The Baseball Methuselah
March 31, 2012 11:55 AM   Subscribe

At the age of 49 years and 4 months, Jamie Moyer of the Colorado Rockies is the oldest baseball player to ever earn a regular roster spot on a Major League Baseball team (Satchel Paige pitched 3 innings in a 1965 game at age 59 as a publicity stunt). There are many current players, including some of the game's best, who weren't even born when Moyer made his MLB debut, making Moyer's feat all the more impressive.
posted by reenum (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm a lifelong Phillies fan and got to see Jamie Moyer pitch a lot for them. He's not the fastest pitcher in the world, but he can be crafty. He's also a class act. Glad to see him grab a rotation spot.
posted by inturnaround at 11:56 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best factoid I've heard about this: had Jamie Moyer been a member of the Colorado Rockies in 1993, the franchise's first year of existence, he would still have been the oldest pitcher in the starting rotation.
posted by shadow vector at 12:06 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a great story. May the Rockies sign him and may he have a great year.
posted by goalyeehah at 12:10 PM on March 31, 2012


Neat factoid I've read: Unless he doesn't wind up playing much this season, he's likely to have more innings pitched at or after the age of 49 than everyone else ever, combined.

Neater factoid I've read: Unless he doesn't wind up playing much this season, he's likely to have more at bats (as a batter) at or after the age of 49 than everyone else ever, combined.
posted by Flunkie at 12:17 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Julio Franco played through his age 48 season, and it was an well-known rumour he had lied about his birthdate when he was first signed to make himself appear younger. If that's true, he might have been playing in the majors in his early 50s.
posted by thecjm at 12:24 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Taking Franco's claimed age at face value, he did make it to 49 during that season, but only 4 of his 106 plate appearances that year were at 49 or older.
posted by Flunkie at 12:32 PM on March 31, 2012


Little known fact: he also pitched in the first night game in the majors.
posted by A dead Quaker at 12:33 PM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


According to what is on Wikipedia Hoyt Wilhelm pitched when he was 49 for the Dodgers.
posted by bukvich at 12:45 PM on March 31, 2012


OK, I can't restrain myself:

Most innings pitched at or after age 49
Hoyt Wilhelm, 25.1
Jack Quinn, 15.2
Satchel Paige, 3.0

Most plate appearances at or after age 49
Minnie Miñoso, 10
Julio Franco, 4
Jim O'Rourke, 4
Arlie Latham, 2
Hoyt Wilhelm, 2
Charlie O'Leary, 1
Satchel Paige, 1
Jack Quinn, 1

That's a total of 44 innings pitched and 25 plate appearances. Moyer seriously has a great shot at this.

For the sake of completeness: Hughie Jennings also made it into a game at age 49, but didn't bat (or pitch).
posted by Flunkie at 12:45 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dammit, why didn't the Orioles bring this guy back? Their strategy -- and I think it's a reasonable one -- is to throw a huge mess of could-be-good-could-be-terrible starting pitchers out there, and there's no reason a warmly remembered former Oriole like Moyer shouldn't be part of the mix.

The truth is, the Orioles' situation is such that not only 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, but 48-year-old Barry Bonds, and 54-year-old Rickey Henderson would probably add value to this team. What a ridiculous but wonderful team that would be!
posted by escabeche at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, Minnie Miñoso played professionally as recently as 2003, at the age of 77. He drew a walk.
posted by Flunkie at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2012


The commercial I was really trying to find was the one where he hits 99 on a radar gun.
posted by A dead Quaker at 1:06 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jose Canseco is also looking to get called up to the big leagues. Life pro-tip, everyone: follow Jose Canseco on Twitter. It's a crazy, wild ride.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:17 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the way, as much as I love Jamie Moyer, my favorite ageless pitcher will always be Jesse Orosco.
posted by escabeche at 1:24 PM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Satchel Paige pitched at 59, having been signed by the Kansas City Athletics for a single game; at least according to Wikipedia, that gives him the MLB pitchers' age record, one unlikely to be beaten without a similar "stunt." (I put that in quotes because Paige's performance at that game was pretty respectable by any standards; it's not like he threw one pitch and went home.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:25 PM on March 31, 2012


But the real Methuseleh award goes to Nolan Ryan who was pitching and throwing 98 MPH fastballs and striking guys out at the age of 47. And wrestling Robin Ventura to the ground like a steer.

