The sport that you play has a huge impact on how long of a professional career that you could potentially have, if you have the talent to make it to the top. Contact sports, such as American football, tend to result in shorter careers than non-contact sports, such as golf. Here are some of the athletes that are generally recognized as having the longest professional careers in their respective sports. A special thank you to Peter Deluca at Carter DeLuca Farrell & Schmidt LLP for this list.
Gary Player played in his first professional match in 1953, and didn’t play in his last professional tournament until 2009. His name is recognizable world-wide as a result of his accomplishments throughout his 56 year career as a professional golfer. But even Gary Player is unlikely to have had the longest career as a professional golfer, as there are many an unsung hero in the sport, that have spent their careers employed by a golf course teaching the sport to generations of new golfers.
Although officially Gordie Howe’s longest unbroken length of time playing professional ice hockey is “only” 37 years, a long stretch for any professional athlete, he deserves to be recognized as having one of the only professional careers that approaches Gary Player’s in length. He amassed a total of 50 years in his professional career.
One of the most recognized names in professional baseball is Nolan Ryan, who shares the honor of having the longest career in Major League Baseball with Cap Anson. The careers of both players stretched out 27 years. It is not uncommon for teams to have players whose careers have passed the 20 year mark.
Of course, it’s possible to find professional athletes that have had careers rivaling these three, particularly if you consider athletes playing sports that are not as popular in the United States, such as Cricket. However, all three of these athletes have names that are highly recognizable even years after their retirement, and they’ve been honored for their longevity by their respective sports.
To learn more about another player who played deep into his 40s, here is a video of 47 year-old Julio Franco hitting a home run!