Cubs who lived longest

The oldest living former Major League player is George Elder.

He appeared in 52 games for the St. Louis Browns in 1949, all between July 22 and Sept. 25, 1949. He played 10 games in left field and the pinch hit or pinch ran in the others.

He batted .250/.313/.318, with no homers and 3 doubles among 11 hits in 44 at bats.

In his last game, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, he singled as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning, putting runners on first and second with nobody out. The next batter grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

That afternoon, Elder was 28 years and 199 days old.

Today, Nov. 27, he is 100 years and 262 days.

Ten more retired players are at least 95. Among them is the oldest living Cub: pitcher Bobby Shantz, who ranks seventh overall, at 96 years, 62 days.



Shantz, a left hander, was born Sept. 26, 1925, and was 23 when he made his big league debut with the Athletics in 1949, the same year as Elder. He stayed in the majors for 16 years, beginning with 8 for the A's and 4 with the Yankees.

He won 18 games for the A's in 1951, then an American League-high 24 the following year, when he also led the league in WHIP (1.048) and strikeout/walk ratio (2.41, 152 to 63), and had the highest WAR of any player in either league, 9.4.

He was voted the AL's Most Valuable Player, receiving 16 of 24 first-place votes and finishing with 280 points, far ahead of a trio of Yankees: Allie Reynolds (183), Mickey Mantle (143) and Yogi Berra (104).

Shantz's earned run average that season was 2.48. In 1957, as a Yankee, he was the leader in ERA, at 2.45, and in ERA+, at 148.

Between 1961 and 1964, Shantz bounced among 5 teams, 3 of them in 1964, his final season.


The middle of those 3 was with the Cubs, who obtained him on June 15, along with pitcher Ernie Broglio and outfielder Doug Clemens in the infamous trade that sent Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth to the Cardinals.

Exactly 2 months later, the Cubs sold Shantz to the Phillies.

During those months, Shantz appeared in 20 games, all in relief, saving 1 and finishing 9. He lost his only decision and had an ERA of 5.56.

He was 1-1, 2.25, in 14 games for Philadelphia, then retired, at age 38, with a career record of 119-99, 3.38. He threw 1,935.2 innings, striking out 1,072 and walking 643. His ERA+ was 119 and his WAR was 34.7.


The second-oldest living Cub as of Nov. 27 is infielder Bobby Morgan, who is 95 years, 152 days old. He played 126 games for the team in 1957-58, the last of his 8 big league seasons.

Third-oldest, at 95 years, 79 days, is Ed Mickelson. In 6 games in 1957, 2 at first base and 4 as a pinch hitter, he was 0 for 12.

Morgan and Mickelson were born in 1926.

Four more Cubs are alive who were in 1927: Tommy Brown, Dave Hillman, Bob Kelly and Jim Willis.

There also are 4 who were born in 1929: Curt Simmons, Frank Thomas, Gale Wade and Ed Winceniak.

Two were born in 1930: Hobie Landrith and Bob Speake.



Shantz will have to live more than 5 1/2 more years, until May 13, 2026, to tie the record for the former Cub who lived longer than any other.

His name was Bob Wright. Born on Dec. 13, 1891, in Decatur County, Indiana, he was 101 years, 229 days old when he died in Carmichael, Calif., on July 30, 1993.

If you are like me, you never heard of Wright until now.

A righthanded pitcher, he stood 6 foot, 1 inch tall and weighed 175 pounds.

He turned professional in 1913, at age 21, with Kankakee of the Class D Illinois-Missouri League. He was 8-13 that season, but 15-14 and 19-13 the next 2, both with the Virginia (Minn.) Ore Diggers of the Northern League.

At the end of his second season there, Wright was acquired by the Cubs, who signed him to a contract for $200 per month.

He began his big league career on Sept. 21, when he took over at the start of the eighth inning of Game 1 of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds in New York. He gave up a hit, struck out the opposing pitcher, then was lifted for a pinch hitter in the ninth, when the Cubs scored 3 runs but still lost, 5-4.



Three days later, Sept. 24, at the West Side Grounds in Chicago, the Cubs trailed the Phillies, 1-0, after 5 innings of Game 2 of another doubleheader.

