Bartolo Colón has played Major League Baseball forever. Well, not forever. Since 1997, which is essentially forever in sports years. The average MLB career lasts 5.6 years, so in a way Colón has lived almost four lifetimes. Ponce de León would’ve been jealous.
Colón made his first appearance on April 4, 1997. The number one movie at the box office was Jim Carrey’s “Liar Liar”, the number one single was “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” by Mase and Puff Daddy (back when he went by Puff Daddy), and gas was $1.19 per gallon. Time flies.
When Fulton County Stadium closed down in 1996, the Atlanta Braves made Turner Field their home in 1997. Colón made his major-league debut that same year with the Cleveland Indians. Amazingly, Colón’s career outlasted Turner Field, as the ballpark shuttered in 2016.
Now Colón, coincidentally a member of the Braves, pitches his home games in Atlanta’s brand-new SunTrust Park.
Over the years, Colón has packed on a few pounds. More than a few. A New York Times piece mentioned:
“Colon is listed at 285 pounds, although his true weight these days is a guess. He looks as if he should be sitting in the stands and eating a hot dog, or two or three, while he watches the game. Playing in it seems like a monumental stretch.”
But the player affectionately nicknamed “Big Sexy” is playing. In fact, he’s doing more than merely hanging on. He’s still highly effective. Over the past four seasons, Colón has won 18, 15, 14, and 15 games.
During that span, he’s won 61 percent of his starts and posted an ERA of 3.59 – all north of 40 years old.
Colón’s performance in his 40s rivals the output of his 2005 Cy Young season when he went 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA (although the pitcher-unkind Steroid Era was still winding down).
Colón’s fastball (essentially the only pitch he throws) velocity has dropped from the mid-90s to high-80s, but his location is supreme. He simply doesn’t walk a ton of batters.
Speaking of batting, last season Colón became the oldest player in MLB history to hit his first home run, a feat he accomplished at 42-years-old. Soon to be 44, Colón hasn’t lost any zest for the game.
Current Braves manager Brian Snitker remarked,
“It’s refreshing to watch. I love being around the guy. He’s just such an engaging, personable guy. And he does his job. He’s a pro, he prepares. You don’t play this long in the major leagues without knowing what you’re doing.”
As Colón approaches his 44th birthday, the number one movie at the box office is “The Fate of the Furious,” the number one single is “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran, and the price of gas is roughly $2.49 per gallon.
What an odd and magnificent time capsule Colón’s interminable career has been.