When athletes enter the professional ranks, they have two dreams: to be successful and to play as long as they can. While some players may only play in one game, whether it be a baseball game or a match of cricket, others tend to stick around a while longer. Some of them don’t even debut until half of their life is over. Listed below are athletes who are the oldest to ever compete in professional sports. Some of these ages may surprise you.
9. (Tie) Robert Jaworski — 52 years of age
The tenth spot on this list contains an odd account of the world’s oldest basketball player. Robert Jaworski played professional basketball for two teams in the Philippines from 1975-1998. As a quick point guard, Jaworski racked up numerous awards for his efforts on the court. He made the All-Defensive Team twice, the All-Star Team four times, and even won MVP in 1978. What makes Robert Jaworski different from the others on this list? Well, Robert was a player-coach. He coached his team and played for them at the same time. If that wasn’t enough on his plate, in 1998, he ran for public office. As the 52-year-old was wrapping up his basketball career, he won public office and served in the political realm.
9. (Tie) Gordie Howe — 52 years of age
Tied with Mr. Jaworski for the tenth spot is a hockey legend. The famous Gordie Howe, known for his innate ability to score and his career that just didn’t seem to end, played for two teams during his career in the NHL. He belonged to the Detroit Red Wings and the Hartford Whalers during his playing tenure. Howe laced up the ice skates in four different decades and finally decided to call it quits in 1980. Mr. Hockey was 52 years old when he hung up his razor sharp skates for good. Even towards the end of his career, Gordie was still known for his physical presence on the ice and he intimidated players until his retirement.
8. Satchel Paige — 59 years of age
When a sports enthusiast ponders the greatest pitchers of all time, one name will undoubtly pop up in the thought process: Paige. Satchel Paige is popular for a number of reasons. His excellent control of the baseball was tough to match and confidence seemed to emanate from his body. Paige makes this list as having last played a baseball in a professional organization on June 21st, 1966. Paige was 59 at the time, but had only been in the Majors for 17 seasons. Satchel also holds the record for the oldest rookie to debut in Major League Baseball, at 42 years old. Satchel Paige is a legend in the world of baseball, and throwing strikes at age 59 is a legendary feat in its own right.
7. Saoul Mamby — 60 years of age
The sport of boxing is riddled with controversy. Many denounce the savage nature of the sport and claim brain damage occurs regularly during bouts. Many boxers show symptoms of serious injury in their old age, hence the reason you don’t see many older, active boxers. However, one man defied everyone. Saoul Mamby, a professional boxer for decades, officially fought his last bout in 2000. The state of California literally issued a declaration, telling Mr. Mamby he could no longer box in the state because of his age. So, what does Mamby do? At age 60 in 2008, he traveled to the Cayman Islands and tussled with boxer Anthony Osbourne. Mamby may have lost the match, but took Osbourne all the way to the tenth round. Only time will tell if Mamby is done boxing for good.
6. Albert Beckles — 61 years of age
Bodybuilding is a tough sport to stay in. No, not because of the steroids. It’s because the bodybuilders are fighting against nature. As the body gets older, nature tells the bodybuilders that it’s time to give it up. But, one bodybuilder has defied those odds. He not only competed in a bodybuilding competition, at age 61, but won it. Albert Beckles has participated in bodybuilding for years and years. He continues to work out and tone his older body. In 1991, Beckles shocked everyone when he nabbed 1st place at the Niagara Falls Pro Invitational. Albert should be proud of his accomplishments, beating out contestants half his age.
5. Skip Hall — 64 years of age
You may have never heard the name Skip Hall before, but you should know that he is the oldest man to ever participate in a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) event. At 64 years old, Hall finally retired in 2009. However, Skip shares a similarity with another one of the people on this list. Hall made his debut in MMA past his 60th birthday, connecting him to the late great Satchel Paige, who also debuted at a considerably older age (42). Skip did attain moderate popularity in the sport, taking on a former champion in 2006. He lost the bout, but ended up with a career record of 3-5, with one match ending in a no contest.
4. Raja Maharaj Singh — 72 years of age
Singh is a unique individual on this list. He played his first, and only, cricket match at the ripe, old age of 72. Raja was not a professional cricket player. Far from it, he was actually active in the world of politics. Mr. Singh was the Governor of Bombay (now known as Mumbai). So, how does a political leader wiggle his way into a professional cricket match? Well, Singh captained the “Governor’s XI”. The governor’s team played against a team known as the “Commonwealth XI”. Singh only participated on the first day of the multi-day game. Like Paige and Hall (mentioned earlier on this list), Singh is the oldest player to debut in the sport of cricket.
3. Jerry Barber — 77 years of age
Jerry Barber may only be known in golfing circles as the man who won the 1961 PGA Championship. While winning a PGA Championship is impressive in itself, Jerry Barber is also known for another feat in the world of golf. He is the oldest player to ever play a round of professional golf. Many may scoff at Barber being on the list, seeing how many older gentlemen and ladies play professional golf. However, Barber’s amazing age at play still stands as a record to this day. Jerry competed in the 1994 Buick Invitational, held at the luxurious Torrey Pines course. Sadly, Mr. Barber passed away later in 1994. But, his legacy remains and is still intact, thanks in part to his efforts at age 77.
2. Fred Davis — 78 years of age
Davis has earned the #2 spot on this list, and for good reason. At age 78, Davis became the oldest player to play snooker, which is a pool-esque game. Fred competed not only in snooker, but also played billiards as well. He had a knack for both of these games, winning world titles in both of them. He also has one of the longest reigning careers in these two sports, playing in his first professional event in 1913 and his last one in 1998.
1. Buddy Helms — 87 years of age
The sport of auto racing has its share of triumphs and tragedies, and Helms’ life seemed to mimic this scenario. Helms was the oldest NASCAR driver, racing in 2003 at the age of 87. He was honored that year as NASCAR’s oldest professional driver, and a special ceremony was held for him. Sadly, in December of that same year, Helms was involved in a tragic accident. A gasoline fire began at his home while he was working on one of his cars. He was rushed to the emergency room, where he died shortly thereafter. Helms still remains the oldest NASCAR driver, and that record will looks to stand for years to come.