Last week, I saw the great documentary Gotta Dance about the Netsationals, a team of senior citizens that danced hip-hop at New Jersey Nets games. Then I found out that Julio Franco retired, which would indicate that Julio Franco had still been playing baseball. I was shocked; I had assumed that Franco had retired long ago, what with him being older than my father.
In honor of my elderly athletic discoveries last week, here's a look at some athletes that didn't let their age slow them down on the field.
Baseball's most senior player debuted in the majors in 1982 and made his last MLB appearance 25 years later. He holds the distinction of being the oldest person to hit a home run, on May 4, 2007 at age 48. He played for eight MLB teams and had pit stops in Japan, South Korea and Mexico, where he ultimately retired. ESPN compiled a fun list of facts putting Franco's streak in perspective. Here are a couple of highlights:
- Pitcher Edwin Nunez of the Mariners was the youngest player in baseball (19) the year Franco came into the majors. He played a total of 13 seasons in the majors "¦ and retired 14 years ago.
- Franco was in his sixth major league season, with his second team, when current Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton was born.
Most people don't even make it to 96, let alone with enough energy to ice skate. But John Burnosky does more than that- he still plays hockey, even just four years shy of his centennial. The Guinness World Record holder for "World's Most Durable Hockey Player" once played some minor-league hockey, but never made it to the big leagues because of his scrawny size. Now he plays in 60-and-up tournaments and is easily the oldest person in the tournament. As an added benefit, among hockey players, he probably doesn't have to worry about wearing his dentures.
It wasn't too surprising when George Blanda set the NFL record for most career points. After all, he had more chances to score them. Blanda played for an impressive 26 seasons and went until he was 48 (take that Brett Favre). The quarterback and kicker had good reason to stick around, too. He was famous for a five-game stretch in 1970 where he led last-minute comebacks. He also passed for seven touchdowns in one 1961 game.
Most men won't take their shirt off past a certain point, but Albert Beckles had no problem with it. He continued his body building career into his sixties, even winning the Niagara Falls Pro Invitational at the ripe ol' age of 61. The former Mr. Universe also holds the record for most competitions. After his retirement in 1992, he became a vegetarian.
Aladar Gerevich won his first Olympic gold medal for fencing in 1932. Then, 28 years later, he won another gold, the largest span of time between any two Olympic medals. In between, he won eight other medals and became the only athlete to win gold medals in six different Olympics. In a made-for-Hollywood moment, he showed up for the trials for the 1960 games, but was told he was too old to compete. So what did he do? He individually challenged every member of the team to an individual match"¦and won.