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Tony Bennett, Tom Jones Star On American Idol, Prove Musicians Don't Age Like Ballplayers

This is an exceedingly common story on the internet: My baseball fandom was jump-started by reading Bill James, who possesses—among other gifts—the strange ability, as a writer, to make everything in baseball and in life seem connected by certain rules that don't seem intuitive until you begin to see their residue across every page on Baseball-Reference. One of those rules, or observations: That baseball players seem to reach their peak somewhere around 27. A rule like that seems to operate within certain segments of popular music, but not others, which is why Tom Jones and Tony Bennett just appeared on American Idol in 2011, at 70 and 84 years old, respectively.

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The little Bill James who's taken up residence in my mind says: Isn't it weird how musicians, like ballplayers, seem to peak young but then hang around forever? Like baseball players, popular musicians can make more money before they turn 35 than they will ever need for the rest of their life, and like baseball players, most popular musicians have done their most important or culture-shifting work before they turn 30. But Tony Bennett, who had his first hit three years before Ozzie Smith was born, has hung around both as a representative of his generation and as a niche, but legitimate, commercial force. Tom Jones appeared as a kitschy guest star on The Simpsons when Bryce Harper was a month old; he remains a kitschy guest star to this day. 

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This is the baseball equivalent of Mark McGwire stopping in every so often to hit in-game home runs for the Cardinals. Which would be awesome, actually, though the little Bill James has no idea what to make of it. 

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