Meet the Cooperstown 39ers

Tuesday, January 22 2008 @ 12:07 AM EST

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Not many members of the MLB fraternity play into their fourth decade; in fact, generally speaking, only the elite play as long as the Jack Benny Milestone age of 39.

Here on Da Box, we have previously constructed an All-Age-40 team and later an All-Age-41 team ... yes, there was a fair amount of overlap from one to the other, but less than you might think.

As we meet an All-Age-39 team, there are a lot of familiar names; in fact, we can assemble a pretty decent squad just using the "Top 10 Leader" lists for the Age 39 Players on ... okay, not "pretty fair," make that "geriatrically unstoppable" ...

Let's meet them; they're called ...

Jack Benny's 39ers
(P.S. if you don't get the Benny reference, ask a grandparent!)
(P.P.S. Count your blessings -- I could've dubbed this squad the "Benny Ha-Ha's")
** Indicates Hall of Famer
* Indicates All-Star (not necessarily in Age-39 season)
Key Age-39 statistics are shown parenthetically.

C Carlton Fisk** (.256, 23 homers, 1987)
1B Willie Stargell** (.281/32/82, 1979 NL Co-MVP)
2B Eddie Collins** (.344, 62 RBI, 13 SB, 1928)
SS Luke Appling** (.309 in 1946)
3B George Brett** (.285, 61 RBI in 1992; mostly DH/1B)
LF Barry Bonds* (.362, 45 homers in 2004)
CF Willie Mays** (28 homers, 1970)
RF Hank Aaron** (40 homers, 1973)
DH Ted Williams** (.328/26/85 in 1958)

UTIL Lave Cross (.266, 77 RBI in 1905)
IF Jeff Kent* (.302/20/79 in 2007)
IF/OF Craig Biggio* (.264, 26 homers, 11 SB, 2005)
SS Omar Vizquel* (.295, 24 SB, Gold Glove in 2006)
OF Tris Speaker** (.327, 43 doubles, 1927)
OF Jim O'Rourke** (.360, 115 RBI, 1890)

RHSP Gaylord Perry ** (1978: 21-6, 2.73)
LHSP Eddie Plank** (1915: 21-11, 2.08)
RHSP Early Wynn** (1959: 22-10, 3.17)
LHSP Warren Spahn** (1950: 21-10, 3.50)
RHSP Phil Niekro** (1978: 19-18, 2.88)

CL Trevor Hoffman* (42 saves in 2007)
RP Todd Jones* (38 saves in 2007)
RP Jose Mesa* (27 saves in 2005)
RP Roy Face* (17 saves in 1967)
RP Hoyt Wilhelm** (15 saves in 1962)

Nothing Could Be Finer than to be a 39er ...
It's no great surprise that this squad is stuffed with Hall of Famers; the entire starting rotation is enshrined, as is one member of the bullpen (Wilhelm), with another (Hoffman) virtually certain to join him ... As for the starting lineup, everyone eligible (eight of the nine) is in, with Bonds a statistical, if not voter, certainty ...

As for the bench, two of the six are in, with Biggio a mortal lock to follow and Vizquel likely to get a fair amount of support before falling off the ballot -- while Kent and Finley are less likely candidates, though the surly Indian/Met/Giant/Dodger 2B probably deserves a plaque, anyway ... Finding a backup catcher for this unit was a chore -- sure, Wally Schang, who hit .239 for the 1929 SLB, is a viable possibility -- but with Biggio (more than 400 games behind the plate), Cross (more than 300) and O'Rourke (more than 200) on the roster, we should be just fine ...

We used the phrase "everyone eligible" earlier in describing Hall of Fame inductees and that probably made you think of Pete Rose and Joe Jackson ... The reference was unintentional ... Sure, Rose had 185 hits while playing all 162 games for Philly in his (nice, not legendary) 1980 Age-39 season, but Jackson was out of organized ball after hitting .382 in his age-30 season, so neither made this team on merit ... Fret not, Charlie Hustle fans, Pete wasn't nearly the bsst player left off this roster; others included ...

This list could go on ... We haven't even mentioned other Age-39 Leaderboard residents like Willie McCovey, Rickey Henderon, Joe Morgan and, yes, the 2007 Frank Thomas. (Hey, we already have three 2007 age-39ers on our 25-man roster; Thomas doesn't make the cut!)

Or we could build an entire starting rotation of righty-lefty 19-game winners Rick Reuschel and David Wells, righty-lefty 18-game winners Charlie Hough and Kenny Rogers and top it off with a fifth starter like 17-game winner Dazzy Vance. Nice!

But seriously .... take a look at the Age-39 Leaderboards for Hitters and for Pitchers and speak your piece ... how can this team be better?