With the retirement of Ken Griffey, Jr. a couple weeks ago, one is reminded that the vestiges an up-and-down, star—and controversy—studded era are withering away. In a few years, all active remnants of this incredible epoch, the 1990s, will be no more.
Sure, multiple players who debut in the late 1990s are still active, but it is not they who came to be the most significant forces of that power-packed ten-year span. Indeed, players debuting before 1995 are becoming increasingly scarce, with players from the 80s being especially elusive—only Jamie Moyer and Omar Vizquel remain, with Tom Gordon, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz each with their ballplaying futures stuck in limbo. As the seasons have steadily rolled by, the players who came to define the 1990s have begun to leave the playing field, making way for the younger generation—though a few wizened veterans remain.
As 1980s-debuting players become rarer and rarer, so do players born in the 1960s—who too played through the final decade of the 20th century. Jamie Moyer, Trevor Hoffman, Matt Stairs, Brad Ausmus and Arthur Rhodes are the only active 1960s-born players, with a few more whose playing careers are in a state of uncertainty.
It is difficult to believe that some of the most momentous events of recent memory are no longer so recent—the home run chase by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa that entranced baseball fans was over a decade ago, the inaugural season of interleague play and the shameful strike about a score.
The 1990s was a decade of fantastic highs and dismal lows. It was a time of fun and sadness and anticipation and disappointment. Though a few traces remain, it is an era that is slowly settling deeper and deeper into the history books with only a handful of active players to help keep it alive.
1,830 players debuted in the 1990s and only 130, or 6.9%, remain. Prior to 1995, 840 players debuted and only 15 (1.8%) of those generation-defining players are still active. The following are all the players who debuted in the 1990s who are still active in Major League baseball, organized by year of debut.
1991: Arthur Rhodes, Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome.
1992: Miguel Batista, Matt Stairs, Tim Wakefield.
1993: Brad Ausmus, Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Darren Oliver, Manny Ramirez.
1994: Garret Anderson, Chan Ho Park, Alex Rodriguez.
1995: Mike Cameron, Juan Castro, Craig Counsell, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Mark Grudzielanek, LaTroy Hawkins, Derek Jeter, Ron Mahay, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Jeff Suppan, Mike Sweeney, Billy Wagner, Greg Zaun.
1996: Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cairo, Luis Castillo, Vladimir Guerrero, Livan Hernandez, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Jason Kendall, Trever Miller, Brian Mohler, Edgar Renteria, Scott Rolen, Jamie Wright.
1997: Henry Blanco, Orlando Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, Frank Catalanotto, Jose Guillen, Todd Helton, Torii Hunter, Paul Konerko, Mark Kotsay, Derrek Lee, Derek Lowe, Kevin Millwood, Magglio Ordonez, David Ortiz, Dennys Reyes, Fernando Tatis, Miguel Tejada, Jason Varitek.
1998: Ronnie Belliard, Adrian Beltre, Russell Branyan, Tim Byrdak, Eric Chavez, Bruce Chen, Alex Cora, Ryan Dempster, Mark DeRosa, J.D. Drew, Troy Glaus, Alex Gonzalez, Carlos Guillen, Jerry Hairston, Roy Halladay, Wes Helms, Bob Howry, Gabe Kapler, Mike Lowell, Bengie Molina, Russ Ortiz, Carl Pavano, A.J. Pierzynski, Placido Polanco, Aramis Ramirez, Mike Redmond, Javier Vazquez, Randy Winn, Kerry Wood
1999: Rick Ankiel, Rod Barajas, Kris Benson, Lance Berkman, Casey Blake, Geoff Blum, A.J. Burnett, Ramon Castro, Francisco Cordero, Doug Davis, Octavio Dotel, Chad Durbin, Kyle Farnsworth, Ryan Franklin, Freddy Garcia, Cristian Guzman, Ramon Hernandez, Tim Hudson, Adam Kennedy, Jason LaRue, Carlos Lee, Ted Lilly, Mike Lincoln, Damaso Marte, Gary Matthews, John McDonald, Gil Meche, Jose Molina, Melvin Mora, Guillermo Mota, Ramon Ortiz, Vicente Padilla, J.C. Romero, Scott Schoeneweis, Alfonso Soriano, Jeff Weaver, Vernon Wells, Dan Wheeler, Randy Wolf.
Tags: Baseball, John Smoltz, Ken Griffey Jr, Mark McGwire