At 44 years old, Ichiro Suzuki is heading home to Seattle. The Hit King* returns to the Emerald City six seasons after he was dealt to the Yankees in what is expected to be the end of his Hall-of-Fame career.
But that got me thinking. How many Cubs have played at age 44 or older? And who are the oldest Cubs ballplayers in history?
The first question is easy to answer. Here’s the list of Cubs who were older than Ichiro:
1970—Hoyt Wilhelm, 47
1953—Dutch Leonard, 44
1897—Cap Anson, 45
So two knuckleballing relievers and Cap Anson.
Wilhelm only played three games for the Cubs in 1970. They claimed him off waivers from the Braves on September 21 and traded him back to the Braves in the offseason. His career would end in July 1972 when the Dodgers released him, less than a week shy of his 50th birthday.
Dutch Leonard was the second of two pitchers with that name in the first half of the 20th Century. Neither one was of Dutch ancestry.
There have been 18 Cubs players who played for the team in their age-40 season or older. Here are the rest of them.
(Baseball ages are determined by a player’s age on June 30 of that season. There have been a few 39-year-olds who turned 40 after June 30, but I had to draw the line somewhere.)
2017—Koji Uehara, 42
2016—Joe Nathan, 41
2016—Joel Peralta, 40
You should remember all of those players, or in the case of Peralta, maybe you don’t. It’s still a little mind-blowing that he has a Cubs World Series Championship ring.
2006—Greg Maddux, 40
1999—Gary Gaetti, 40
The Cubs picked up Gaetti for the stretch run in 1998 and he was a major reason that the Cubs won the Wild Card that season. So general manager Ed Lynch brought him back for another season at age 40 hoping he could repeat his age-39 season. He was terrible and so were the 1999 Cubs.
1998—Tony Fossas, 40
Fossas was picked up in June. Eight games and four innings later, he was gone.
1986—Davey Lopes, 41
Lopes’ 1985 season was arguably the greatest season by a Cubs player over 40 ever. He was still very good in 1986, but he was a part-time player both years. He was traded to Houston in July of 1986 and finished his playing career with the Astros in 1987.
1983—Ferguson Jenkins, 40
Like Maddux, a Cubs legend in his second stint with the team. They both wore number 31 too.
1971—Ernie Banks, 40
Banks was finished in 1971, hitting just .193/.247/.325 in just 92 at-bats.
1959—Elmer Singleton, 41
Singleton pitched for the Cubs from 1957 to 1959. Can any old-time Cubs fans out there tell me anything about him?
1955—Walker Cooper, 40
The David Ross of his era. Cooper was a star on the Cardinals title teams of World War II and spent the 1950s as a backup catcher. He’d return to St. Louis for two more seasons after this.
1945—Johnny Moore, 43
Moore, an outfielder, played for the Cubs in the 1932 World Series. He hadn’t played in the majors since 1937 when the Cubs brought him back for pinch-hitting duties in the September pennant drive. (The war had ended, but most players hadn’t returned yet.) He went 1 for 6 with a walk. He played for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in the meantime.
1943—Al Todd, 41
Someone had to catch during the war.
1941—Charlie Root, 42
1939—Earl Whitehill, 40
Root, of course, was the ace of the Cubs pennant winning teams of the 1930s and had one of the most distinguished careers in Cubs history. He was also on the ‘39 team with Whitehill, which makes that the only Cubs team in history with two 40-year-olds on it. (Clarification: At the same time.)
*I call Ichiro “The Hit King” because I’m trolling Pete Rose and his fans.