Before the 1993 season, Ryan announced his retirement, effective at the end of that season. On August 4, just before the end, Ryan had yet another high profile moment – this time an on-the-mound fight. After Ryan hit Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox, Ventura charged the mound in order to fight Ryan, who was 20 years his senior. Ryan secured the 26-year-old Ventura in a headlock with his left arm, while pummeling Ventura's head with his right fist six times before catcher Iván Rodríguez was able to pull Ventura away from Ryan. Ryan stated afterwards it was the same maneuver he used on steers he had to brand on his Texas ranch. Videos of the incident were played that evening throughout the country.
posted by bukvich at 1:30 PM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


But, but, but, has he ever pitched in 17 consecutive games as Terry Mulholland is alleged to have done?

(Why, yes, Terry Mulholland is my favourite long-lived pitcher. But he finally packed it in in 2006.)
posted by hoyland at 1:44 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw Jamie Moyer pitch for the Cubs many times in 1988, I was 26, living with a college roommate in one of those apartments on Sheffield over the right field wall at Wrigley.

I also saw Moyer pitch for the Phillies many times in 2010, with my 10yo son. I was 49, living with my wife and three kids in a house in the Philadelphia suburbs.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:12 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Flunkie, Minnie batted in 2003? I know I heard he was trying to convince someone to let him do so at the time. Good for him!
posted by reenum at 2:28 PM on March 31, 2012


Flunkie, Minnie batted in 2003?
Not in the majors (if I remember correctly, Commissioner Bud Selig refused to allow any major league team to sign him), but with a professional team (the Saint Paul Saints).

The walk he drew was apparently not, as one might suspect, a complete gimme - the pitcher (Tim Byrdak, who was a major leaguer both before and after this) threw the first two pitches with an exaggerated old-timey windup, and both were balls, but after that he used his normal windup. The count was full when Minnie drew the fourth ball, and one of the two strikes was apparently a 90 MPH fastball that Minnie fouled off.

Sports Illustrated link on this (last section in the article).
posted by Flunkie at 2:47 PM on March 31, 2012


This Cubs fan is very much cheering for Moyer to have a hell of a year!
posted by sc114 at 2:51 PM on March 31, 2012


Ok, I see a lot of talk about the O's and Cubs. You guys know we're talking about Major League baseball, right? ohhhhhh, ZING!
posted by IvoShandor at 3:41 PM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am cheering like mad for this man, and duly represent as the sole Mariner fan in this thread so far. I lived on Jamie Moyer baseball in Seattle for 10 years.

and I LOVE THE FACT HES BEEN IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES FOR LONGER THAN THE ACTUAL TEAM HE'S PLAYING FOR NOW.

Go #2 in the rotation! Go Rockies!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:00 PM on March 31, 2012


I was at the last Phillies game of the 2007 regular season. Moyer, hometown boy, was the starting pitcher for the Phillies. Going into that game, the Phillies and Mets were tied for the NL East lead.

A hundred miles northeast, the Mets and Marlins started playing at 1:11. Most of the crowd was there early, and as the first pitch approach something strange happened. The numbers next to "FLA" (for in ye olden days, they were the Florida Marlins) kept going up. We kept cheering the out-of-town scoreboard. By the time the Phillies and Nationals got underway at 1:37, the Marlins were up 7 to 1. And all the Mets fans up at Shea, I like to imagine, looked like this guy. The Mets were 7 games up with 17 to play... and they were going to blow it.

The Phillies went on to win 6 to 1, but who cares? We knew how this would turn out when they had a commanding advantage from the first pitch.

