A guy who turns 50 before the end of the year is pitching in the major leagues this season.
Jamie Moyer, after missing all of last season with Tommy John surgery, survived final cuts and will begin the year in the Colorado Rockies starting rotation. If the 49-year-old lefty wins one game, he will be the oldest pitcher to ever do so in the majors.
Hold old is Moyer? Tommy John was an active pitcher, not just a surgery technique, when Jamie made his big-league debut. More than 250 current major-league players were not even born when Moyer was called up.
It was June 16, 1986. Wrigley Field did not have lights. Len Bias had three more days left to live. Geraldo had just opened Capone’s vault while the Oprah Winfrey Show could only be seen in Chicago (syndication nationally began in September). Gas was 93 cents a gallon and a stamp cost 22 cents.
Moyer’s rookie salary was $60,000. Today’s rookies make $414,000.
Moyer has heard all the “old” jokes for years — “opposing teams can’t study your game tapes because they’re on VHS.” On top of that, Moyer gets made fun of because he does not throw hard, barely hitting 80 mph with his fastball.
Jason Giambi says that Moyer “throws feathers” instead of fastballs. Other teammates joke that Moyer’s pitches are not timed by a radar gun but by scouts counting “one one-thousand, two one-thousand ...”
Moyer’s story is one of a late-bloomer and persistence. The lefty struggled during a time that for most athletes is their “prime.” He won just 34 games in his 20s. Having been traded by the Cubs and released by the Texas Rangers, Moyer, at age 29, was in the minors with the Toledo Mud Hens when things began to come together. His big break came in the mid ’90s when Boston traded him to Seattle and manager Lou Piniella made him a regular starter.
Moyer won 130 games in his 30s and, so far, has won 103 games in his 40s. Add it up and Jamie Moyer has 267 wins.
But his remarkable sports story pales in comparison to his true impact.
Moyer and his wife, Karen, have eight children (Karen is the daughter of former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps, and the two were set up on their first date by Harry Caray).
The Moyers are passionate about kids and giving back. Beginning in 2000 they started the Moyer Foundation (www.moyerfoundation.org) to help children in distress. They formed Camp Moriposa for kids affected by addiction in their families, and Camp Erin, a free bereavement camp for kids grieving a significant loss.
One of them in the Tampa area was there when Danny and Cindy Lucier of Estero needed it most. Three years ago their youngest son, Ryan, died suddenly. He was 7. Cameron, his 8-year-old brother, slept in a suddenly very empty bedroom for a few months when Cindy found out about Camp Erin.
“It was amazing. For Cameron to be able to have some fun again while sharing his feelings with other kids who unfortunately are going through what he is, ... it was a godsend.” Cindy recalls. “The Moyers don’t just lend their name to it, either. Karen was there the first day of camp to get to know everyone.”
The Moyer Foundation now has 36 camps across the country.
On and off the field (with the help of a great woman), Jamie is a true role model.
At his age, he has to have an appreciation for the classics, right?
So when he takes the mound for the Rockies in a few days, how about if we all channel our inner Bogart in Casablanca and offer this toast:
To Jamie Moyer, 49 years young!
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”