Jason Giambi and MLB's other 43-year-old hitters

Lisa Blumenfeld

Simply by playing at the age of 43, Giambi is in rare company. By hitting a home run Friday night, the company he's with is even more select.

Jason Giambi was born on January 8, 1971. That means he's 43 years old, which makes him the oldest active player in Major League Baseball. There have only been 61 players in MLB history (including Giambi) who batted at the age of 43, an average of about one every two seasons. The first was a man named Joe Start way back in 1886. The list includes 24 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which means players able to stick around that long were probably very good.

29 of the 61 players were pitchers, led by Phil Niekro, who came to the plate 91 times in his age-43 season. 14 players had at least 100 plate appearances in their age-43 season, while Cap Anson is the only one ever to appear enough times to qualify for the batting title.

Most PA in age-43 season:

  1. Cap Anson (1895) - 545
  2. Carlton Fisk (1991) - 501
  3. Carl Yastrzemski (1983) - 437
  4. Pete Rose (1984) - 421
  5. Omar Vizquel (2010) - 391
  6. Julio Franco (2002) - 383
  7. Honus Wagner (1917) - 263
  8. Rickey Henderson (2002) - 222
  9. Tony Perez (1985) - 207
  10. Luke Appling (1950) - 144

Neither Vizquel or Franco was still playing for the Indians at that point, but there have been five players who batted at the age of 43 for the Tribe (only the Braves and White Sox, at six apiece, have had more:

Cy Young (1910), Joe Heving (1944), Early Wynn (1963) Dave Winfield (1995), Jason Giambi (2014)

Of the 61, 51 of them collected at least one hit. Giambi is one of 40 with at least two hits. Anson had the most hits in his age-43 season, with 159. Only three other players (Fisk, Rose, Yastrzemski) topped 100.

The home run Giambi hit on Friday makes him only the 18th player to hit a long ball in his age-43 season. Fisk tops that list with 18, while Yastrzemski (with 10) is the only other player with more than 6. Every game could be Giambi's last, given his age, but if he stays healthy he'll probably get ~150 PA, and he could certainly become only the third age-43 player to hit 7 home runs (hooray for fun with random endpoints!).

Speaking of exclusive clubs, in addition to the home run, Giambi struck the fear into the heart of Baltimore manager Buck Showalter, who ordered Giambi intentionally walked. That made Giambi only the 9th player his age to ever be issued a free pass. Yastrzemski got 11 of them, while no one else received more than 4.

Giambi's batting line is now .125/.263/.313, so he's not likely to crack the upper end of any rate-stat lists, but among the 22 players who got 50+ plate appearances in their age-43 season, here are the leaders:

Batting Average

  1. Cap Anson - .335
  2. Tony Perez - .328
  3. Clyde Sukeforth - .294
  4. Sam Rice - .294
  5. Pete Rose - .288
On-Base Percentage

  1. Cap Anson - .408
  2. Tony Perez - .396
  3. Rickey Henderson - .369
  4. Pete Rose - .359
  5. Carl Yastrzemski - .359
Slugging Percentage

  1. Tony Perez - .470
  2. Sam Rice - .447
  3. Cap Anson - .422
  4. Carlton Fisk - .413
  5. Carl Yastrzemski - .408

I'm on record as saying Giambi is not an ideal use of a roster spot, but I'd love to be proven wrong. Not just because it'd help the Indians (though that's the main reason), but because I love semi-historical accomplishments, and Giambi's company gets more exclusive each passing day.

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