Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Post "Four" Decadent Major Leaguers

This blog is going to take a little break from the trip to talk about a cool subject: 4-Decade Players in Major League Baseball. To date, there have been 26 players who have accomplished the feat. A surprisingly low amount of these players has entered the Hall of Fame. To date, only 8 of the 26 are enshrined, with Rickey Henderson likely to join them once he becomes eligible. (Tim Raines could make a reasonable case for admission as well). Here's the list of 4-Decade players for your reference:


(Player, years played)

-Dan Brouthers (1879-1896, 1904)
-Bill Buckner (1969-1990)
-Eddie Collins (1906-1930)
-Rick Dempsey (1969-1992)
-Carlton Fisk (1969, 1971-1992)
-Kid Gleason (1888-1908, 1912)
-Rickey Henderson (1979-2003)
-Tim McCarver (1959-1961, 1963-1980)
-Willie McCovey (1959-1980)
-Deacon McGuire (1884-1888, 1890-1908, 1910, 1912)
-Minnie Minoso (1949, 1951-1964, 1976, 1980)
-Jack O'Connor (1887-1904, 1906-1907, 1910)
-Jim O'Rourke (1876-1893, 1904)
-Tim Raines (1979-1999, 2001-2002)
-John Ryan (1889-1891, 1894-1896, 1898-1899, 1901-1903, 1912-1913)
-Mickey Vernon (1939-1943, 1946-1960)
-Ted Williams (1939-1942, 1946-1960)


-Nick Altrock (1898, 1902-1909, 1912-1915, 1918-1919, 1924, 1933)
-Jim Kaat (1959-1983)
-Mike Morgan (1978-1979, 1982-1983, 1985-2002)
-Bobo Newsom (1929-1930, 1932, 1934-1948, 1952-1953)
-Jesse Orosco (1979, 1981-2003)
-Jack Quinn (1909-1915, 1918-1933)
-Jerry Reuss (1969-1990)
-Nolan Ryan (1966, 1968-1992)
-Early Wynn (1939, 1941-1944, 1946-1963)

As far as this blog sees it, there are several keys to becoming a 4-decade player.

1. Begin your career late in a decade. This is crucial. Only 4 of the players started their career in the middle part of the decade, and only 1 (Deacon McGuire) began in the "early" part of the decade. One's chances of playing in 4 separate decades decrease exponentially when beginning a career in a year ending in a number lower than 7.

2. It helps to be good. This may seem self-evident, but there aren't too many marginal players on this list. John Ryan is probably the worst of the group, having only played a total of 616 games, batting only .217 on his career. Being somewhat of a specialty player as a catcher helped Ryan's cause, but also getting a pair of "promotional stunt" games in 1911 and 1912 went furthest toward his envoy into 4 decades.

3. Pitchers have better longevity these days. Even though only 9 of the 26 players were pitchers, the 34.6% of the group is a sizeably larger proportion than that which pitchers have historically represented on Major League rosters. While today's rosters usually are composed of about 50 percent pitchers, this is a recent phenomenon and the percentage of pitchers on the roster has grown just about every decade. Because of the lightened demands on pitchers, there has been a rise in 4-decade pitchers over the last few decades. Prior to 1980, through over 13 decades of baseball, only 4 pitchers had competed in 4 decades. Since then, 5 pitchers competed in their 4th decade. Of those 5, all but Nolan Ryan ended their career as relief pitchers (though Jerry Reuss did start once during his last season).

4. Everyone Loves a promotional stunt. While Minnie Minoso's 4th and 5th decades were garnered on the most celebrated promotional stunts of all 4-decade guys, he was not alone. Nick Altrock batted once in his 5th decade after pitching in the previous four; John Ryan played 1 game a year in his 4th decade, and Tim Raines, while still well-qualified as a player, came back to play in 2002 primarily to play alongside his son. (While the promotional stunt intended was not the 4-decade angle, this blog's still counting it in this category).

Needless to say, this blog takes particular interest in this unusual topic, and even had to correct this purported "encyclopedic" site to give it accuracy. (They were missing Brouthers, Gleason, McGuire, O'Connor, and Jack Ryan). So if you've got questions or comments, fire away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A testament to point #1 is Charlie Hough... despite playing 24 consecutive years (more than many of these guys), he started in 1970 so would have had to play another 6 years to hit his 4th decade. I think if anyone were justified in doing a promotional stunt in 2007, it's Charlie Hough.

- Moike

5:15 AM  

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