June 1, 2023

A Salute to the Senior Class

April 25, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

I recently came across an article about Art Schallock, the oldest MLB veteran still living.  Art debuted in 1951 with the Yankees and just turned 99 years old.  Perhaps a rousing rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” should accompany “Happy Birthday.”

MLB has not had a centenarian alumnus since Eddie Robinson died in 2021.  Robinson played for all the American League teams of his era save for the Red Sox, so he was also the elder statesman for seven franchises.  Schallock wasn’t so well-traveled, but if he can hang in there another year, then we shall have another centenarian.  I don’t suppose he has the receipts to prove it, but I’m inclined to recognize him as the reigning MLB champ in terms of career senior discounts.

Let’s take a closer look at Schallock as well as the “contenders” immediately behind him.  A few had long careers, one was a major leaguer for a day, and the rest fell somewhere in-between.  All are part of a large but elite fraternity.  As Baseball Almanac notes, as of April 24, 2023, 20,318 ballplayers have appeared in major league games since 1876.  On most weekends, you would find more people than that in the stands at any major league ballpark.


Art Schallock, DOB: April 25, 1924; first MLB game: July 16, 1951

Schallock was a left-handed pitcher for five years.  That is an unfortunate name for a pitcher.  I say that because “Schallock” is a little too close to “shellac” and one can easily imagine the New York Daily News or the New York Post with the headline  “Schallock Gets Shellacked,” or something like that after he had a bad outing with the Yanks.

Schallock is not only the oldest surviving Yankee.  Traded to Baltimore in 1954 (the inaugural year of the franchise in that city), he is also the oldest surviving Oriole.  In addition, he is the oldest player to appear in a World Series (1953), the oldest member of a World Series championship team, and the oldest MLB/World War II veteran, though he did not begin his professional baseball career till after the war.  As a southpaw, Schallock also reigns as the oldest left-handed pitcher.

Obviously, being at the top of the list automatically conveys a lot of “oldest” distinctions.  Yet those who follow Schallock also have their share of distinctions.


Bill Greason, DOB: September 23, 1924; first MLB game: May 31, 1954

As a member of the Cardinals, Bill Greason first toed the rubber on Memorial Day 1954 at Wrigley Field.  Of course, that automatically makes him the oldest surviving Cardinal, but it also makes him the oldest right-hander among former MLB moundsmen.  But there is more.  He is also the oldest living black player among former MLB players.  Since Greason played for the Birmingham Black Barons of the American Negro League in 1948, that makes him the oldest MLB/Negro League veteran on our list.  He is also the oldest surviving black pitcher to start a big league game.  Unfortunately, that start did not go well, as he did not make it past three innings.  His MLB record includes just three appearances in 1954.  In just 4 IP, he had an ERA of 13.50.  After his cup of coffee with the Cardinals, he spent the rest of his career in their farm system at Houston (Texas League, Double-A) and Rochester (International League, Triple-A) before retiring at age 35.  He then returned to his hometown of Birmingham where he became a minister and civil rights activist.


Larry Miggins, DOB: August 20, 1925; first MLB game: October 3, 1948

Larry Miggins came up with the Cardinals towards the end of the 1948 season and got one plate appearance, then returned in 1952 for 99 PAs, thus giving him an even 100 for his career.  Primarily a left fielder, he is the oldest living practitioner of that position.  But he also logged time at first base and right field, so he also goes into the books as the oldest man to play those positions.  Obviously, his brief tenure in the big leagues didn’t afford him an opportunity to distinguish himself, but one incident stands out.  On May 13, 1952, he hit his first home run at Ebbets Field.  Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully, Miggins’s classmate at Fordham Prep School, had prophesied that one day he would call Miggins’ first home run.  Of course, this is not the most famous called shot in baseball history but it is certainly noteworthy.

Bobby Shantz, DOB: September 26, 1925; first MLB game: May 1, 1949

The aforementioned players were not household words even when they played, but the next man in the queue needs no introduction to seamheads.  When Bobby Shantz started his hurling career with the A’s in 1949, he probably never figured he’d be the last man standing who was managed by Connie Mack or coached by Chief Bender, or the oldest member of the Philadelphia A’s alumni society.  When the franchise moved to Kansas City in 1955, that ensured he would one day be the oldest surviving Kansas City A.

