The late, great Gordie Howe played professional hockey at age 52. That fact represents arguably the most incredible accomplishment in sports. There is the pantheon. Joe DiMaggio‘s 56-game hitting streak. Reggie Jackson‘s three straight dingers on three straight pitches, late October. The unmatched performances of Ruth, Pele, Nicklaus, Chamberlain, Owens, Thorpe, Gretzky, Didrikson, Graf, Jerry Rice, Federer. American hurdler Edwin Moses didn’t lose a race for ten years. Running against the world’s best, he won 122 times in a row. But Moses was finished in his mid-thirties. Archie “The Mongoose” Moore fought at a high level into his fifties. But Moore’s foes could be chosen.
The late great Gordie Howe, who died last week at age 88, played his last professional hockey game at age 52. He could not select his opponents. Mr. Hockey, as Howe was known, was the best ever to play the game — and that’s just what Wayne Gretzky said. But the fact that he played professional hockey, among the most rigorous and dangerous of sports, at age 52 is an utterly singular accomplishment — possible only for the smartest and greatest of athletes. Gretzky just turned 55, and he last played a pro hockey game in 1999. RIP Gordie Howe. That’s the way to play a game.