A-Rod is getting plenty of love for homering on his 40th birthday last night, but when it comes to players excelling over 40, few, if any, franchises can top the Bravos.
- Phil Niekro won 71 for the Braves after he turned 40, including 43 complete games and nine shutouts. He finished in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting three times after his 40th.
- Warren Spahn hurled a complete game victory on his 40th birthday, the first of 21 wins for the ’61 Braves. He finished as runner-up in NL Cy Young voting that year and was also named an All-Star, an honor that would be repeated the following two seasons. While in his 40s, Spahn had 12 shutouts and 63 complete games for the Milwaukee Braves.
- John Smoltz also was an All-Star after 40. He won 14 games with a 3.11 ERA with the Braves in 2007, striking out 197 in 205.2 IP. He was pitching even better the following year, winning 3 of his 5 starts with a 2.57 ERA before shoulder surgery ended his Braves career.
- Hank Aaron turned 40 before his last year with the Braves, and while he appeared in only 112 games Bad Henry still finished with 20 HR, 69 RBI and a .832 OPS. He also set a record you may have heard about.
- Chipper turned 40 a few weeks into his final season. Like Aaron, he played in 112 games that year and finished with an identical .832 OPS.
- The ’69 Braves were in third place, 1.5 games out of first when they acquired 46-year-old Hoyt Wilhelm from the California Angels to fortify a thin ‘pen. He saved his first game with the Braves, against San Francisco, moving the local nine ahead of the Giants in the crowded NL West race. Wilhelm saved four games down the stretch and another 13 the following year.
- Julio Franco had been out of the majors four years (save for one game with the Rays) when JS signed him out of the Mexican League in 2001. Juley was 42 at the time, though some say he was even older. But he was far from done, batting .300 in 25 games with a .821 OPS. He remained a productive platoon player through his 46th birthday, finishing his Braves career with a .291 BA and .788 OPS. Franco returned in 2007, at age 48, and singled in his final AB in the majors in a game won by 40-year-old John Smoltz.