I've never really been good with dates. Years seem to blend together faster than ever. But sports cards help remind me of certain events on my personal timeline and today I'll be documenting one of them.
A few weeks ago, my district gave me a certificate recognizing my 20 years of service. I started reminiscing and thinking about my rookie year as a teacher and just how far I've grown professionally. Eventually my mind wandered and I started thinking about athletes who made their professional debuts the same year as me.
Obviously hundreds of professional athletes made their debuts in 1998, so to keep things reasonable, I'm going to focus on three popular athletes who are still active in their careers.
According to Baseball Reference, 208 different players made their MLB debuts in 1998. Twenty-six of them were MLB all-stars. Three have a shot at Cooperstown. But only one guy is still playing.
That guy is...
1997 Bowman Chrome #182
Beltre kicked off his MLB career about two months before I began my public school teaching career. On June 24th, 1998... he started at third base in front of over 40,000 people at Dodger Stadium. That evening he ripped a double off of Angel's ace Chuck Finley during the bottom of the 2nd inning and drove in Paul Konerko in his first MLB at-bat.
Now in his 21st season, he's still entertaining fans and driving in teammates.
Out of all of the NFL and NHL players I found who made their professional debut in 1998, none are still actively playing in either league. However... there might be some undrafted kicker or punter in the NFL that I don't know about.
This shouldn't be too big of a surprise. Both of these sports tend to be more physical than baseball and basketball, which presumably wears down the body faster.
Speaking of basketball... there are only two NBA players who debuted during the 1998 season and are planning to return this fall to play in their 21st seasons.
The 1998 NBA Lockout delayed their debuts, but eventually both of these guys took the court on February 5th, 1999.
Dirk scored two points and dished out four assists against the Seattle SuperSonics, while VC's light burned slightly brighter against the Boston Celtics scoring sixteen points against fellow rookie Paul Pierce.
I haven't followed basketball in years, but after checking out their career statistics on Basketball Reference, both guys will probably become hall of famers.
Well that's it for now. In terms of sheer longevity, I still have a ways to go to catch some all-time greats like Nolan Ryan who played an astounding twenty-seven seasons in the MLB or Gordie Howe who played twenty-six seasons in the NHL and six additional seasons in the WHA. But as long as I stay healthy, I don't think it should be a problem.
Most of these guys got paid to do what they love. I'm lucky enough to be able to say the same thing.
Happy Monday and sayonara!