Then the first 4 batters reached base in the sixth, on a walk, 2 singles and another walk, making the score 2-0 and leaving the bases loaded.

They were fortunate to be behind by only 1 run, according to James Crusinberry, writing in the next day's Chicago Tribune.

Starting pitcher, George "Zip" Zabel "was having such a wretched time of it that [Manager and catcher Roger] Bresnahan dismissed him in the sixth inning when it looked as he never would get a man out," James Crusinberry wrote in the next day's Chicago Tribune

"George was awful wild. A couple of times Bresnahan nearly split his back stopping wild pitches. Several fellows walked [5, in fact] and several more hit the ball on the nose, so it was apparent that something had to be done. Rob 'Smoke' Wright was summoned from the warming to take the job and finish the game."



Wright's second appearance went far less smoothly than his first had.

He gave up a 2-run single to the first batter, who was tagged out when he tried to go to second on a belated throw home.

An infield error and another in the outfield allowed the fourth run of the inning to score before Wright got a strikeout for the second out and a foul popup for the third.

Wright blanked the Phillies in the seventh inning, then surrendered 3 straight singles in the eighth that produced a run.

That made the score 6-2 when the game was called because of darkness after the bottom of the eighth.

Wright was charged with 4 runs, 1 earned, on 5 hits and no walks. He struck out 2.

He never pitched in the big leagues again. He was 23 years and 285 days old.

In his 2 games, he worked 4 innings, with a 2.25 ERA. He yielded 6 hits, fanned 3 and did not walk any.


Wright spent 1916 with Memphis of the Southern Association, going 0-5 in 12 games. He sat out the next 4 seasons, then was 27-36 in 85 games for Toledo of the American Association in 1921-22 before retiring for good, at age 30.

He lived for nearly 71 more years.



Wright's 2 games as a Cub are twice as many as the team's second-longest living player.

Lefty pitcher John Hollison had the same career ERA as Wright, 2.25, as he allowed 1 run, a homer, in the 4 innings of relief he pitched against the visiting Cleveland Spiders on Aug. 13, 1892. That was the only hit he allowed. He struck out 2.

A Chicago native, Hollison was 22 years, 102 days old that afternoon. He died 77 years and 6 days later, on Aug. 19, 1969, at the age of 99 years, 108 days.



The only Cub to celebrate a 99th birthday was second baseman and shortstop Lonny Frey, who played 102 games for the team: 78 in 1937, then 24 a full decade later, in 1947!

Frey's big league debut was with the Dodgers, in 1933, 6 days after turning 23. In December 1936, he went to the Cubs in exchange for Woody English and Roy Henshaw.

After batting . 278/.381/.369 for the Cubs in 1937, he was sold to the Reds in February of 1938. Over the next 7 seasons, Frey was an All-Star twice and led the National League in steals once and in sacrifice bunts once while compiling a .727 OPS and an OPS+ of 104.

He missed 1944-45 while in the military, then returned to the Reds to play 111 more games in 1946.

On April 16, 1947, at age 36, the Reds sold Frey back to the Cubs, but his second stint in Chicago lasted barely more than 2 months. He was batting .197 in 71 at bats when the Cubs sold him to the Yankees on June 25.

Frey split 1948 between the Yankees and Giants, then retired, at age 37, having played 1,535 games over 14 seasons.

He turned 99 on Aug. 23, 2009, then died 21 days later.



Frey's name may not be familiar to you, but you may know that of Lennie Merullo, another shortstop and the lone Cub who was 98 when he died. Long after his final game, in 1947, he made multiple appearances in the broadcast booth of Cubs' home games, during which he charmed millions of viewers.

Merullo, born in 1917, was in his third minor league season and 24 years old when he was called up by the Cubs in September of 1941. He was their starting shortstop during most of his 6 full years as a Cub, playing a total of 639 games in all 7 seasons. He batted .240/.291/.301, with an OPS+ of just 69. His highest batting average was .256, in 1942. He hit 6 home runs in 2,264 trips to the plate.

In 1947, at age 31, he played 48 games for the Cubs' Triple-A farm club at Los Angeles, then called it quits.

He was 98 years, 25 days old when he died on May 30, 2015.



