With a record 17 professional major championships to his credit, Jack Nicklaus was considered the greatest golfer of all time. But few believed he had another major in him when he teed off in the 1986 Masters at the age of 46. After all, he hadn't won a major since the 1980 PGA. "Washed up" was the assessment in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in an article that found its way onto the refrigerator at Nicklaus' rented house in Augusta, Ga. He played his way into contention over the first three rounds, then finished with a sizzling six-under-par 30 on the back nine to win his record sixth green jacket.
Jockey Gary Stevens, 50, embraces trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 77, in the winner's circle after Oxbow won the 138th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Stevens said, ''To win a classic at 50 years old after seven years retirement, it doesn't get any better than this. It's even more special winning it for Wayne Lukas and his team.''
Stevens added, ''Wayne is like a brother, coach, a father figure to me.''
The Ultimate Closer, the “Turn on the showers, the game is over” when he walks to the mound. He has been the Yankees closer since 1997 (the early years of Bill Clinton’s second term) and is the all-time leader in saves (624 through May 18, 2013) and games finished (910). He is a one-pitch pony, a mid-90s cut fastball that hitters know is coming but still can’t hit. He saws more wood than a lumber mill, once breaking three Ryan Klesko bats in one at-bat. His 25 or more saves 15 times is a record and he also owns 42 postseason saves with a 0.70 ERA — and in his early 40s he remains unhittable. is the all-time leader in ERA-plus — ERA adjusted to a player’s league and ballpark — for pitchers with a minimum of 1,000 innings. The average ERA-plus is 100. Rivera’s career mark is 206. The next best is Pedro Martinez at 154. Mo sat out most of 2012 with an injury and is back for his final season in 2013.
Hammerin’ Hank is the man who finally obliterated Babe Ruth’s career home run record with 755 and sneaked up on it. He never hit more than 47 home runs in a season, but he hit 40 or more eight times. He made every All-Star team from 1955 through 1975. Aaron played his final game on October 3, 1976 at the age of 42.
Considering that Wakefield didn't get his 100th career win until age 35, it's perhaps surprising that he retired with 200 wins at age 45. But such is the shelf-life of a master knuckleballer.
On May 16, 2012, Moyer earned his place in MLB history when, at age 49, he became the oldest pitcher to win a major league game. Thanks to a 25-year MLB career, Moyer's name will be synonymous with longevity for years to come.
John Force, 63, is proving he's still a force to be reckoned with in NHRA. He's a 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion with the most recent title in 2010. He is the father of drag racers Ashley Force Hood, Brittany Force and Courtney Force. In 2007, John and Ashley Force Hood became the first father/daughter to compete against each other in NHRA history.
There's a reason he's still called Mr. Hockey. Howe started out on the Detroit Red Wings' famed "Production Line" — and then kept playing. In 1974, at the age of 46, he was named the most valuable player in the WHA while skating on a team with his sons Mark and Marty. When the WHA folded, he signed with the NHL's Hartford Whalers in 1979 and played in all 80 games that season — at the age of 51. Sure, his one-game contract with the IHL's Detroit Vipers in 1997 was more a publicity stunt than anything, but it also put him down in the history books as the only professional hockey player to compete in six different decades. Not bad for a guy who was almost 70 at the time.
Not too many basketball players hang around the NBA past the age of 40, let alone win a title, but that's exactly what Abdul-Jabbar did during the 1987-88 season. The Hall of Fame center started 80 of 82 regular-season games, averaged an impressive 14.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and most important, helped the Los Angeles Lakers win back-to-back NBA titles with a Game 7 Finals win over the Bad Boys of Detroit.
Bill Shoemaker became the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby when, at the age of 54, he guided 18-1 longshot Ferdinand to an upset win in the 1986 Run for the Roses. Although Shoemaker was then the sport's all-time leading rider, his abilities had slipped a bit. But that didn't stop "The Shoe" from coming through on horse racing's biggest stage — literally — as he sent Ferdinand through a hole at the rail in midstretch, got the lead and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Ferdinand was trained by fellow old-timer Charlie Whittingham, who was 73 at the time. Shoemaker died in 2003.
Blanda holds the record for having the longest professional football career, 26 years total, but it was his 1970 season which will be remembered most of all. At the age of 43, he proved vital as a kicker and backup quarterback for the Oakland Raiders. The team reached the AFC championship, where Blanda became the oldest QB to play in a title game and had an impressive two-TD, two-PAT and one-FG performance in a losing effort. He also went on to win AFC Player of the Year honors that season. Blanda died in 2010 at the age of 83.
Winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, Martina Navratilova is often regarded as the greatest women's tennis player of all time. The records she holds include nine Wimbledon singles titles, 167 overall singles titles and 177 in doubles. But one of her most impressive records is her final Grand Slam win — she and American Bob Bryan won the mixed-doubles championship at the U.S. Open. She was a month shy of her 50th birthday.
Twenty years after losing the heavyweight title to Muhammad Ali at The Rumble in the Jungle, Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer to capture the IBF and WBA championships at the age of 45. Not only did he become the oldest heavyweight to win the title, Foreman also established a new mark for longest time between titles.
He wasn't supposed to join this list, if you believed his first two retirements at least. During the 2009 season with the Minnesota Vikings, Favre enjoyed arguably his best statistical season, completing a career-high 68.4 percent of his passes with 4,202 passing yards (most since 1998), 33 TD passes (most since 1997) and career-bests in INTs (7) and QB rating (107.2) — all at the age of 40. His 2010 season? Not such a success.
No-hitters were nothing new to Nolan Ryan. He had already thrown five before adding two more to his collection at the ripe old ages of 43 and 44. Ryan's no-hitter on June 11, 1990, was followed the next season by another on May 1, 1991, against the Blue Jays. The feat made Ryan the oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter in MLB history, according to baseball-reference.com. Not only did Ryan no-hit the Blue Jays that night, he also recorded 16 strikeouts. Ryan retired in 1993, finishing his career with an all-time MLB record of having played 27 seasons.
At a time when drivers in NASCAR seem to be getting younger, Mark Martin proves that old dogs can learn new tricks. In 2009, he scored five wins and finished runner-up in the championship — all at the age of 50. In 2010, he had nine top-5 finishes; in 2011, two. And in 2012, in the second event on the Sprint Cup schedule, he won the pole at Phoenix.
Is there anything Torres can't do? She first burst onto the Olympic scene during the '84 Games in Los Angeles for the first of three straight medal appearances. Her first comeback in 2000 was amazing, but it was her performance in her second comeback in the 2008 Beijing Games that truly inspired, as she became the oldest swimmer to medal, capturing three silvers at the age of 41.
A legend of the Negro Leagues, Paige finally got the opportunity to play in the MLB when the Cleveland Indians signed him to a contract on July 7, 1948 — what is commonly referred to as his 42nd birthday (years after his death in 1982, questions still remain as to his actual birthdate). Nonetheless, he went 6-1 in his debut season with a 2.48 ERA, leading to some Rookie of the Year buzz. Although he was unable to replicate his success in future years, he earned a spot on the 1952 and 1953 AL All-Star teams as a member of the St. Louis Browns.