Life at 40 and beyond was still prime time for many sports greats

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To some athletes, age is just another number.

Age 40 is a stage of adult maturity in sports. You have reached a plateau. Challenges that include injuries, personal circumstances and physical deterioration play a role in professional athletes determining how far their careers can go.

Athletes feel like they can perform forever though. It’s the way they have lived their lives. It is difficult to step away from the arena, the everyday competition. Money is usually not a motivating factor.

Some have the ability (or good fortune) to reach and break through the 40-year old barrier as a successful participant in professional sports. And in some cases, they can not only reach that milestone but seemingly maintain their foot slightly on the excelerator. To most others, Father Time forces them to pump the brakes and stay in the slow lane.

Tom Brady will be 40 years old by the start of the 2017 NFL season. Drew Brees has already celebrated his 38th birthday for 2017. Both have proclaimed that they intend to play (and excel) well into their 40’s.

Many have enjoyed Hall of Fame careers as professional athletes, but slowed down considerably after reaching the big 4-0.

Brett FavreBrett Favre played in his 11th Pro Bowl at age 40. Barry Bonds was a MLB All Star at age 42 (I know, I know) and John Stockton started 82 NBA games, averaging 27 minutes at 41 years young.

Babe Didrickson participated in golf until age 43 , eventually losing a battle to cancer. At age 40, she was awarded her 6th Female Athlete of the Year in sports.

Ageless football wonder George Blanda did play until age 48, but most of the final 10 seasons were as a spot player and a very successful kicker.

Here is a collection of superior athletes who seemingly beat the clock in their careers, going above and beyond after sipping away from the Fountain of Youth.

Pitcher Randy Johnson, at age 40, recorded 290 strikeouts in 2004 to lead the National League. The 6-foot-10 flamethrower was 10-time All Star who pitched until age 46. He won 17 games in back-to-back seasons at ages 41 and 42. He tossed a complete game with Arizona, posting an 11-10 mark with a 3.01 ERA at age 45.

Morten Anderson, the Great Dane, enters Canton this year. The kicker called it quits at age 47. He connected on 5 field goals beyond 50 yards after age 40. The all-time leading scorer for both the Saints and Falcons, Andersen is still the NFL’s all-time leading point producer with 2,544 off of that magical left foot.

Age 47, Andersen converted on 89.3 percent of his field goal attempts, connecting on 4 of 7 from 40 yards or more.

Tennis legend Martina Naratilova, past age 44, won 12 doubles and three more mixed doubles and Grand Slam titles. Her final victory came a month shy of her 50th birthday.

George Foreman hung up the gloves at age 48. At 42, he took 29 year old Evander Holyfield to the limit, challenging his younger counterpart throughout the match. At age 45, Big George flattened 27 year old Michael Moorer to once again become world’s heavyweight champion.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar led the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles and earned three all star selections after reaching age 40. He averaged 14.6 points and six boards at age 41 and 10 points with 4.5 rebounds the following year. Efficient until the end, Kareem averaged 50 percent from the floor shooting in his final two NBA seasons.

Ted Williams at age 41 he batted .316 in 1960. He tagged a homer in his final plate appearance at age 42. The 40-year old Splendid Splinter was the AL batting champ. Overall, he appeared in MLB games over four decades.

Darrell Green retired from NFL at age 42. He had at least one interception in 19 consecutive campaigns and picked off 4 passes at age 40. The cornerback ran a 4.43 forty at age 50.

Robert “The Chief” Parish, selected among top 50 greatest NBA players in history, was the oldest NBA player to win NBA title (age 43) with 1996-97 Chicago Bulls.

Bartolo Colon is still trucking along. He will be 44 years young in May. Now with Atlanta Braves, Colon recorded his first career homer at age 42. The right-hander needs 11 more victories to overtake Juan Marichal as the winningest pitcher from Dominican Republic.

