16 notable Boston athletes who had success after turning 40
Unlike wines, athletes don't usually get better with age. Especially past 40. The skills — if they're even still there — start to go, and athletes walk off into the sunset. Or maybe they're forced out.
But sometimes athletes defy Father Time and have success after they go over the hill. And that's true for some of the best in Boston sports history, who continued to play at a high level into their fifth decade.
With Tom Brady turning 42 this weekend, it's a perfect opportunity to check out some notable performances from Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox, and Bruins after they celebrated their 40th birthday.
ROBERT PARISH (40)
Birthday: August 30, 1953
Years in Boston: 1980-1994
The only Celtic to play past the age of 40, Robert Parish started and played in 74 games in his 14th and final season in Boston, averaging 11.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, joining Karl Malone as the only 40-year-olds in NBA history to reach those marks in a season. Though the 1993-94 season was Parish's last as a Celtic, he went on to play two seasons for Charlotte before wrapping up his 21-year NBA career in Chicago, where he won his fourth career title in 1997 at age 43, becoming the third oldest player to ever play in the NBA.
DAVID ORTIZ (40)
Birthday: November 18, 1975
Years in Boston: 2003-2016
A little more than a month after the 2015 season, Ortiz turned 40 and celebrated his birthday with a video on the Players' Tribune, announcing that the 2016 season would be his last. And he made his farewell tour count with another dominant season at the plate, leading the majors in doubles (48), RBI (127), slugging percentage (.620) and OPS (1.021). Ortiz also hit 38 home runs, the most ever by a player in his final season in the big leagues. He made his 10th All-Star team, won the Silver Slugger award for DHs, and finished sixth in AL MVP voting.
CURT SCHILLING (40)
Birthday: November 14, 1966
Years in Boston: 2004-2007
Even at age 40, Curt Schilling was still an integral part of the Red Sox rotation in 2007, going 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA in 24 starts. He even came within an out of his first career no-hitter on June 7, when Oakland's Shannon Stewart singled with two outs in the ninth inning. Schilling delivered in the postseason as well, winning games in the ALDS, the ALCS, and the World Series. What wound up being the final outing of his 20-year career was Game 2 of the World Series, when he held the Rockies to one run over 5.1 innings at Fenway Park before leaving to a standing ovation, becoming the second pitcher over the age of 40 to start and win a World Series game. Schilling remained on the Sox roster in 2008, but was sidelined with shoulder injuries the entire season.
JUNIOR SEAU (40)
Birthday: January 19, 1969
Years in New England: 2006-2009
After 16 seasons as a Charger and Dolphin, Seau retired at age 37 in 2006, but just four days later he signed with the Patriots. He was a defensive captain during New England's undefeated 16-0 campaign in 2007, and even though he didn't start the 2008 or 2009 seasons on the roster, he was signed partway through each season, playing four games in 2008 and seven games in 2009 as a 40-year-old. His final NFL game, a 33-14 Divisional Playoff loss to the Ravens, came just nine days shy of his 41st birthday.
JAROMIR JAGR (41)
Birthday: February 15, 1972
Years in Boston: 2013
The Bruins added 41-year-old Jaromir Jagr for the stretch run of the 2012-13 season, and he paid immediate dividends, scoring the game-winning goal in his B's debut just two days later. He played in all 22 postseason games for Boston, and when the B's advanced to the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks, Jagr set a new NHL record for the longest gap between Finals appearances (21 years). Though that season marked the end of Jagr's brief tenure in Boston, his career was far from over. He scored 24 goals the following season in New Jersey and spent five more seasons in the NHL before continuing his seemingly endless hockey career in Europe at age 46.
TOM BRADY (42)
Birthday: August 3, 1977
Years in New England: 2000-2019
Forget all of Max Kellerman's talk about the dreaded cliff; Tom Brady is going strong as he celebrates his 42nd birthday on Saturday. But for a quarterback who has repeatedly said he wants to play until he's 45, what's another year at this point? As Brady starts his 20th season, he already owns almost every record in the book, and last season he became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl when he won his sixth title. He's still got a ways to go if he wants to be the oldest quarterback to play in the NFL (48-year-old George Blanda) — but after watching Brady dominate for two decades, who would doubt him? Aside from Max Kellerman, of course.
KOJI UEHARA (41)
Birthday: April 3, 1975
Years in Boston: 2013-2016
When the Red Sox signed 37-year-old Koji Uehara in December of 2012, there's no way they could have expected him to pitch like he did in the 2013 season. He finished with a miniscule 1.09 ERA and 0.57 WHIP in 73 regular-season games, was named the MVP of the ALCS, and finished off Boston's third title in 10 seasons when he closed out the Cardinals in Game 6 of the World Series at Fenway Park. Uehara was named to his first All-Star team the following year and remained the Sox closer in 2015 before finishing up his Boston tenure as a setup man for Craig Kimbrel in 2016 at age 41. He had a 2.19 ERA and 79 saves in four seasons — not bad for an old guy.
