Who Is the Oldest MLB Player in 2023?
Major League Baseball has made several rule changes to appeal to younger fans, but a selection of elder statesmen is showing that America’s pastime still has space for older players. A few 40-year-olds are still a part of big league rosters, though none are close to breaking the record for the oldest MLB player ever.
Oldest MLB player in 2023
5. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, 40 years old (April 18, 1983)
4. Justin Verlander, New York Mets, 40 years old (Feb. 20, 1983)
3. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals, 41 years old (Aug. 30, 1981)
2. Nelson Cruz, free agent, 43 years old (July 1, 1980)
1. Rich Hill, San Diego Padres, 43 years old (March 11, 1980)
As a college baseball player for the Michigan Wolverines, Hill was selected in three separate drafts before going pro with the Chicago Cubs in 2002. He made his major league debut for the team in 2005.
But what makes Hill’s longevity so impressive is that he wasn’t anything special on the mound for most of his career.
Hill has played for 13 teams, initially as an average reliever. He suffered two major injuries — a torn labrum in 2009 and a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery in 2011 — that have derailed plenty of pitchers in the past. Against all odds, he became a great starting pitcher in his mid-30s, earning starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 and 2018 World Series.
Cabrera, who is part of multiple exclusive statistical clubs, and Wainwright announced before the 2023 season that this will be their last year, while Cruz’s career is likely to be over after the San Diego Padres released him in July due to his hitting struggles. Verlander, who became the latest player to record wins against all 30 MLB teams in 2023, is still going strong.
Oldest MLB player ever
Maintaining a professional baseball career for nearly two decades is incredibly impressive, but Rich Hill still has nothing on Satchel Paige.
The pitcher made his only appearance for the Kansas City Athletics when he was 59 years and 80 days old against the Boston Red Sox in 1965. His presence at the Kansas City Municipal Stadium was a mutually beneficial gimmick. Paige needed another year of service time to qualify for a player’s pension. The Athletics were last in the standings and were looking for anything to goose ticket sales.
But Paige was a lot more than a novelty act. He was one of the best pitchers of his era with a groundbreaking legacy.
His career started in 1926 in the Negro Leagues, where he won one championship in 1942 and earned a spot on six All-Star teams. In addition to being great at baseball, Paige was also a showman. During games, he was known to have his infielders sit down before striking out the next batter.
Paige turned 42 before his MLB debut for the Cleveland Indians in 1948, making him the oldest rookie in league history. He was also the first Black pitcher to play in the American League and the seventh Black player to play in Major League Baseball. Paige won a World Series with Cleveland and made two All-Star games as a member of the St. Louis Browns.
Between playing for the Browns and Athletics, he spent a decade in the minor leagues. But Paige’s talent was still there, at least for a night. According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he threw 28 pitches over three innings and only gave up one hit to future Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. Paige walked off to a standing ovation and a rendition of the old folk song “The Old Gray Mare.”
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the first man elected by the Negro League Committee in 1971.
Average retirement age of MLB players
Not every player is talented or fortunate enough to play ball as they approach middle age. A study by the RBC Sports Professionals group found that the average MLB career lasts five years, and the average retirement age for MLB players is 29.5.
As enjoyable as the fame and money can be, life as a professional athlete comes with many complications. Injuries can alter or end a career at any time, the pressure to provide for friends and family is immense, and the high-profile status makes them a target for dubious schemes.
And when it comes time to retire, many players don’t know what to do next. In the opinion of Tom Sagissor, president of RBC Wealth Management, the key thing athletes should do is develop their financial literacy before leaving the field and find a new venture that excites them.
“It’s not necessarily about making money, it’s about occupying your time and not spending money,” Sagissor said. “It’s not necessarily about hitting a home run with your business, but to find something you’re passionate about.”