KANSAS CITY, MO: Omar Vizquel #17 of the Toronto Blue Jays throws to first after tagging second as Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
Boy, is my face red.
Just scant hours ago, your Faithful Scribe made a big to-do over Chipper Jones turning 40 today ... with not even a mention of Omar Vizquel's birthday, which is perhaps more impressive because he's turning 45!
Of course, your Faithful Scribe has written about Omar Vizquel many times in many places; most notably here (in which I nominated him for the Wing of the Amazing) and here (in which I reviewed Vizquel's Hall of Fame résumé and found it wanting).
Still, let us take this occasion to revisit Omar Vizquel and his Amazingness.
The most amazing thing about Vizquel, of course, is that he's still getting paid good money to play baseball... but not that good: only $750,000, which must seem a pittance for a player who once earned $6 million in one season. But Vizquel is living proof that no matter how much money's in the game, some players will just keep on playing for as long as someone will give them a uniform and a steady paycheck.*
* Actually, there probably are some guys who would play for nothing, but the union has some pretty strict rules about that sort of thing.
Granted, Vizquel's not been playing much. He's been on the field in four of the Blue Jays' 16 games, starting one of them and batting nine times. He's collected one hit, a single.
Still, he's playing. Would you like to guess how many non-pitchers and non-gimmicks have played in the major leagues at 45?
(Go ahead and guess. You know you want to. We'll wait ...)
Or maybe four. I don't know about Grover Hartley.
We'll get back to Grover Hartley.
Rose was 45 in 1986, managed himself into 72 games, and was terrible.
Fisk was somehow brilliant at 42 -- yes, a brilliant 42-year-old catcher -- but went straight downhill from there, bottoming out with only 25 games before calling it quits at 45.
Franco, of course, is the ultimate freak in this discussion, far freakier than Omar Vizquel might ever hope to be. There remains some reasonable question about Franco's actual time of birth, but if you believe the latest reports, he played well in 125 games with the Braves at 45 ... and then played nearly as well at 46 before hanging around at 47 and 48, too.
Okay, so Grover Hartley. I'm not prepared to suggest that he was a gimmick. But considering that he was 45 years old in 1934 and hadn't played an inning in the majors since 1931, my guess is that he was an emergency fill-in, catching in five games and batting only four times. He doesn't seem to have been a real part of anyone's plans, as opposed to Vizquel. Who was (and is), rightly or wrongly, considered a valuable member of the Blue Jays' roster this spring.
So on those rare occasions when Omar Vizquel actually gets on the field, we're witnessing living history. We're witnessing one of the four oldest hitters in major-league history who were out there because their manager actually thought it was a pretty good idea.
Rightly, or wrongly.