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Me and Julio Down on the Shuffleboard Court
2006-04-24 15:01
by Mike Carminati

Julio Franco became the oldest player to hit a home run last Thursday, connecting in the Mets 7-2 victory over the Padres. He nabs the record from pitcher Jack Quinn who homered once in 34 at-bats at the age of 46. Quinn had held the record since 1930—boy, must he be ticked off at Franco. By the way, Franco hit 9 last year at age 46, but was still edged out by Quinn.

Quinn hit only eight homers in 1349 at-bats. His second-to-last homer came eight years earlier when he was 38. He recorded 472 at-bats in those intervening eight seasons, and never recorded fewer than 46, and yet he hit his last in 34 at-bats. He collected just 35 at-bats in his final three seasons, before retiring at age 49.

Franco plans to play until age 50, and will be 49 when his current contract expires (if he doesn't first). If Franco can last that long, he'll be just the sixth man to do it, and given that none of them played more than 3 games in any season past 50, he can very easily collect the most games after turning 50.

Here are all the players to last in the majors to age 47, oldest to youngest:

Satchel Paige1965581
Minnie Minoso1980572
Nick Altrock1933561
Nick Altrock1931541
Minnie Minoso1976533
Jim O'Rourke1904531
Nick Altrock1929521
Charley O'Leary1934511
Hoyt Wilhelm19724916
Jimmy Austin1929491
Hughie Jennings1918491
Arlie Latham1909494
Jack Quinn19334914
Deacon McGuire1912481
Phil Niekro19874826
Gabby Street1931481
Hoyt Wilhelm19714812
Jack Quinn19324842
Hoyt Wilhelm19704753
Kaiser Wilhelm1921474
Jack Quinn19314739
Nick Altrock1924471
Johnny Evers1929471
Phil Niekro19864734
Julio Franco20064710

Note that all of the previous players have amassed just 261 at-bats after turning 47. Franco could equal that before his current contract is done, and of course, he's already out-homered the entire group.

There are 224 player seasons in which the given player was over 40 and hit at least one home run, four of which come this season (Franco, Craig Biggio, Steve Finley, and, finally, Barry Bonds). Altogether those players have collected 1289 taters in 52202 at-bats or a dinger in 2.47% of those player at-bats. Below are all the players to homer past age 44:

Julio Franco2006471911.11%
Jack Quinn1930461342.94%
Julio Franco20054692333.86%
Cap Anson18974534240.71%
Carlton Fisk1993451531.89%
Julio Franco20044563201.88%
Cap Anson18964424020.50%
Carlton Fisk19924431881.60%
Julio Franco20034451972.54%
Pete Rose19854424050.49%
Rickey Henderson2003442722.78%
Sam Rice19344413350.30%
Tony Perez19864422001.00%

Now, here are the most per season after age 40:

Darrell Evans198740344996.81%
Ted Williams196041293109.35%
Dave Winfield199240265834.46%
Hank Sauer195740263786.88%
Harold Baines199940254305.81%
Edgar Martinez200340244974.83%
Darrell Evans198841224375.03%
Eddie Murray199640225663.89%
Dave Winfield199341215473.84%
Hank Aaron197440203405.88%
Stan Musial196241194334.39%
Carlton Fisk198840192537.51%
George Brett199340195603.39%

And finally, here are the players with the highest percentage of home runs in their at-bats:

Deacon McGuire1907431520.00%
Nick Altrock1918411812.50%
Barry Bonds20054054211.90%
Julio Franco2006471911.11%
Andres Galarraga20044311010.00%
Ted Williams196041293109.35%
Bob Thurman195740161908.42%
Babe Ruth1935406728.33%
Cy Williams1929415657.69%
Carlton Fisk198840192537.51%
Hank Sauer195740263786.88%
Darrell Evans198740344996.81%
Merv Shea1944431156.67%
Hank Sauer1959421156.67%
Walker Cooper19554071116.31%

As for the most home runs past age 40, Franco, largely a role player late in his career, barely cracks the list of leaders:

Carlton Fisk7217814.04%
Darrell Evans6712125.53%
Dave Winfield5915393.83%
Carl Yastrzemski4815413.11%
Stan Musial4611424.03%
Hank Aaron4210763.90%
Andres Galarraga399734.01%
Hank Sauer396296.20%
Ted Williams395826.70%
Graig Nettles3710643.48%
Edgar Martinez369833.66%
Harold Baines367974.52%
Reggie Jackson337554.37%
Willie Mays328703.68%
Rickey Henderson3114882.08%
Julio Franco3011882.53%
Willie McCovey288173.43%
Brian Downing277273.71%
Eddie Murray257333.41%
Tony Perez229692.27%

And he comes nowhere near the leaders in home runs per at-bat post-40:

Nick Altrock1119.09%
Babe Ruth6728.33%
Barry Bonds6777.79%
Ted Williams395826.70%
Merv Shea1156.67%
Hank Sauer396296.20%
Darrell Evans6712125.53%
Bob Thurman203725.38%
Cy Williams173205.31%
Charlie O'Brien1195.26%
Tom Paciorek3605.00%

Franco does, however, own the post-45 homer list:

Julio Franco165622.85%
Cap Anson34240.71%
Jack Quinn11300.77%
Carlton Fisk1531.89%

Given the number of post-40 players to homer this year, you won't be surprised to find that the 2000s, or whatever we call the current decade, project to the most home runs after turning forty in baseball history. However, Franco and his aged compatriots will have to double their efforts to top the Fifties homers per at-bats after turning forty:

2006-04-25 11:04:31
1.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
Now that's entertainment!

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