Of course, those are passive career highlights, but Shantz also has plenty of active career highlights.  In 1952 (the franchise’s last winning season till 1968) he had a career year: leading the league in victories (24), winning percentage (.774 based on 24-7) as well as WHIP (1.048), in a career-high 279.2 IP.  That was good enough to make him the AL MVP.

His remaining years with the A’s were less distinctive, but a trade to the Yankees in 1957 revitalized his career.  Though appearing in just 30 games, he led the league in ERA (2.45) and ERA+ (148).  He was named to his third AL All-Star squad (his first was in 1951) and reigns as the oldest surviving MLB All-Star.  Also in 1957, he appeared in his first World Series (the following year he would acquire his only championship ring as the Yankees bested the Braves in a rematch).

Appearing mostly in relief with the Yankees in 1960, he had a good season but an even more eventful off-season.  Left unprotected in the expansion draft, he was the first pick (second overall) by the second coming of the Washington Senators.  After four seasons with the Yankees, he was once again consigned to the ranks of also-ran teams.  But he got a reprieve as the fledgling Senators traded him to the Pirates.  So Bill Mazeroski, who had deprived him of a championship ring in 1960, would be his teammate – but only for one year, as the Pirates left him unprotected in the NL expansion draft and he was chosen by Houston.

Shantz reported for duty to the Houston Colt .45s but was not there long (he did, however, start – and win – the first MLB game played in Houston on April 10, 1962), as he was traded to the Cardinals a few weeks after opening day.  In 1964 the Cardinals traded him to the Cubs as part of the infamous Lou Brock deal.  Shantz was a short-timer (two months) with the Cubs.  The Phillies purchased him to aid their pennant drive.  Since the Phillies were 70-44 at the time of the acquisition, he probably felt his return to Philadelphia greatly enhanced his odds for another World Series appearance.  Well, the demise of the ’64 Phillies must have demoralized him, as he chose retirement over playing for the ’65 Phillies.  As a belated consolation prize, he was named to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

Thanks to a 16-year career, Shantz also has the distinction of being the oldest surviving Pirate, Cub, Phillie, and Colt .45 (a very small club, as they only played three seasons) as well as the oldest 20-game winner and MVP.  At 5’6” he is the shortest survivor.  He also enjoyed the same distinction (along with Phil Rizzuto) when he was an active player.  I don’t know what he weighs today but since his playing weight is listed at 139 pounds, he may also be the lightest survivor.  For sure, he is the only survivor to be selected twice in expansion drafts.

His season with the 1961 Pirates teamed him up with Bob Oldis and Roy Face (see below).  You might think they would be the oldest surviving trio of teammates, but you would be wrong.  Keep reading.

Chris Haughey, DOB: October 3, 1925; first MLB game: October 3, 1943

Right-hander Chris Haughey is the poster boy for the dangers of peaking early.  On his 18th birthday, he appeared in one game for the Dodgers in Cincinnati on the last day of the 1943 season.  Unfortunately, his first appearance (not all that bad: 3 ER in 7 IP) was also his last appearance.  So he gets the Moonlight Graham award as the oldest veteran with the shortest possible (i.e., one game) major league career.

After two years of military service, Haughey returned to minor league ball in 1946 but never resurfaced in the big leagues.  That 80-year gap (1943-2023) makes him the champ of the survivors so far as seasons elapsed between last appearance and today.  Also, that makes him the oldest surviving MLB player who was active during the World War II years.  Last but not least, he is the oldest surviving Dodger.


