when he was 57 years old. In the final ten years of his career – 1912-1933 – he played in only 17 games. NICK ALTROCK (the only five decade player) also played with the White Sox in a career that covered 37 years (1898-1933) was active in only 19 of those seasons.
Now let’s look at the strange case of MINNIE MINOSO OF/3B (1949-1980) with Cleveland, Cardinals and Washington. When Minoso retired following the 1964 season he had played in three decades. He un-retired and played in three games in 1976, then did not appear again until he played two games in 1980 when he was 58 years old. OOPS! 1980 is in the same decade as 1976! That was one of the biggest errors of Minoso’s career – he barely saw action in four decades — certainly not five.
Both NICK ALTROCK and MINNIE MINOSO are merely TOKEN five and four decade players.
HERE ARE THE OTHER TOKEN FOURS:
JIM O’ROURKE OF (1872-1904) – one game in 1904 with Giants after sitting out ten years – age 54
KID GLEASON P/OF (1888-1912) – one game in 1912 with White Sox after sitting out four years – age 46
JACK RYAN C (1889-1913) – one game each in 1912 and 1913 with Washington after sitting out nine years – age 45
DEACON McGUIRE C (1884-1912) – after missing 1909 season played in one game in 1910 and one game in 1912 with Detroit – age 49
DAN BROUTHERS 1B (1879-1904) – after missing eight seasons played two games in 1904 – age 46
HERE ARE THE “FOUR DECADE” PLAYERS:
RICK DEMPSEY C (1969-1992) – Twins, Yankees, Orioles, Indians, Dodgers and Milwaukee – 24 years – age 43
JIM KATT P (1959-1983) – Washington/Minnesota, White Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals – 25 years – age 45
BOBO NEWSOM P (1929-1953) – Brooklyn, Cubs, Browns, Senators, Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees and Philadelphia A’s – 20 years – age 46
JACK QUINN P (1909-1933) – Yankees, Boston Braves, White Sox, Red Sox, Philadelphia A’s, Brooklyn and Reds – 21 years – age 50
NOLAN RYAN P (1966-1993) – Mets, Angels, Astros and Rangers – 27 years – age 46
EARLY WYNN P (1939-1963) – Senators, White Sox and Indians – 23 years – age 43
HERE ARE THE FOUR DECADE PLAYERS STILL ACTIVE:
RICKY HENDERSON OF (1979-2001) – Oakland, Yankees, Blue Jays, Angels, Mets, Mariners and Padres – 23 years – age 43
MIKE MORGAN P (1978-2001) – Oakland, Yankees, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mariners, Orioles, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Twins, Rangers and DiamondBacks – 21 years – age 42
JESSE OROSCO P (1979-2001) – Mets, Indians, Brewers, Orioles, Cardinals and Dodgers – 22 years – age 44
TIM RAINES OF (1979-2001) – Expos, White Sox, Yankees, Oakland, Orioles – 22 years – age 42
This is not a study of some of the greatest ball players – this covers only the passage of time – however, four of them are in the Hall of Fame – JIM O’ROURKE, DAN BROUTHERS, NOLAN RYAN and EARLY WYNN. One of the greatest and most interesting players who just missed the four decade mark is TED WILLIAMS. In his first year 1939 he hit .327, drove in 145 runs with 31 home runs. He closed out his career in 1960 batting .315 with 29 homers.
My favorite all-time decade personality is CONNIE MACK. He made his debut as a catcher in the National League in 1886 and while with Pittsburgh became player/manager in 1895 and 1896. When the American League was formed Mack took over as skipper of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901 and for the next 50 years managed that team and eventually took over as owner through 1950. He played and managed in seven decades and hung ’em up when he was 88 years old. Had he managed just one more year (1951) he would have made it into his eighth decade.
Gene Elston served as the voice of the Houston Astros from 1961-1986. He is the author of the books A Stitch In Time and That’s The Way The Ball Bounces.
For more information about his career and the effort to elect him as the recipient of the 2003 Ford C. Frick Award, visit www.Gene-Elston.org.