First base: Joe Carter, San Francisco Giants. OK, he's only 38 but he's retiring prematurely and for the right reasons -- his daughters want him to. Baseball will never forget his World Series-winning home run against the Philadelphia Phillies for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993. I'll never forget his surge at the end of 1998 when the Giants needed it most. He finished up with 396 home runs and the fans in the stands cheering, "Don't go, Joe" on the last day of the Giants' home season.
Second base: Gary Gaetti, Chicago Cubs (40). The National League's best active third baseman, with a .976 fielding percentage, Gaetti can handle moving to second for a game. He actually pitched an inning for the Cardinals last year, so he's nothing if not flexible. Gaetti helped win the National League Wild Card for the Cubs with key hits, including a two-run homer in the playoff game that gave the Cubs a lead they never lost.
Third base: Wade Boggs, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (40). Boggs is passing through Tampa Bay, after 11 seasons with the Red Sox and five with the Yankees, on his way to retirement. He holds the major league record for consecutive seasons (seven) with 200-plus hits, and he was the hottest hitting Yankees third baseman in history.
Shortstop: Tony Phillips, New York Mets (40 in April). Phillips came back from a cocaine problem that ended his year with the Anaheim Angels in 1997 to be a leadoff hitter and spark plug for the Wild Card-contending Mets this year. He's finishing up in the outfield, but over his long career he's played every position except catcher, so he'll be fine at shortstop -- long enough for a 40-plus team photo, anyway.
Left field: Rickey Henderson, Oakland Athletics (40). Enough said.
Center field: Jim Eisenreich, Los Angeles Dodgers (39). Eisenreich already retired once, at 25, after battling undiagnosed Tourette's syndrome, and has gone on to be a spokesman for those suffering from the disorder. He came back and went to the World Series with both the Phillies and the Florida Marlins. He spent most of this year with the comatose Dodgers; he deserves better for the end of his career.
Right field: Willie McGee, St. Louis Cardinals (40). Five years ago I interviewed McGee -- a star of the 1993 Giants -- and closed our interview by telling him we were the same age. The sharp but shy McGee didn't miss a beat. "Well, we're not getting older, honey, we're getting better," he assured me. Last year McGee went back to St. Louis, where he won three Gold Gloves, two National League batting titles and the Most Valuable Player award in 1985, to finish out his impressive career.
Catcher: Charlie O'Brien, Anaheim Angels (38). It was a tough call. I could have brought back All-Star Tony Peña, 41, who finished his career last year with the Houston Astros. But I opted to dip into the 40-plus farm team for O'Brien, whose best years were with the Toronto Blue Jays, as battery-mate to perennial Cy Young Award-winner Roger Clemens.
Designated hitter: Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins (42): As a committed National Leaguer I loathe the DH, but as a 40-year-old I have to admit it creates job opportunities for men my age. This was probably Molitor's last year, after record-setting stints with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit .281 this year and stroked his 3,319th career hit in his last at-bat (against his 40-plus teammate Doug Jones) to help the Twins beat the Cleveland Indians in the last game of a disappointing season.