Frank Saucier, DOB: May 28, 1926; first MLB game: July 21, 1951

There are footnotes and there are footnotes.  Consider the case of Frank Saucier.  With his MLB career limited to just 18 PAs (and 1 hit) in 18 games with the Browns in 1951, he definitely qualifies as a footnote.  But he gets a second footnote – a much bigger one – for a plate appearance he never made.  On August 19, 1951, right-fielder Saucier was scheduled to lead off the bottom of the first inning in the second game of a Sunday double-header.  He was called back to the dugout and Eddie Gaedel pinch-hit for him.  You’ve heard that story before so I won’t go into details, other than to note that Saucier is the last player remaining from that historic game.  Also he is the oldest living St. Louis Brown (like the Philadelphia A’s alumni society, a rapidly self-liquidating group).  After an outstanding minor league career he was projected for stardom but injuries slowed him down.  A veteran of World War II, he was recalled for active duty in Korea and never returned to pro baseball.  It’s hardly a tragedy, however, as he embarked on a long and successful career in the oil and gas industry in Texas after he was discharged.

Bobby Morgan, DOB: June 29, 1926; first MLB game: April 18, 1950

Oklahoman Bobby Morgan may not be one of the renowned names in baseball history but he wasn’t restricted to a cup of coffee.  Breaking in at third base with the Dodgers on opening day of 1950, he had an 8-year MLB career with the Dodgers (with whom he appeared in the 1952 and 1953 World Series), Phillies, Cardinals, and Cubs.  After one pinch-hitting appearance with the Cubs in 1958, he was sold to the Kansas City A’s, who sent him to Triple-A Buffalo, where he remained through the 1962 season. He spent one final season in the lower minors (Miami of the Florida State League and Chattanooga of the Sally League) in 1963 before calling it quits.  He managed the Marlins in 1964 and 1965 and moved on to lead the Portsmouth Tides of the Carolina League in 1966.  Later he became a scout for the Kansas City Royals.  He is the oldest Cub on our list as well as the oldest surviving MLB player from the Sooner State.

Ed Mickelson, DOB: September 9, 1926; first MLB game: September 18, 1950

Despite outstanding stats at various stops in the minors (notably 143 RBIs at Decatur in the Three-I League in 1948, and a combined .413 BA at Montgomery of the Southeastern League and Lynchburg of the Piedmont League in 1950), first-baseman Ed Mickelson’s success did not carry over to the big leagues.  But give him credit for hanging in there.  He got 12 PAs with the Cardinals in 1950.  Then it was back to the minors for more seasoning.  He resurfaced with the Browns for 17 PAs in 1953.  Then it was back to the minors again.  He was rewarded with one last sojourn in the big leagues: 12 PAs with his hometown team, the Cubs, in 1957 before retiring.  All he had to show for his baseball odyssey were 3 MLB hits.  One of them, however, proved to be historic.  In the last game of the 1953 season he drove in the Browns’ only run in a 2-1 loss to the White Sox.  As it turned out, that was the final run in St. Louis Browns history.  He can also lay claim to being the oldest surviving MLB first baseman.  His post-playing career involved teaching, counseling, and coaching at various schools in the St. Louis area.  In 2007 he authored Out of the Park: Memoir of a Minor League Baseball All-Star.  So he is also the oldest surviving MLB author.

Carl Erskine, DOB: December 13, 1926; first MLB game: July 25, 1948

Like Bobby Shantz, Carl Erskine is a needs-no-introduction player.  Born in Anderson, Indiana, he is the oldest Hoosier on our list.  “Oisk” is better known as a mainstay of the pitching staff of the Boys of Summer, the great Brooklyn Dodgers teams (yet another fast-shrinking alumni society) of the late 1940’s through the mid-1950’s.  In a 12-year career with the Dodgers, right-hander Erskine won 122 games, including 20 in 1953.  He pitched in 5 World Series against the Yankees, including the one and only Brooklyn championship year of 1955 (this, of course, makes him the oldest Dodger with a World Series championship ring).  He is also the oldest MLB pitcher to hurl a no-hitter.  In fact, he did it twice (June 19, 1952 vs. the Cubs; May 12, 1956 vs. the Giants).  Since he made the move west with the Dodgers in 1958, he is the oldest surviving Los Angeles Dodger.  As mentioned above, Bobby Shantz is the oldest surviving 20-game winner, but Erskine is the oldest surviving right-handed 20-game winner.

