Jamie Moyer of the Colorado Rockies broke a Major League Baseball age barrier Tuesday night by becoming the oldest pitcher to ever win a game at age 49. He handcuffed the San Diego Padres for seven innings, picking up the “W” in a 5-3 victory.
The performance proved that the Rockies didn’t simply put Moyer in the team’s starting rotation as a ticket-selling gimmick, which has happened. Does anyone remember, for example, the Chicago White Sox bringing Minnie Minoso out of retirement for two games in 1980, at the age of 55, so that he could play in four different decades?
Moyer’s place on the Colorado Rockies is no AARP stunt. He still can get batters out, and not with either overpowering stuff or an elusive knuckleball, which has been the low-stress delivery that most often has led to pitching longevity. Hoyt Wilhelm and Tim Wakefield come to mind.
Moyer’s 78 m.p.h. fastballs barely warm up a radar gun, but he is a crafty mound artisan who keeps hitters off balance with changes of speed and location and enough movement in his pitches to make solid contact a challenge. Against the Padres, he gave up only six hits and two unearned runs.
ESPN studio analyst Barry Larkin says Moyer excels at pitching by “subtraction,” which means ratcheting down the speed of his deliveries to both keep the hitter’s out of sync while also tempting them to over-swing to generate the power that pitch’s speed doesn’t provide. It is extremely frustrating going against Moyer, Larkin says, because you know you’ll get something to hit, but you can’t do that much with it.
This isn’t to say players don’t connect against him. In fact, he has given up more home runs than any player in history, 511. But he also won 268 games, which ties him with Jim Palmer for 34th on the all-time list.
Moyer, who is now with his ninth different team, sat out the entire 2011 season while recovering from reconstructive arm surgery.
The father of eight children is older than eight current managers and 16 general managers, according to The New York Times. He also was 80 days older when he beat the Padres than Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers when Quinn set the record for oldest pitcher to win a game in 1932. Quinn was 49 years, 70 days old when he accomplished the feat.
With his effort Tuesday, Moyer secures a place on the Monitor’s Ageless Wonders Baseball All-Star Team, acing out Satchel Paige as our starting pitcher. Here are our other picks, by position:
He spent most of his 27 careers with the Chicago Cubs and retired at age 45 in 1897. Anson has been called the game’s first superstar and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939 by the Old-Timers Committee. Called “Cap,” which was short for “captain,” Anson is the first player to ever collect 3,000 hits. A racially intolerant person, he reportedly refused to take the field against teams with black players.
He divided his 19-year career between the Minnesota Twins and California Angels before retiring in 1985 at age 39. Carew was selected to play in 18 All-Star Games, only missing out in his final season. A great contact hitter, he posted a .328 career batting average while winning six American League batting titles, including in 1977 with a career high .388 average.
This year the 44-year-old Venezuelan became baseball’s oldest current active position player when Toronto signed him in January. This is his 24th big-league season. Vizquel is a superb fielder, with a run of nine consecutive Gold Gloves from 1993 to 2001. And his .985 fielding average is the best ever among shortstops.
Rose played several positions during his 24-year career, and even was a player-manager with the Cincinnati Reds when he retired at age 45 after the 1986 season. Even in that final season he played in 72 games, and although he batted a career low .219, it didn’t prevent him from finishing with a .303 career average. He also is the game’s all-time leader with 4,256 hits.
He played virtually his entire 24-year career with the Chicago Cubs, but ultimately retired at age 38 after playing his final two seasons with the Oakland A’s. Williams was a six-time All-Star who led the National League with a .333 average in 1972. The Hall of Famer was also known as an ironman who once held the National League record for longest streak of consecutive games played (1,117).
Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey ended his 22-year career in 2010 at age 40 back we it started, in Seattle, only this time he was the team’s designated hitter. For many years, though, “Junior” was one of the best fielders (10 Gold Gloves) and the American League’s top slugger from 1997 to 1999. Altogether he copped four home run titles and racked up 630 lifetime home runs.
Even in his final season in 1934, at age 45, Rice batted .293 with the Cleveland Indians He was a very tough out throughout his 20 years played for Cleveland and the Washington Senators, striking out just nine times in 616 plate appearances in 1929. His lifetime .322 average and his speed on the bases (he was nicknamed “Man o’ War” after the famous racehorse) earned him selection the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1963.
Playing most of 24 seasons at the game’s most physically taxing position is a testament to Fisk’s grit and durability. Although he is often remembered for his iconic 1975 World Series home run while with the Boston Red Sox, Fisk actually spent more years with the Chicago White Sox than the Red Sox (13 years versus 11 years). He retired in 1993 at age 45 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Designated hitter/pinch hitter
Franco was the oldest position player in major league history when he finished out his 23-year career at age 48 playing for the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. A three-time All-Star, he won the 1991 American League batting title as a member of the Texas Rangers, with a .341 average. A versatile player who also suited up in Japan, Mexico, and South Korea, the Dominican Republic native served at various times at shortstop, second base, first base, and DH.