Most great athletes retire when they reach their mid to late thirties. Those who don’t frequently end up embarrassing themselves and tarnishing their legacies. Think Johnny Unitas as a Charger, Joe Namath as a Ram, and in baseball, think Pete Rose hanging around to set the all-time hits record while barely batting above .200 in the last few years of his career. In Boxing the list is long and includes all-time greats like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Roy Jones Jr.
The list of athletes who tried and failed past 40 is much longer than those who ended up having any kind of success. Today we are going to have a look at the athletes who defied father time and enhanced their legacy by continuing on.
Late-career greatness: Forget about all the controversies for a second. Is that even possible? Will lets try!
His story: The man they call “The Rocket” is still regarded as one of the greatest pitchers of all time. After turning 40, Clemens played for five years. During that time, he won 61 games, had over 750 strikeouts, and had an ERA of 1.87. Now, I have an issue with putting him on this list, and that issue is the use of PEDs. I don’t know if he should be on the list because of the steroid issue. What do you guys think? Leave comments wherever this article is posted, and let me know what you guys think.
Late-career glory: A 59-year-old Watson delighted middle-aged golfers everywhere when he was within a putt to win the 2009 British Open. He came up short, but to be this close to winning a major at almost 60 years old is remarkable.
His story. Watson’s career as a hall-of-fame player peaked in the 1970s/80s when he won nine majors. He could not make history by winning a major in 2009 due to a bogey at the 18th hole.
Late-career greatness: At 41 years old, she was eligible for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She went on to win three silver medals. Once again its remarkable at that age to even qualify for the Olympics; she was winning medals.
Her story: Torres was once called the “comeback Queen.” is a 12-time Olympic gold medalist. She was a competitive swimmer for over two decades. She qualified for five Olympic Games, becoming the first to do so.
She made her historic appearance at the 2008 games just a few short years after having her first child. She is past 50 years old and has twice taken public breaks from the competitive swimming, but she retired in 2012.
Late-career greatness When the future Hall-of-Famer played one game for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, at the age of 59. He threw three shutout innings and became the oldest-ever player in baseball.
His story. Paige was a successful player in the Negro Leagues before major league baseball was desegregated in 1946. He joined MLB in 1948 at 42 and became a rookie pitcher. Despite his late start, he was able to make two All-Star teams as well as pitch in the World Series.
The sad thing is that if Paige had been allowed in Major League Baseball, he might have gone down as one of the greatest pitchers of all time.
Late-career greatness: The Golden Bear won three major titles after turning 40—including a legendary performance at the 1986 Masters that no one will ever forget. This great performance at 46 saw Nicklaus shoot 6-under to make his mark as the oldest winner in tournament history.
His story: Nicklaus can make the case that he is the greatest Golfer of all time, and only a few Golfers can even get in the argument, Nicklaus was that good.
Late-career glory: Ryan pitched his last record seventh no-hitter in 1991 for the Texas Rangers. Ryan dominated younger batters until 1993, when he was well past his fortieth birthday.
His story: This hard-throwing Hall of Famer pitched in the major leagues for four decades, starting with the New York Mets in 1966 and ending with the Astros and Rangers in 1993.
His pitches averaged more than 100 miles an hour, even in his 40s. Ryan, who retired at 46, had 324 wins and 5,714 strikeouts. This was another major league record. Ryan threw the ball harder in his 40s than he did in his prime.
Late-career greatness: The Executioner, 46 years old, defeated Jean Pascal to win the WBC light-heavyweight title. At a mere 49 years later, Hopkins now unified the WBA/IBF light heavyweight titles by winning against Beibut Shumenov in a split decision. Hopkins stated that while money is wonderful, history is something you cannot forget and can’t pretend it didn’t happen. Hopkins was finally beaten into retirement just after his 50th birthday by the hard-punching Joe Smith.
His story: Hopkins had been at least one organization’s world middleweight champion for ten years when he hit 40 and carried a career mark of 45-2-1 with 32 KOs. Before 40, his resume was not overly impressive as the competition was not great for most of his reign, as he approached 40 and went past it he had his career-defining moments.
Late-career greatness: In his last year of the National Hockey League, he was a regular in all the games and helped the Hartford Whalers reach the playoffs at the age of 51.
His story, Howe (a.k.a. “Mr Hockey finished second to Wayne Gretzky in lifetime goals achieved during his career as a “winger” for teams such as the Omaha Knights and Detroit Red Wings.
Gretzky is a step behind Howe in the age department. While The Great One retired at 38, Howe remained in the NHL until he was 51. Even more impressive is how effective he was up to the age of 51.
He also returned to the Detroit Vipers in 1997 for a single-game game. This means that he has played professional hockey for six decades.
Late-career greatness- Brady became the oldest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl with a win in Super Bowl LIII against the Rams—his sixth Super Bowl win—and he didn’t slow down after that. He switched teams and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Bucs a couple of years later.
His story: You might already know this, but Brady with a scrawny sixth-round pick for the New England Patriots in the 2000 NFL draft. A year later, star quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down early in the season, and Brady took over and stunningly led the Patriots to a massive upset over the vaunted St.Louis Rams. The rest I am sure you already know.
Late-career greatness In 1994, Foreman, aged 45, became the oldest boxer in history to win the world heavyweight champion title when he defeated 27-year-old Michael Moorer.
When Old George announced his return to the ring in 1987, everyone thought it was nothing more than a joke. At the age of 42, Foreman challenged Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield and showed his comeback was no joke. Foreman stood and traded with his much younger opponent. He came up short in the fight but proved he was no joke.
He would later lose to Tommy Morrison, and it looked like the road had ended for the old champion. Until he got a shot at Moorer, Moorer dominated the fight for nine rounds but in the tenth, Big George shocked the world with a single punch.
His story: Foreman won his title 20 years after losing his heavyweight title against Muhammad Ali. Foreman entered professional boxing and won 76 fights over his almost three-decade-long career.
Foreman spent his post-boxing career building an empire of branded products, which earned him more than $135,000,000 thanks to the George Foreman Grill.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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