Jim Willis, DOB: March 20, 1927; first MLB game: April 22, 1953

Left-hander Jim Willis had a slim pro career to match his frame (6’3”, 175 lbs.).  He made his debut with the Cubs doing mop-up work in a 15-6 loss to the Braves at Wrigley Field.  At first glance, it would not appear to be a game of any import, but it was the first game the Milwaukee Braves played at Wrigley Field.  In two seasons with the Cubs, Willis was used sparingly (27 games total, 66.1 innings total) but the results were not bad (4-4, 3.39 ERA).  At the end of the 1954 season Willis was traded to the Cincinnati Reds.  Somehow he ended up with the Omaha Cardinals (Triple-A, American Association) in 1955.  After that, there is no record so we must assume he retired.  Born in Doyline, Louisiana in 1927, he is the oldest MLB veteran from the Pelican State.  To add to his Louisiana bona fides, he attended Northwestern State University at Natchitoches and played for the  Shreveport Sports of the Texas League in 1952.

During his first two months with the Cubs, Willis was a teammate of Bob Kelly and Tommy Brown (see below), so they go into the books as the oldest surviving trio of teammates.  I say the oldest because they were together in 1953; the aforementioned Pirate trio (Shantz, Oldis, Face) came along eight years later.

What are the odds that three teammates from 70 seasons ago would still be alive today?  Given the Cubs’ record of 65-89 in 1953, any sort of positive legacy might have seemed highly unlikely.  Yet 1953 also marked the first appearance (September 17) of Ernie Banks in a Cub uniform.

Charlie Maxwell, DOB: April 8, 1927; first MLB game: September 20, 1950

Given his nickname of Paw Paw, a folksy term for grandfather, it could be said that Charlie Maxwell was destined for longevity.  A 14-year American Leaguer, he currently reigns as the oldest living representative of the Red Sox, Tigers, and White Sox (he also played with the Orioles).  Finally given a chance to play left field regularly in Detroit, he responded with All-Star seasons in 1956 and 1957.  Retiring after the 1964 season, he had accumulated 856 hits and 148 home runs with a slash line of .264/.360/.451.  He is the oldest member of the elite fraternity of MLB sluggers who have hit four consecutive home runs (accomplished during a double-header against the Yankees in Detroit on May 3, 1959) or, if you prefer, four home runs in one day.  Thanks to three productive seasons (1947-1949) with the Roanoke Red Sox (a/k/a Rosox), he was inducted into the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame.  Without researching the topic, I feel confident in saying he is the oldest living member of that august institution.


Billy Gardner, DOB: July 19, 1927; first MLB game: April 22, 1954

If asked to name the oldest living New York Giant, most people would probably say Willie Mays.  That is not a bad guess, as Willie is getting up there in years.  But he will be a “mere” 92 on May 6 of this year.  In truth, the Giants’ senior of seniors is Billy “Shotgun” Gardner, who spent his rookie season as a member of the 1954 World Champion Giants, though he did not play in the Series.  Traded to the Orioles he was their regular second baseman from 1956 through 1959.  Subsequently traded to the Senators before the 1960 season, he made the move with the franchise to Minnesota in 1961. Thus, he is also the oldest surviving veteran of the Senators/Twins franchise.  He finished his career as a utility player with the Yankees and the Red Sox, retiring after the 1963 season.  A native of Waterford, Connecticut, he is the oldest living native of the Nutmeg State to play major league ball.

Bob Kelly, DOB: October 4, 1927; first MLB game: May 4, 1951

Right-hander Bob Kelly’s record with the Cubs (11-14, 4.50 ERA) is unimpressive, but when he arrived on the scene, unimpressive was a good adjective for the franchise (their .500 record in 1952 was their first since 1946 and their last until 1963).  As mentioned above, however, Kelly does get a shout-out for having been a teammate of Jim Willis and Tommy Brown on the ’53 Cubs.  Traded to Cincinnati during that season, he thus stands as the oldest living Red.  After the 1953 season, he began a minor league odyssey through the Cleveland, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh minor league systems.  At age 30, he was rewarded with a second tour of duty with the Reds in 1958.  It was a brief stay (two games) before he was traded to the Indians where his MLB career ended.  That means he is now the oldest surviving member of the Cleveland franchise.  Or if you prefer he is the oldest surviving player of any Ohio MLB franchise.

