On Tuesday, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner used part of an August morning to launch his baseball comeback, at age 50, on a much-smaller scale with the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.
Clemens, whose fastball reached 87 miles per hour while throwing for the Skeeters on Monday, is scheduled to start Saturday night versus the visiting Bridgeport (Ct.) Bluefish.
The Houston resident cautioned fans during Tuesday’s news conference not to get too excited about a potential return to the majors. “I wouldn't consider thinking that far ahead. I'm just going to try to get through Saturday. I think I can compete a little bit.”
Nicknamed the “Rocket,” Clemens won 354 games in the majors for Boston, Toronto, New York and Houston while earning about $160 million US. Should he get back to the big leagues one day, he would be the 12th player 49-or-older to appear in a game.
When it comes to determining the oldest major leaguer in history, it depends on who you talk to.
Purists will tell you it’s pitcher Nick Altrock, who pinch hit for the Washington Senators at age 57 in 1933. Others will say it was Minnie Minoso, who was believed to be 57 when he played his final game for the Chicago White Sox in 1980. And there are those who are certain it is Leroy “Satchel” Paige at 59.
Problem is, Paige and Minoso either no longer possessed or refused to present their birth certificates, making their true ages unknown whereas Altrock was confirmed.
Whatever the case, CBCSports.ca presents the 49-and-older club:
“Satchel” Paige: He was paid by Kansas City A’s owner Charlie Finley to start against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 25, 1965 as a publicity stunt. That would have made Paige 59 but many people believe the Mobile, Ala., native could have been as old as 65.
At 42, the right-handed Paige is the oldest rookie to play in the major leagues, and in 1971 was the first player from the Negro leagues to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Nick Altrock: The Cincinnati native pinch hit for the Washington Senators at age 57, but he also took the mound for the team at 47. The left-hander and Minnie Minoso (see below) are the only MLB players to appear in a game over five decades. Altrock was instrumental in the Chicago White Sox’s 1906 World Series title, winning 20 games in the regular season. He also won in 1903 with Chicago and 1924 with Washington.
Minnie Minoso: Like Altrock, Minoso was 57 when he pinch hit for the White Sox in 1980. A native Cuban, the left-fielder/third baseman batted over .300 in eight different seasons. He played three seasons in the Negro National League before breaking camp with the Cleveland Indians in 1949. He was traded to Chicago in 1951 and never looked back, finishing his career as a seven-time all-star.
Jim O’Rourke: The catcher appeared in a game for the New York Giants in 1904 at age 54. The owner of the National League’s first hit on April 22, 1976, O’Rourke was nicknamed “The Orator” for his clever and robust use of the English language. O’Rourke won the NL batting title in 1884 (.350) and remained in the game as a manager, umpire and minor league president.
Charley O’Leary: A shortstop for 11 seasons with Detroit and St. Louis’ Cardinals and Browns, O’Leary was a coach when the Browns coaxed him out of retirement in 1933 and he registered a pinch hit against the Washington Senators at 51. Prior to joining the Browns’ coaching staff, O’Leary helped coach in six World Series with the New York Yankees.
Jack Quinn: Born Joannes (Jan) Pajkos, John Picus “Jack” Quinn of Stefurov, Slovakia, pitched for eight teams in three major leagues (American, National and Federal). He made his final appearance on July 7, 1933, for the Cincinnati Reds six days after his 50th birthday, making the right-hander the oldest major league pitcher to make regular appearances. Quinn’s record as the oldest pitcher to win a game in MLB history (49) was broken by Jamie Moyer earlier this year.
James Hoyt Wilhelm: Best known for his knuckleball, Wilhelm played for nine teams, ending his pitching career in 1972 with the Los Angeles Dodgers just 16 days short of his 50th birthday. He was a starter occasionally but primarily a relief specialist and still holds the record with 124 victories by a reliever. Wilhelm, who hailed from North Carolina, also was the first hurler to save 200 games and the first to appear in 1,000 contests.
Jamie Moyer: The soft-tossing left-hander is out of the majors after the Toronto Blue Jays released the 49-year-old on July 6. Earlier this season with Colorado, Moyer was the fifth man since 1965 to play a major league game after turning 49, and became the oldest player in MLB history to post a win at 49 years and 151 days. His 269 wins with nine teams place the Pennsylvania native 35th on the career list.
Julio Franco: The Dominican retired at 49 with a .298 average, 2,586 hits and 173 home runs in 23 seasons in the majors with eight teams. Franco also had stints in his native Dominican Republic, Korea, Japan and Mexico. At 48, the infielder hit his last major league home run, taking fireballer Randy Johnson deep on May 4, 2007. Franco last played in the majors in 2007 for the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves.
Hughie Jennings: He was a standout shortstop over 17 seasons, ending his career in 1918 at age 49. Jennings captained Baltimore to four straight appearances in the Temple Cup World Championship Series, topping all shortstops in fielding percentage three times and hitting .314 over his career. The Pittston, Penn., native later managed for 16 campaigns in the majors in the early 1900s.
Arlie Latham: A former star third baseman for the St. Louis Browns, Walter Arlington (Arlie) Latham was the most famous base-stealer in the late 1880s, stealing 127 in 1887. His playing career began in 1880 and was highlighted by four consecutive championships with St. Louis from 1885 through 1888. The New Hampshire native later served as player/manager with the Browns in 1896 and player/coach with the New York Giants in 1909 before retiring after that season as the oldest player in the majors at 49.