TED WILLIAMS (42)
Birthday: August 30, 1918
Years in Boston: 1939-1960
Starting his major league career in 1939 when he was just 20 years old, Williams finished up in 1960 at age 42, one of just 32 players to play in four different decades. And Williams was no slouch in his final season — what would you expect from arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history? He made his 17th All-Star team and finished with a slash line of .316/.451/.645. Williams also finished his Hall of Fame career in style, hitting his 521st home run in his final at bat on September 28, 1960.
ZDENO CHARA (42)
Birthday: March 18, 1977
Years in Boston: 2006-2019
The tallest person to ever play in the NHL is now the oldest active player in the league at 42 years old, and even though Zdeno Chara isn't as dominant as he once was, he's still one of the most intimidating players in the NHL. And the toughness? That's never been in question, but he ratcheted up another level in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, when he laced up the skates for Game 5 despite taking a puck to the face and sustaining multiple jaw fractures in Game 4 just three days earlier.
MIKE TIMLIN (42)
Birthday: March 10, 1966
Years in Boston: 2003-2008
Timlin didn't make his Red Sox debut until he was 37 years old, but he was an invaluable part of the Boston bullpen during his six seasons with the team, winning two World Series along the way. His 394 appearances over that span were the fifth most in the American League, and he had one of the best seasons of his career at age 39 in 2005, with a 2.24 ERA in 81 games. Timlin pitched in six postseason games during Boston's postseason run in 2007, including three of the four World Series games in the team's sweep of the Rockies.
JOHNNY BUCYK (43)
Birthday: May 12, 1935
Years in Boston: 1957-1978
Nicknamed "The Chief," Johnny Bucyk's legacy with the Bruins is unmatched, as he played 21 seasons with the B's before working as a broadcaster, on the coaching staff and in the team's front office, totaling over a half-century of service. His 545 goals are the most in team history, and his number 9 was retired and raised to the rafters after he retired in 1978. Bucyk recorded 16 20-goal seasons, including in two seasons after he turned 40 in 1975.
DOUG FLUTIE (43)
Birthday: October 23, 1962
Years in New England: 1987-1989, 2005
Doug Flutie went 8-5 as a starting quarterback for the Patriots from 1987-1989, but when he returned to New England in 2005, he mostly held a clipboard as Tom Brady's backup, only taking a few snaps in mop-up duty at the end of games. His claim to fame in that second Patriots stint was pretty memorable, even though it didn't come as a QB. In the Pats' regular-season finale against the Dolphins, Bill Belichick had Flutie drop-kick an extra point, the first time that happened in an NFL game since 1941. The 43-year-old was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
MARK RECCHI (43)
Birthday: February 1, 1968
Years in Boston: 2009-2011
After arriving in Boston at the trade deadline in 2009, Mark Recchi signed a one-year contract for the following season, which he said would be his last. It's a good thing he changed his mind. Returning for the 2010-11 season, Recchi got his name on the Stanley Cup for the third time, 20 years after his first title with the 1991 Penguins. He had three goals and four assists in the Final against the Canucks, tying for the team lead in points and becoming the oldest player to score a goal in Stanley Cup Final history at age 43. Recchi retired after the season, making the official announcement during the team's postgame celebration.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY (43)
Birthday: October 3, 1954
Years in Boston: 1978-1984, 1998
After making 191 starts for the Red Sox in his 20s, Dennis Eckersley established himself as a Hall of Fame closer for the A's before wrapping up his career with the Cardinals and Red Sox. Eck pitched in 50 games as Tom Gordon's setup man in 1998, going 4-1 with a 4.76 ERA. The Sox didn't make the playoffs, finishing 22 games behindd the Yankees, and Eck's last regular-season appearance came just a week before his 44th birthday.
CARL YASTRZEMSKI (44)
Birthday: August 22, 1939
Years in Boston: 1961-1983
Carl Yastrzemski is a rarity, and a product of a bygone era: a major leaguer who spent his entire career with one team. Not only that, Yaz (23 years with the Red Sox) is tied with Brooks Robinson of the Orioles for the longest tenure entirely spent with one franchise. Yastrzemski wasn't just hanging on, either. He was an All-Star in each of his final two seasons, and still holds Boston records for in hits, runs, RBIs, and games played. Yaz retired at age 44, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, garnering more than 94% of the vote.
TIM WAKEFIELD (45)
Birthday: August 2, 1966
Years in Boston: 1995-2011
A mainstay on the Red Sox pitching staff for 17 seasons, Tim Wakefield was the oldest player in the major leagues when he retired in 2012 at age 45. His reinvention as a knuckleball pitcher was the key to Wakefield's longevity, as he started his Sox career by going 14-1 with a 1.65 ERA in his first 17 appearances in 1995, earning AL Comeback Player of the Year honors. Fourteen years later, he was named to the All-Star team for the first time, making him the second-oldest first-time All-Star in history behind Satchel Page. In 2011, at age 45, he became the oldest player to ever appear for the Red Sox — and he's the franchise's all-time leader in innings pitched (3,006). Wakefield won his 200th career game on September 13, 2011, and he ranks third behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens with 186 wins for the Red Sox.