Tommy Brown, DOB: December 6, 1927; first MLB game: August 3, 1944

As mentioned above, the title of oldest Dodger belongs to Chris Haughey.  Tommy Brown, however, is in the books as the youngest man to ever don the Dodger blue (appropriately enough, he was Brooklyn-born, specifically in Bensonhurst).  He was 16 years (and 8 months) old when he started at shortstop in both games of a double-header with the Cubs at Brooklyn.  Given the manpower shortage of World War II, it was not unusual for MLB teams to employ players who were too young for the military draft.  In doing so, he became the youngest position player in MLB history (famously, pitcher Joe Nuxhall, the youngest MLB player ever, arrived on the scene at age 15 with the Reds a couple of months before Brown).  Given Brown’s homegrown status, one wonders if the Dodgers (38-59 before Brown’s debut) weren’t giving him the David Clyde treatment in an attempt at hyping attendance.  Give the Dodgers credit for sticking with him the rest of the year, even though he hit just .164 in 160 PAs.  The results were better in 1945 when he hit .245 before he turned 18.  Notably, on August 20th, when he went yard against the Pirates at Ebbets Field, he became (and remains) the youngest MLB player to hit a home run, which means that if he lives long enough, he could be both the oldest living home run hitter and the youngest to have done so.

Returning to the Dodgers after the war, he remained with them from 1947 into 1951when he was traded to the Phillies.  In 1952 it was on to the Cubs, where he was a teammate of Jim Willis and Bob Kelly in 1953, as detailed above.  Unfortunately, his .196 BA was not good enough, even for the lowly Cubs, so it was back to the minor leagues for the rest of his pro career (1954-1959).

Nicknamed “Buckshot,” shortstop Brown could have teamed up with second baseman “Shotgun” Billy Gardner to create a killer double-play combo.

Bob Oldis, DOB: January 5, 1928; first MLB game: April 28, 1953

Bob Oldis, who debuted with the Senators in 1953, was a third-string catcher in the days when it was common to carry three catchers.  The reason for this was that two catchers had to remain on duty in the bullpen so they could accommodate two pitchers warming up simultaneously.  Eventually, somebody figured out there was need to waste a roster spot on a player who would rarely appear in a game (in 1954, for example, Oldis had just 26 PA’s all season), so the bullpen catcher was invented.

In 7 seasons, Oldis accrued just 262 PAs.  At age 32 he resurfaced from the minors after 5 years in exile.  With Smokey Burgess and Hal Smith ahead of him at Pittsburgh, he had just 21 PAs in 1960, but he was officially a member of that Bucs championship team and made a couple of appearances in the Series.  Also, Oldis is the oldest (try saying that quickly four or five times in a row) backstop among MLB alumni.

Oldis and Bobby Shantz are now the oldest surviving batterymates (as mentioned earlier, Roy Face was also a teammate).  The battery ran out of juice after 1961 when Oldis was traded to the Phillies for the remainder of his career.  1963 was his last season as a player, but he served as a coach during the ’64 debacle.  He later served as a coach for the Twins and Expos.  He also scouted for the Phillies, Expos, and Marlins, who bestowed another ring on him after their 2003 World Series championship, and it appears he is still drawing a paycheck from them.  A resident of Iowa, his LinkedIn account describes him as a midwestern region scout.

Felipe Montemayor, DOB: February 7, 1928; first MLB game: April 14, 1953

As you might have surmised from his name, outfielder Felipe Montemayor is the oldest surviving Latin-American player.  As a native of Mexico (specifically, baseball hotbed Monterrey) he also has bragging rights as the oldest surviving Mexican player.  His stay with the Pirates in 1953 was brief (62 PA’s) but he returned from the minors in 1955 for 114 PA’s (career slash line: .173/.295/.287). His abbreviated stints with the Pirates are a minor part of his career.  Altogether, he was a 21-year veteran, including 16 seasons as a pro in Mexico, where he logged time with Campeche, Mazatlán, Mexicali, Mexico City (Tigers and Reds), Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Veracruz.  His record in his native country was good enough to get him enshrined in the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in Monterrey in 1983.  (And if you’re curious, the oldest Mexican-American still surviving is 90-year-old Facundo “Cuno” Barragan, a native of Sacramento and a Cubs alumnus.)

