In birtelcom’s post on Willie Mays‘ induction into the Circle of Greats, a comment was made that Mays is one of only two players to play in 150+ games for 13 consecutive seasons (the other, flying under our radar, is Bobby Abreu). This prompted a general discussion of players who most consistently answered the bell, day in and day out, year after year.
After the jump, record holders in games played for every age range.
I’m displaying the results in tabular format, with the “From” ages as columns, and the “To” ages as rows. Of course, modern players with the extended 162 game schedule are favored. But, of those, certain players are disadvantaged if they played in any of the contracted seasons resulting from labour action, in 1972, 1981, 1994 and 1995.
One example of impact from a strike season is Pete Rose, who had a streak of 12 seasons (1969-80) playing 150+ games, then played every game in strike-shortened 1981, and followed that with two more 150+ game seasons in 1982-83, aged 41-42. Another is Cal Ripken who kept his consecutive-game streak alive through strike-shortened 1994 and 1995, but not his streak of 160+ game seasons that was stopped at 12 (1982-93), notwithstanding three more times at 160+ on the other side of the strike seasons.
Let’s start with the youngsters.
[table id=184 /]
Prodigies Robin Yount and Mel Ott figure prominently among careers starting as teenagers. Andruw Jones and Hank Aaron dominate starting from age 20 before giving way to Cal Ripken. Ron Santo appears starting at age 22, and his teammate Billy Williams at age 23 (Williams will figure more prominently in the next table). Note Yaz at age 21-39, his only appearance in these tables.
Regardless of when careers start, Pete Rose holds the records by the time those careers end. From age 32-39, Rose played 160+ games in 7 of 8 seasons (and had 159 games in the other year). At those ages, only Ichiro (6), Ripken (4), Steve Garvey (3) and Jose Cruz (3) have more than two seasons of 160+ games.
Progressing to age ranges starting from age 24 to 31.
[table id=185 /]
Billy Williams is the dominant presence in the top half of this table, with Rose grabbing a larger and larger share of the bottom portion. Note Brooks Robinson in the top left corner, and also Ichiro’s first appearance for the 28-34 age range.
For age 32-39, basically all Rose, all the time, save for a few Ichiro and Miguel Tejada sightings. Craig Biggio and Dave Winfield make an appearance in the bottom right corner, mainly to due to the 40 year-old Rose losing time in the strike-shortened 1981 season.
[table id=187 /]
Rose’s lost time in 1981 does provide a bit of variety for age ranges starting at age 40, notably Honus Wagner‘s appearance and Carlton Fisk‘s incredible 134 games at age 43, 106 of them behind the plate. Fisk would add 79 more games caught at 44 and 45, alone at those ages save for coaches filling in or last-game-of-the-year stunts. Only war-time replacements Merv Shea and Clyde Sukeforth also caught games at age 43, and only 19 between them.
Almost as impressive as Fisk’s exploits is Julio Franco‘s 100+ games played for four consecutive seasons, age 43-46. No other player did so at age 45 or 46, only one other (Rose) at 44 and only Pete, Yaz, Fisk and Omar Vizquel at 43.