When Bartolo Colon takes the mound for the Twins on Tuesday, he will become the oldest pitcher to start a game in team history. The 44-year-old has defied the baseball Gods by pitching in the big leagues for longer than 99% of players who make the majors. The dude is old.
So that got me thinking: how successful have the Twins been in employing older veterans? I took a look through every roster of every Twins/Senators team going all the way back to 1901 to find the best individual seasons of players aged 40 or older. I found at least one for every position but second base and shortstop, where I had to settle for the oldest players for those positions in team history.
There were a ton of pages to go through so I might have missed someone, but I still feel this is a pretty accurate list. There's a lot of players to list from many different eras of baseball, so I'm only listing a few stats, courtesy of baseball-reference.com, for each player. I included some fun facts where applicable too.
Anyways, I give you the All Old Geezer Team.
Rick Ferrel, 41 (1947) 37 G, .303/.389/.414, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 126+ OPS, 1.0 WAR
Joe Kuhel, 40 (1946) 14 G, .150/.320/.150, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 38 OPS+, -0.1 WAR
Joe Quinn, 38 (1901) 66 G, .252/.287/.331, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 72 OPS+, 0.0 WAR
Lave Cross, 40 (1906) 130 G, .263/.303/.322, 1 HR, 46 RBI, 100 OPS+, 2.1 WAR
Bones Ely, 39 (1902) 105 G, .262/.301/.310, 1 HR, 62 RBI, 69 OPS, -0.4
I've never heard of any of these guys. There have only been four infielders/catchers in team history aged 40 or older. Lave Cross is the best of the bunch but Bones Ely has a more badass name. I'm starting to think this article was a terrible idea.
Elmer Valo, 40 (1961) 33 G, .156/.250/.219, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 24 OPS+, -0.3 WAR
Sam Rice, 40 (1930) 147 G, .349/.407/.457, 1 HR, 73 RBI, 118 OPS+, 4.7 WAR
Jimmy Ryan, 40 (1903) 114 G, .249/.290/.373, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 97 OPS+, 1.4 WAR
These are the only three outfielders aged 40 or older in team history. Sam Rice had a heck of a 1930 season, as I'm sure we all remember, and went on to play until he was 43 making him the oldest position player in team history. Jimmy Ryan finished tied for sixth in the American League in home runs in 1903 with seven. Seven long balls.
Jim Thome, 40 (2011) 71 G, .243/.351/.476, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 126 OPS+, 1.0 WAR
Paul Molitor, 40 (1997) 135 G, .305/.351/.435, 10 HR, 89 RBI, 104 OPS+, 1.5 WAR
Dave Winfield, 41 (1993) 143 G, .271/.325/.442, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 105 OPS+, 0.2 WAR
HOLY CRAP I ACTUALLY KNOW THESE GUYS. You may recognize Molitor as that guy who stands on the top step of the dugout for a few seconds whenever there's a close play in a game. All in all, the Twins have had some pretty awesome older designated hitters. Two of these men are in the MLB Hall of Fame and Thome will be on his first ballot in 2018.
Also old and played for the Twins
DH Ruben Sierra, 40 (2006) 14 Games
C Pat Borders, 41 (2004) 19 Games
DH Jim Dwyer, 40 (1990) 37 Games
SS George Mcbride, 39 (1920) 13 games
Joe Niekro, 42 (1987) 96.1 IP, 6.26 ERA, 5.0 K/0, 4.2 BB/9, -1.0 WAR
Steve Carlton, 42 (1987) 43 IP, 6.70 ERA, 4.2 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, -0.5 WAR
Connie Marrero, 41 (1952) 184.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 3.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 3.6 WAR
Johnny Niggeling, 40 (1944) 206 IP, 2.32 ERA, 5.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 4.9 WAR
Nick Altrock, 41 (1918) 24.0 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.9 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 0.0 WAR
Now we're back to guys who pitched before I was born. The rotation here is pretty hit or miss. Niekro and Carlton were terrible in 1987, but the Twins won the World Series that year. Marrero and Niggeling were very good for their era I think. Altrock apparently pitched two innings when he was 47.
Terry Mullholland, 41 (2004) 123.1 IP, 5.18 ERA
Jesse Orosco, 46 (2003) 4.2 IP, 5.79 ERA
Al Worthington, 40 (1969) 61 IP, 4.57 ERA
Bobo Newsom, 44 (1952) 12.2 IP, 4.97 ERA
Pete Appleton, 41 (1945) 21.1 IP, 3.38 ERA
Alex McColl, 40 (1934) 112 IP, 3.86 ERA
Vean Greg, 40 (1925) 74.1 IP, 4.12 ERA
If you include Niekro, Carlton, and Marrrero's later seasons where they were used primarily as relievers, there have been ten relief pitchers aged 40 or older in team history. Mulholland is the only one to pitch in two seasons as a reliever.
The Twins/Senators have only had 25 players aged 40 or older in team history. Only 12 were pitchers and only six made starts. And Bartolo Colon is older than almost all of them. The fact that Colon is a starting pitcher in his age 44 season is astounding. Whether he is successful or not, seeing someone this old take the rubber in the first inning is a rare enough feat to be enjoyable in and of itself.