The other day I got to thinking about former Indians pitcher Mel Harder. For many years, he was known as the oldest living ex-Indians player, until his death in 2002 at age 93 robbed him of that distinction. Then I started to wonder who is the current oldest living ex-Indian.
If you thought “Hmm, that’s probably Julio Franco,” you’re funny, but you’re wrong. According to some extensive research on my part, the oldest living ex-Indians player is Eddie Carnett. Born in 1916, Carnett is, at the time of this post, 96 years and 43 days old. Carnett appeared in 30 games for the Indians in 1945, mostly as an outfielder, although he was used as a pitcher in two games. He acquitted himself well on the mound, retiring each hitter he faced in both games, and striking out one batter.
Carnett’s last appearance with the Indians, and indeed as a member of major league baseball, occurred at League Park on July 7, 1945, when Indians manager Lou Boudreau put Carnett in to pinch-hit in the eighth inning with the Indians trailing the Boston Red Sox, 8-6. With one out and runners on first and second, Carnett’s single loaded the bases, making him the potential go-ahead run. Unfortunately for the Tribe faithful, the next batter hit into an inning-ending double play.
As happened to scores of other young ballplayers, Carnett had the misfortune of trying to make it in the major leagues during World War II. Less than three weeks after his last appearance in an Indians game, Carnett was inducted into the U. S. Navy. He was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago. A day later he found himself playing for the center’s baseball team, managed by Indians great Bob Feller. Feller reportedly took a shine to Carnett, and helped him work on his slider.
Of course, the war ended a few months later. Carnett was released by the Indians in April of 1946. He continued to play and to manage in the minor leagues until the mid-1950s. Carnett currently lives in Ringling, Oklahoma. Last May he threw the ceremonial first pitch in a game between the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels.
For a good account of the life and career of Carnett, I refer you to Craig Cleve’s post for SABR. I am indebted to Cleve and to SABR for some of the information in this post. The photo above comes from the Out Of The Park Baseball website.