When it comes to cracking it at the elite level of sport there are certain things that most people make assumptions over. It’s the strongest, the biggest, the fastest, and in some cases the newest blood that wins. That’s not always the case though.
There are several players that have already earned all the glory they will ever need. These legends have not only earned their spot in the American Hall of Fame, but also in the hearts of every die-hard American sports watcher. Here we look at the oldest players to feature in America’s big four sports to pay tribute to those who are often labeled over the hill.
NHL – Gordie Howe
We kick off our list with a look at the oldest player to take to the ice in the NHL. Gordie Howe played his final game of ice hockey on April 11th 1980; it came over 52 years after his birth back in March 1928. Howe – a Detroit Red Wings legend – wasn’t just an old timer that was used sparingly though; he earned himself a huge array of honours throughout his career and even in his last season he put up a total of 80 appearances; it took his career haul to 1,767 NHL games.
During that period Howe racked up 1,850 points. Those points saw him take the Art Ross trophy six times whilst he led the league on goals for five seasons. Despite his advancing years, Howe remained on top of his game. When the six-time MVP finally called time on his career he did so having made the All-Star team in 23 of the 25 years he spent in the NHL. The missing years you might be pondering were spent WHA.
MLB – Leroy Paige
If you thought 52-years-old was pushing the limits of old age in top level sport then, drumroll please, Leroy Paige is about to blow your mind; the Hall of Famer took to the field for the final time in September 1965. He was aged 59 years and 80 days. Not only does that make him the oldest player in MLB history but in top level American sport as well.
Paige, who was better known as Satchel, spent a large chunk of his career in the Negro Leagues but then turned out for three Major League outfits. His final farewell came with Kansas, with periods pitching for the St Louis Browns and Cleveland Indians completing his track record at the top. It was with the latter where he secured his place in the history books. That came courtesy of the 1948 World Series success; not only did he help his team to beat the Boston Braves but Satchel also became the first black player to pitch in a World Series.
NBA – Nat Hickey/Kevin Willis
Is Nat Hickey the oldest NBA player of all time? Yes, officially he is for his showing at 45 years and 363 days. In reality though his inclusion is a joke; he handed himself a couple of appearances whilst head coach. He also delivered nothing but a couple of clumsy moments. In our opinion, that defaults the true holder of this title to Kevin Willis.
Willis entered the NBA in the 1984 draft as the 11th overall pick and so Willis’ journeyman career began. The gigantic power forward come center donned the colours of eight teams; his crowning moments unquestionably coming in 2003 as his San Antonio Spurs side won the NBA Championship. Willis had made 79 regular season appearances that campaign with a further 18 in the post-season. 11 years earlier he’d collected his first – and only – All-Star nod whilst with the Atlanta Hawks. Then, finally, in 2007 Willis played his last match at 44 years and 224 days old; his farewell came whilst playing for the Dallas Mavericks.
NFL – George Blanda
With the NFL, we already know old can mean gold. Tom Brady proved that with his Super Bowl heroics for Tampa last season. Even Brady has some catching up to do to surpass George Blanda though; at least he does on the age front anyway! Blanda spent a lot of his time in what was the AFL and won three titles during the sixties. It wasn’t until eight years after his latest title triumph that the quarterback called time on his career at the age of 48 and 109 days.
In terms of how good Blanda was there is little we can say that isn’t evidenced by 26 years at the top. At the time of his retirement back in 1975, Blanda stepped back from the game with a host of records to his name. Most of them have sadly been broken since but there are a few things you cannot take away. Blanda threw a total of 26,920 passing yards; his name is etched into the sport with the fact he was the first player to break the 2,000 point mark.
Have you enjoyed reading about Blanda? If so, why not see who joins him in the list of the oldest players in NFL history, on which you can learn https://edge.twinspires.com/nfl/the-oldest-players-in-nfl-history/.
Boxing – Saoul Paul Mamby
When we say boxing, we remember the names of legends like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. While they are legendary in their own right, there is another player that is deserving of this title but is often overlooked by many and that player is Saoul Paul Mamby. Mamby might not be the best boxer in the boxing world which is fairly obvious if you look at his track records.
However, don’t let that fool you from the fact that he is one of the oldest boxers in American history and no one has been able to break his record yet. In his prime in 1980, he conquered and held the title of WBC super lightweight for two and a half years. Mamby persistently tried to get his title back over the course of several years but continuously failed to do so. However, he didn’t let that fact deter him and he continued his boxing career till he was in his 50s.
The most amazing thing is that he didn’t stop on his own but was forced by the California Athletic Commision to do so, out of worry for his health. But it doesn’t stop there, because he announced his comeback at 60 years old in a boxing match in Idaho. That made him the oldest boxing player to be in an official match, thus giving him the title of the oldest boxing player. While his journey wasn’t the most awe-inspiring, it’s his dedication that deserves all the admiration in the world.
Bowling – Carmen Salvino
If there is one name that will be forever etched in the history of American bowling, it is Carmen Salvino. The living legend is considered to be the greatest bowling player not only in America but in the entire world. He discovered bowling at the young age of 11 and his spectacular talent was displayed at the very moment he threw his first ball which turned out to be a strike.
This love for bowling that started at the age of 11 years old culminated into greatness in the later years of his life. He used to wear a shirt that said “I’m great and I’m gonna be the best bowler alive” on the back as a way to show his opponents what he has got. And true to his words, he did become the greatest bowler of all time as he went on to win several championships, including 17 PBA tour titles and two Senior Year Titles. He started his professional bowling career in 1953 and is still an active bowler in 2024, at the age of 87.
He is the founding member of the PBA which is arguably the most important organization in the bowling industry. His feats have earned him a spot in several Hall of Fames such as the USBC Hall of Fame, National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (owing to his Italian descent) and also the Illinois as well as the Chicagoland Hall of Fame.
There you have it, our guide to the oldest players to have mixed it up at the top of America’s big four sports.