You probably heard that Lennie Merullo, the Oldest Living Cub and (in related news) the last Cub to play in a World Series, died over the weekend. Earlier this spring, you might have read this great New York Times story about 95-year-old Rugger Ardizoia, the Oldest Living Yankee. But I’m going to guess that unless you’re a diehard Cubbies fans, you probably hadn’t previously heard of Merullo … and even if you’re a diehard Yankees fan, you’d never heard of Ardizoia. Well, I think baseball should do better. Or at least could do better.
If you’re a Cardinals fan, do you know who’s the Oldest Living Cardinal?
If you’re a Tigers fan, do you know who’s the Oldest Living Tiger?
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If you’re a Red Sox fan, do you know who’s the Oldest Living Red Sox?
If you don’t, this strikes me as a public-relations failure.
Answers: Bill Endicott, Eddie Robinson, Bobby Doerr.
Okay, some of you Red Sox fans probably got Doerr. Considering he’s in the Hall of Fame. But anybody who knows Bill Endicott, who got 20 at-bats for the pennant-winning Redbirds in 1946, gets a No-Prize.
Look, I do realize that there’s only so much you can do with this information. It would be great if you could trot out Endicott and Doerr for the big events, Opening Day and team reunions and the like, give them as many days in the sun as possible before they head off to that great diamond in the sky. But the truth is that some and perhaps many of the Oldest Living aren’t able to travel, or sign autographs, or tell colorful stories about the good old days when men were men and every player started talking baseball the moment he woke up in the morning and didn’t stop until team curfew at 8 p.m. sharp.
Eddie Robinson, though. Eddie Robinson’s the Oldest Living Tiger and the Second-Oldest Yankee, and he’s 94 and just wrote a book a few years ago. A really good book, too. Robinson’s enjoyed a long and fruitful career in baseball, and maybe he’s not interested in further hosannas. But I Googled Oldest Living Detroit Tiger and EDDIE ROBINSON DIDN’T EVEN SHOW UP.
You know what does show up? Stories about Benny McCoy, who was the Oldest Living Tiger until 2011, and about Virgil Trucks, who was the Oldest Living Tiger until 2014. But nobody wrote these stories until it was too late for McCoy and Trucks to enjoy themselves. Which seems somehow wrong to me. So let’s give Eddie Robinson his due now, while he might still care.
With all this in mind, I asked the good people at Baseball-Reference.com to send me the five oldest living players for all 30 franchises, and before writing another slightly morbid word on this subject, I’d like to share the Oldest Livings for each franchise with you now, before it’s too late…
Angels – Bob Cerv
Astros – Hal “Skinny” Brown
Athletics – Carl Miles
Blue Jays – Ron Fairly
Braves – Mike Sandlock
Brewers – Tito Francona
Cardinals – Bill Endicott
Cubs – Monte Irvin
D’backs – Mike Morgan
Dodgers – Mike Sandlock (2)
Giants – Monte Irvin (2)
Indians – Eddie Carnett
Mariners – Diego Segui
Marlins – Charlie Hough
Mets – Yogi Berra (!)
Nationals – Roy Face (as Montreal Expo)
Orioles – Chuck Stevens (as St. Louis Brown)
Padres – Tony Gonzalez
Phillies – Alex Monchak
Pirates – Mike Sandlock (3)
Rangers – Roy Sievers
Rays – Wade Boggs
Red Sox – Bobby Doerr
Reds – Wally Westlake
Rockies – Bryn Smith
Royals – Dave Wickersham
Tigers – Eddie Robinson
Twins – Steve Nagy (as Washington Senator)
White Sox – Eddie Carnett (2)
Yankees – Rugger Ardizoia
Yes, famed knuckleball catcher Mike Sandlock, all 99 years of him, now hails as the Oldest Living for three of the great National League franchises. And Sandlock’s not just still alive; just a few months ago he gave an entertaining interview!
Monte Irvin, of course, you know about.
Eddie Robinson’s not only the Oldest Living Tiger and the second-oldest Yankee, but also the fourth-oldest White Sox, fourth-oldest Indian, fourth-oldest Orioles, and second-oldest Twin/Senator!
Eddie Carnett, though? Carnett reached the majors as a pitcher with the Braves in 1941, just briefly. But with talent short during the war, he became a minor-league outfielder in 1943, and in ’44 returned to the majors in that role, earning regular duties with the White Sox. In ’45 he was a part-timer with the Indians. Oh, right: so Carnett’s also the Second-Oldest Living Brave, behind only … Mike Sandlock.
Funny how these things work.
Maybe too funny, sometimes. Wouldn’t you love to attend a game in St. Petersburg and see Wade Boggs introduced as THE OLDEST LIVING RAY? I sure would.