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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jamie Moyer defies age, incredibly keeps pitching at 49

Just in case you have just arisen from a quarter-century nap, don’t be so alarmed by all the changes: Jamie Moyer is still pitching. If you have to re-read that sentence, don’t worry because, at 49, Moyer probably would have to, a result of age-induced nearsightedness. When I took the sportwriter’s oath — a pledge to the gods to do my utmost to avoid breaking a sweat while criticizing those that do — I never thought I would be writing about a guy who is still competing at the highest level of his sport while throwing a fastball that takes longer to go from 0-60 than my clunker of a Civic.

Jamie Moyer made his Major League debut on June 19, 1986, when the only way one could tweet about Mikhail Baryshnikov was by picking up the phone and the main thing trending was Jordache. Back then, Wrigley Field had no lights installed and the closest thing to the internet that people knew about was the one in which dolphins kept getting tangled. A fresh-faced Moyer beat Steve Carlton in his debut. He also struck out Methuselah and gave up the 3000th hit to Rip Van Winkle.

Moyer has pitched in four different decades. He pitched during America’s war on drugs during the 1980s and also bore witness to baseball’s second Dead Ball era: you know, the one created as a side effect of steroid usage. His career is older than four teams and has aged about as well as some ports. He has faced fathers and their sons; uncles and their nephews, perhaps some grandfathers. Heck, he’s been hit on more than a housewife from Orange County.

Moyer has faced Marlins, as well as a Salmon and a Bass. If the stars- starts?- align during Interleague play this season, Moyer could very well find himself facing a Carp and a Trout. Here’s hoping he doesn’t stink it up. In addition, Jamie has faced 8.9% of all Major League hitters. Ever. Honus Wagner and Cap Anson were not among them, however. Though I had to check to fulfill my journalistic obligation for the week.

People regularly drive faster than what Moyer’s fastball has been clocked at (80 mph) without getting a ticket. In fact, there might be a petition circulating to change the name of the pitch in order to do it proper justice. Something like moderate-speed-ball might be more accurate. His curveball yields to oncoming traffic before it breaks, and his sinker is in bed before the 10 o’clock news.

Even Father Time hung up the spikes well before Jamie has. At 49, he has become the oldest player ever to win a Major League ball game. While most young pitchers are icing their arms after a start, Jamie is probably seeking refuge in a bowl of soup to bring the warmth of his arm up to their level. Yet, with all that said, the codger is still pitching respectably, logging a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than two to one. That is not to say there has not been some cause for ageism.

No, Moyer has yet to leave his pitcher’s mitt in a Gatorade cooler, but earlier this month in a game against Atlanta, he did stir up some controversy when he accused the 40-year old Chipper Jones of stealing signs. Jones called him “paranoid” and thus began the most enthralling argument between a pair of men whose combined age is 89 since the last dispute at a delicatessen over how much tip to leave for a dry corned beef sandwich. Presumably, the argument was settled seconds later when the two forgot where they were and launched into a story about the good, old days- despite there being only two outs in the inning.

Consider that Jamie Moyer has pitched during the administrations of 5 Presidents. He’s outlasted the Soviet Union and Ivan Drago for that matter. When the left-hander entered the league the only WHIP that most people had heard of was the one used on insolent bat boys. All but three teams have changed stadium addresses since he entered the league. The team for whom he currently pitches didn’t enter into existence until 7 years after Moyer made his Big League debut. The Montreal franchise moved to Washington. The California Angels became the Anaheim Angels then the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, yet Moyer was there to see it all. He’s almost the MLB equivalent of “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” For crying out loud, even Richard Dreyfuss has retired. Whether he makes it into Cooperstown is debatable, since the Hall of Fame might very well pick up and move some place else by the time he decides to retire.

Maybe the lovable Jamie Moyer will hang it up after his odometer rolls over to an age that matches his jersey number, 50. Maybe, he’ll hold out longer: Moyer has slightly over a decade left before he is eligible to start receiving Social Security. Regardless, if you can, take advantage of watching a once-in-a-long, long-lifetime pitcher. He’ll be there, walking out to a mound near you. Gradually, but he’ll be there.

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE


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