Paul Hopkins, 99; the Oldest Major League Baseball Player

Times Staff Writer

Paul Hopkins, who gave up Babe Ruth’s record-tying 59th home run in 1927 and was believed to be the oldest living major league player, died Friday after a short illness. He was 99.

“It was only in the last month or so that he started to go downhill,” said Hopkins’ son, Peter.

The Baseball Hall of Fame identified Hopkins as the nation’s oldest major leaguer when Ray Hayworth died in 2002.

With Hopkins’ passing, Ray Cunningham is believed to be baseball’s oldest living player. Cunningham, born Jan. 17, 1905, played second and third base during a 14-game career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1931 and 1932.

Hopkins played only two seasons in the majors, with the Washington Senators and the St. Louis Browns, and had a career pitching record of 1-1 in 11 games. He was making his big-league debut Sept. 27, 1927, at Yankee Stadium when Ruth hit his 59th homer of the season off him in the fifth inning.


“Then he strolled out from the Yankee dugout and walked up to the plate,” Hopkins said of his bases-loaded showdown with Ruth in a 1998 article in a Hartford, Conn., newspaper. “I was not excited or awed.”

Hopkins did not play in the majors during the 1928 season and quit baseball after pitching two games without a decision for the Browns during 1929. He retired to his native Connecticut and worked as a loan manager in a bank.

Late in his life, baseball embraced Hopkins, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch during a Yankee-Oriole game at Baltimore’s Camden Yards in 1995. He also was a guest on “The Late Show With David Letterman.”

A memorial service for Hopkins is scheduled for Tuesday in his hometown of Deep River, Conn.

Associated Press contributed to this report.