Here are the 7 other Cubs who lived to at least 95, beginning with the longest-lived:

96 years, 348 days: Jimmy Cooney, shortstop and second baseman, died 1991, Cub in 1926-27 (174 games)

96 years, 320 days: Monte Irvin, outfielder and first baseman, died 2016, Cub in 1956 (111 games)

96 years, 282 days: Freddy Schmidt, pitcher, died 2012, Cub in 1947 (1 game)

96 years, 271 days: Zeb Terry, shortstop and second baseman, died 1988, Cub in 1920-22 (387 games)

96 years, 63 days: Butch Weis, outfielder, died 1997, Cub in 1922-25 (128 games, his entire career)

95 years, 221 days: Wayne Terwilliger, second baseman, died 2021, Cub in 1949-51 (219 games)

95 years, 103 days: Red Adams, pitcher, died 2017, Cub in 1946 (8 games, his entire career)


Cooney, the seventh-longest-lived player in team history, was the son of another Jimmy Cooney, a shortstop, who played 318 of his 324 big league games for the Cubs in 1890-92. The elder Cooney was 8 days shy of his 38th birthday when he died on July 1, 1903.

Irvin lived the longest of all Cubs who are in the Hall of Fame. He was a star in the Negro Leagues for a decade before signing with the Giants in 1949, at age 30. He led the NL in runs batted in 1951, with 121. He hit 84 homers in 7 years as a Giant, then 15 as a Cub in 1956, his final season, when he batted .271/.346/.460. His career slash line, in 1,032 games, was .304/.388/.489, with an OPS+ of 134 and WAR of 32.1.

Terwilliger was the oldest living Cub after Merullo and before Shantz.

Another Adams, Sparky, was 94 years, 182 days old when he died in 1989. A shortstop, he played 672 games for the Cubs in 1922-27.

The player who came closest to turning 95 without doing so was Ernie Ovitz, at 94 years, 340 days. In his only big league game, at age 25 in 1911, he gave up 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks in 2 innings.



Here, in order by games played, are the 12 players who appeared in at least 250 games as a Cub and died in the 90th-94th years after the year of their birth:

1,953: Phil Cavaretta, first baseman, died 2010 at 94 years/152 days, Cub in 1934-53

1,098: Woody English, shortstop, died 1997 at 91/208, Cub in 1927-36

960: Andy Pafko, outfielder, died 2013 at 92/225, Cub in 1943-51

739: Randy Jackson, third baseman, died 2019 at 93/38, Cub in 1950-59

666: Bob O'Farrell, catcher, died 1988 at 91/124, Cub in 1915-34

437: Jigger Statz, outfielder, died 1988 at 90/148, Cub in 1922-25

366: Tommy Leach, outfielder, died in 1969 at 91/329, Cub in 1912-14

346: Lou Stringer, second baseman, died 2008 at 91/159, Cub in 1941-46

292: Davy Jones, outfielder, died 1972 at 91/274, Cub in 1902-04

264: Ralph Kiner, outfielder, died in 2014 at 91/102, Cub in 1953-54

261: Turk Lown, pitcher, died 2016 at 92/39, Cub in 1951-58

250: Al Dark, infielder, died in 2014 at 92/310, Cub in 1958-58


O'Farrell and Statz both were born in Waukegan, north of Chicago. O'Farrell died in Waukegan; Statz, in Corona Del Mar, Calif.

Kiner is in the Hall of Fame. He led the National League in home runs as a rookie on the Pirates in 1946, then led the majors in homers each of the next 6 years, including seasons with 51 and 54. He hit 50 homers in his 2 seasons as a Cub.\


1 OF 16

A total of 70 Cubs lived to at least the 90th year after their birth year.

They account for 6.2 percent, or 1 of every 16, of all 1,126 Cubs who had died through Nov. 26, 2021.

Those 70 are just 2 fewer than the 72 who died before the age of 40. But the 70 are less than half the 153 who died before the 50th year after their birth year.

The average death year of all 1,126 players who died is their 69th.

FanPosts are written by readers of Bleed Cubbie Blue, and as such do not reflect the views of SB Nation or Vox Media, nor is the content endorsed by SB Nation, Vox Media or Al Yellon, managing editor of Bleed Cubbie Blue or reviewed prior to posting.