Pete Rose played 24 MLB campaigns, producing 4,256 hits and .303 batting average with 1,314 RBI. “Charlie Hustle” joined the Cincinnati Reds as a 22 year old rookie, earning 17 all star appearances along the way to a legendary career on the field. At age 42, he batted .375 in the NLCS against the Dodgers and posted a .312 average in the World Series against the Orioles.

Rose notched his 4.000 hit at age 43 off lefty Jerry Koosman, broker Ty Cobb’s all time hit record at 44 and recorded his 4,256th and final hit at 45. Gambling tarnished his on-field accomplishments but Rose was great for a remarkable length of time as a player.

Warren Moon quarterbacked in the NFL until age 44. At age 41 in 1997, he was named AFC player of the week and earned Pro Bowl thqat year after tossing for 3,678 yards with 25 touchdowns and 16 picks. Moon threw 37 touchdown passes after his 40th birthday.

Dikembe Mutombo, the 7-foot-2 intimidator, remained in the NBA until age 42. He had a 22 rebound performance in one game against Denver at a 40 year odl in 2007. At age 41, he averaged 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. “Mount” Mutumbo had 5 blocks in one game as a 42 year old.

Nolan Ryan hung up the spikes at age 46. He led AL in strikeouts (270) at age 40, posting a MLB leading 2.76 ERA the same season. The Ryan Express had two of his record seven no hitters well into his 40’s including one at age 44, when baseball’s strikeout king managed a 2.91 ERA with 203 punchouts.

Phil Niekro was on the mound until age 48. He had 121 victories after reaching age 40 and won his 300th game at age 46. Unlike the hard-throwing Ryan, this knuckleball expert baffled hitters with movement alone. At age 43, Niekro had a 17-3 record. He made is fifth and final all star appearance the next season. At age 46, Phil pitched a complete game shutout.

Dara Grace Torres won medals swimming in three Olympics (1984, 1988, 1992) before making a remarkable comeback. In 2008 at 41, she anchored the 4 X 100 meter freestyle team for the US, capturing the silver medal. Torees set an American record in the 50 meter free style as a 40 year old and became the oldest swimmer in U.S. Olympic history. In the 2012 Olympic Trials at age 45, she placed 4th in 50 free.

Gaylord Perry pitched until he was 44 years old, when he captured his 300th victory in 1983 The spit ball specialist recorded 750 of his 3,509 career strikeouts after reaching his 40th birthday. In 1979 at age 40, he won a Cy Young Award. With his spitter retired, Perry made a final comment typical of his personality: “The league is drier now.”

Jerry Rice played until 42 years old at a very high level. With the Raiser, he grabbed 92 passes for 1,211 yards and seven, touchdowns earning him his 13th Pro Bowl as a 40 year old. His next season, he made 63 catches for 869 yards and two scores.

Pitcher Charlie Hough, another knuckleballer extraordinaire, pitched until age 46 in 1994. His 25 MLB seasons produced 216 victories, 2,362 K’s and a 3.75 ERA. Hough won 15 games in 252 innings pitched at age 40. Overall, he won 67 games with 756 punchouts after reaching 40. In another milestone, Hough at age 45 pitched the very first game in Florida Marlins history, going six innings to earn the victory.

Roger ClemensRoger “The Rocket” Clemens played until 45 years old. Like Bonds, he career was tainted by performance enhancing druge accusations. But the 11-time all star was a true great, winning the Cy Young award seven times including one at age 42. He recorded 61 wins and 763 strikeouts after age 40.

At the age of 41, Clemens had a 2.98 ERA with a 18-4 record with the Astros and then led the NL with a 1.87 ERA while going 13-8 the following year. At age 43, Roger put up a 2.30 ERA with Houston.

Bernard Hopkins, at age 49, won the IBF world light heavyweight title. He kept getting better as he aged. Hopkins at age 42 defended his light heavyweight crown at the time. He beat Roy Jones, Jr. in unanimous 12 round decision as a 44 yeard old. At age 48, Hopkins became the oldest man to win a major boxing title.

