At last, we have a “World’s Oldest Living Former Big Leaguer” who looks like he might be open to a comeback trial. If he makes it to his August 11, 2011 birthday anniversary number 100, maybe some club in the pennant race will give the fiesty Cuban hurler Connie Marrero a second try.
There remains some controversy over Marrero’s actual birthdate. Baseball Almanac and Baseball Reference, our two major online encyclopedic sources, both still list the old Cuban’s birthday as April 25, 1911. Some more recent sources, including Wichipedia and Biographican, claim that newer studies have confirmed the birthdate from Cuban birth records as August 11, 1911. Either way, Connie Marrero remains the oldest living former big leaguer. The next man, Ace Parker, 98, wasn’t born until May 17, 1912.
Connie Marrero posted a 39-40 record with a 3.67 ERA in a five-year stint of work for the Washington Senators from 1950 to 1954. He was a little guy at only 5’7″ and 158 pounds, but he fought both fiercely and deceptively. He threw and batted from the right side.
Marrero’ style was colorful and his moves on the mound were designed to aid deception. On writer described him as more closely resembling an a dumpy-looking little Hispanic grocer in a baseball “costume.” Another wrote that his delivery reminded them of an orangutan delivering a 16-pound shot put to the plate. Forget the ridicule, scribes. The great Ted Williams said this of him: “Let Marrero get that first pitch over for a strike and you’re in big trouble.” I’ll go with Teddy Ballgame as a better judge of how the little Cuban looked to batters.
After his Senators career, Marrero returned to his native Cuba, where he remained active in Cuban baseball for the remainder of his playing and coaching days. He is still honored as something of a national hero in Cuba, but he has no pension or great reserve of money to support him into these olympian leaps into old, old age. Today he lives in a simple room in the home of a cousin, but he still gets around town some and, as the lead photo suggests, he has retained his fire and his sense of humor.
Here’s a list of the ten oldest former big leaguers by age and birthdate:
1. Connie Marrero, 99 (8/11/1911 0r 4/25/1911, take your pick).
2. Ace Parker, 98 (5/17/1912).
3. Alex Pitko, 96 (11/22/1914).
4. Ralph Hodgin, 96 (2/10/1915).
5. Nick Strincevich, 95 (3/01/1915).
6. Mike Sandlock, 95 (10/17/1915).
7. Benny McCoy, 95 (11/09/1915).
8. Freddy Schmidt, 95 (2/09/1916).
9. Art Kenney, 94 (4/25/1916).
10. Eddie Joost, 94 (6/05/1916).
Interestingly, of the 61 oldest living former big leaguers, all are 90 years of age and older.
Hang in there, Senor Marrero. Some riches aren’t measured at the bank. If you are happy being nearly 100 and can walk the streets of your town with the love and respect of others, and still feel the music of your youth juicing through your system, you are richer than a lot of people much younger with a whole wad of cold hard cash alone.
Thanks for giving baseball your all too. Everything I’ve read and tried to learn about you says that you were one of those men who made baseball proud internationally by the way you played the game with your whole heart, soul, and self.
And early 100th Happy Birthday, too! – Whenever that actually may be!