Roy Face, DOB: February 20, 1928; first MLB game: April 16, 1953

While Bill Mazeroski has gone down in history for one swing of the bat in the 1960 World Series, savvy Pirates fans know that the Bucs would never have won the pennant without Roy Face, a three-time NL All-Star (1959-1961).  Whenever manager Danny Murtaugh went to the mound in those years, it was usually Face time.

Admittedly, Face’s 1960 season was a step down from his 1959 season, when he had one of the best seasons in relief pitching history.  He sported a 17-0 record when he took the mound in the eighth inning of the first game of a double-header at the Los Angeles Coliseum on September 11th.   He faltered in the 9th inning for his one and only loss of the season.  He finished with 18 victories, a single season MLB record for a reliever.  Appearing in 68 games in 1960, he finished 61.  Hurling 114.2 innings, all as a reliever, he won 10 and saved 24.  He garnered saves in the Pirates’ first three victories of the Series but came up short in Game 7 (Good trivia question: who was the winning pitcher in Game 7?  Harvey Haddix, who entered the game in the 9th and kept the Yankees from taking the lead.)

As the Face of the franchise, Face remained with the Pirates till 1968, when he had accrued an even 100 victories.  Towards the end of the season, he was purchased by the Detroit Tigers for their pennant drive but was not eligible to appear in the World Series against the Cardinals.

After the Tigers released him in spring training 1969, Face signed on with the expansion Montreal Expos.  Of course, that makes him the oldest surviving Expo and the oldest man who ever played at Jarry Park, the team’s home before Olympic
Stadium.  Face’s Canadian sojourn entails other distinctions: the oldest MLB player to get a paycheck in Canadian dollars, or to play for an MLB team outside of the United States, or to ever hear himself described as le lanceur (the pitcher) by an MLB public address announcer, or the oldest living MLB player to stand for two national anthems.

After the Expos released him at age 41, Face had 104 wins, still the MLB career record for wins by a reliever.  His long career left two NL franchises with regrets: The Phillies, who signed him in 1949, and the Dodgers, who drafted him in the 1950 minor league draft.  Though he had won 69 games in 4 minor league seasons, the Dodgers let him go in the Rule 5 draft after the 1952 season.

Standing 5’8” and weighing 155 lbs., Face was hardly the most imposing hurler to ever emerge from a bullpen.  His money pitch was a forkball, the antecedent of the split-finger fastball.  As mentioned above, he was a contemporary of Bobby Shantz and Bob Oldis.

                                              * * *

That concludes the 95-year-olds.  I suppose we could go down to the 94-year-olds but this article is long enough and I have to stop somewhere.  I’m not getting any younger myself.

We have gone a long way in putting the lives and times of these men in perspective, but we are not finished. Note that all of these men were born when Babe Ruth was in his prime.  As children, some of them might have seen the Babe in his later years.  They all lived through the Great Depression and World War II.  A few of them (Miggins, Haughey, Erskine) made their MLB debuts while the Babe was still alive.  And if that isn’t enough, consider that some of them (Miggins, Shantz, Haughey, Morgan, Michelson, Erskine, Maxwell) started their MLB careers before Topps baseball cards existed!  Yet they still draw breath on our humble planet at this very hour!

It would be instructive to return to this list annually at the start of each season to see how the leaderboard has changed.  Unfortunately, this is a leaderboard unlike any other.  Typically, once someone falls off a leaderboard, it is possible to return in the next round, the next tournament, or the next season.  Once you’ve been removed from this leaderboard, you won’t make a comeback.

Speaking of graybeards, didn’t Methuselah pitch for Team Israel in the 5,000 B.C. World Baseball Classic?

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