Jack NicklausJack Nicklaus between 41 and 45 years old recorded seven top 100 placements in major championships. At age 45 he finished second in Canadian Open. But all golf fans remember his Golden Bear revival at age 46, when Jack scored his fourth Masters’ title. Despite playing with a painful hip, Niclaus still tied for sixth in 1998 during one last stirring run at Augusta. At age 75, he even hit hole-in-one at Augusta in the Par 3 contest.

Gordie Howe made his final NHL appearance at age 52. He skated one shift with IHL’s Detroit franchise as a 69 year old. Howe, who played pro hockey in six difference decades, recorded 287 goals after age 40.

Carlton Fisk, who played catcher in the big leagues over four decades, played until age 45. Named to 11 All Star games, “The Commander” had his jersey retired by both the Red Sox and White Sox.
At age 42, he broke Johnny Bench’s career home run mark for catchers (328) off Charlie Hough. Fish was the oldest player (at 43 years old) to get a hit in a MLB All Star game. At the time of his retirement, Fisk was the oldest player to hit over 20 homers in one season (25 at age 43).

Left-handed pitcher Jamie Moyer won a MLB game at age 49, knocking in a pair of runs at the plate to help his own cause. He kept throwing strikes, so team kept signing him. At age 41, he had a 21-7 record with a 3.27 ERA. Not known for his bat, Moyer did lace a single to center in 2012 to become the oldest Phillie to ever record a base hit.

At 47 years and 210 days old, he threw 98 piches to become the oldest man to throw complete game. He also pitched shutout 40 days earlier on May 7, 2010. Overall, he won over 100 MLB games after age 40.

Rickey HendersonRickey Henderson suited up in the majors until age 44, playing with Dodgers. He also played for the Mets and Padres late in his MLB days. Known more for times with the A’s, Yankees and Blue Jays, he played fast and stayed fast late into his Hall of Fame career.

At age 41, Henderson batted .315 with 37 steals. He became the third player ever (along with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey) to hit a homer run in three different decades. He was fourth in the AL in stolen bases with 31 at age 41 and swiped 25 bases with Padres the next season.

Sam Snead swung a golf club professionally until age 70. He won the Royal Poinciana Plaza Invite at 49, the PGA Club Pro Championship at Pinehurst Resort at 59 and became oldest player to make cut in U.S. Open at 61. One year later, Snead finished tied for third in 1974 at the PGA Championship.

Leroy “Satchel” Paige pitched until age 59 as member of Kansas City A’s. The Negro Leagues legend finally had hit shot in MLB at age 42 and recorded 6-1 record with 2.48 ERA with the Indians. Well past his prime, he was named a MLB All Star at ages 46 and 47. Paige was the first African-American pitcher to make an All Star Game. At age 59 in 1965, he hurled 3 innings versus the Red Sox.

A pair of ringing endorsements for Paige’s greatness came from legends Bob Feller and Joe DiMaggio. Feller said that the younger Paige was the best he ever witnessed and DiMaggio claimed he was the best pitcher he ever faced.

Archie Moore, know as the Mongoose, retained the world’s light heavyweight title at age 40 against Joey Maxim in a 15 round battle. The same year, Moore bested heavyweight Bob Baker. At age 41, Moore defeated Nino Valdez of Cuba, who went onto become the numer one heavyweight contender.

Retaining the title without ducking contenders, Moore remained a champions into his late 40’s. He went 9-0-1 at age 44 alone.

If you thought so before, do you still think 40 is too old to play big time professional sports?

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

Fox Sports/ESPN/WHNO/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even greater fashion while in Baton Rouge. Nadeau played semi-pro football for two seasons with the New Orleans Blue Knights. He has been a prominent sports figure in the New Orleans area for 29 years. Nadeau currently serves as a color…

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