That's how I prefer to remember the 2007 season ending. The Phillies got swept by the Rockies in the Division Series, but due to horrible TV scheduling nobody in Philly saw it anyway.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:09 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good for him. I was a fan of his when he was on the Orioles (when I was in my teens).

Moyer is a great example of the silliness that goes on with player evaluation in baseball- the kind of stuff "Moneyball" talked about.

Moyer was gotten rid of by the Orioles and probably other teams because he "didn't throw hard enough to win." Except he DID WIN. All the time. In the face of him succeeding over and over again, they just kept saying he would never succeed.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:31 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


bukvich: "wrestling Robin Ventura to the ground like a steer."

Speaking of Robin Ventura, not only is he 5 years younger than Jamie Moyer, his entire career fits inside of Moyer's, and he's been retired for so long that people kind of forgot about him until he got made manager of the White Sox this year. It would be kind of funny that Moyer's older than the current White Sox manager except that he's also older than the previous White Sox manager (and 5 other current managers).

Hell, Pudge Rodriguez was also involved in that fight, and he doesn't have a contract for this year yet, so his entire 21-year Hall of Fame career in which he set basically all of the records for catcher longevity might end up fitting inside of Moyer's.
posted by Copronymus at 9:44 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


It makes you realize what a gift and rare gift it is to be a pitcher putting up ERAs that some of the best prospects guys who are in the physical prime of their lives can't meet...guys whose families probably lived off their high school baseball exploits..he just d
Goes out there and is better than 50% of them.....oh and like any talk of 1985-2007 baseball it must be mentioned....I presume he was roid free...and given his consistent body figure that seems safe to state.
posted by skepticallypleased at 9:47 PM on March 31, 2012


drjimmy11: Good for him. I was a fan of his when he was on the Orioles (when I was in my teens).

Moyer is a great example of the silliness that goes on with player evaluation in baseball- the kind of stuff "Moneyball" talked about.

Moyer was gotten rid of by the Orioles and probably other teams because he "didn't throw hard enough to win." Except he DID WIN. All the time. In the face of him succeeding over and over again, they just kept saying he would never succeed
Actually... he's probably one of the worst possible examples of what you're talking about. As much as we marvel at his lengthy career, he was given plenty of chances early and often by the Orioles and others before things finally "clicked" with the Mariners.


Jamie Moyer was signed to a contract with the Chicago Cubs at age 21, and made his major league debut in 1986 at age 23. He would go on to start 16 games for the Cubs that year, going 7-4 but with not-bad-for-a-rookie ERA of 5.05. In 63 starts over the next two seasons he went 21-30, although he posted a very respectable 3.48 ERA in 1988. Most pitchers don't get that much chance to pitch at a major league level so early and often; still, based on his performance it's understandable he wasn't considered a crucial property for the Cubs, but you can't say they didn't give him a chance.

He was sent to Texas as part of a big multi-player deal in the winter of 1988, where he would miss most of one season with a sore shoulder and work out of the bullpen a lot the next, compiling a 6-15 records with a 4.86 ERA before being released. He got picked up by the Cardinals, but after going 0-5 with a 5.74 ERA, he was sent to the minors and outright released in 1991; he'd sign and be released with a few teams through the 1992 season without playing a game in the majors. As a pitcher with a career 34-54 record as he neared the age of 30, most GMs wouldn't have his agent on speed dial.

In 1993 he was picked up by the Orioles, who gave him plenty of starts and he turned in a career-best year (at that point), with a 12-9 3.43 season. However, the ERA climbed back up again in 1994-95, and he was granted free agency in the winter of 1995. Moyer then signed with Boston for the 1996 season where he'd make only 10 starts along with some bullpen work (a decent journeyman effort of 7-1, 4.50) before being traded mid-season in 1996 to the Seattle Mariners for Darren Bragg.

Bear in mind, he'd been kicking around the majors for 10 years with only a few even above-average seasons to his credit, and was now a 33-year-old journeyman pitcher who in most cases would count himself lucky to have had a career and start thinking of his post-retirement plans. The Mariners knew what they were getting, an unspectacular but steady bottom of the rotation guy to help them in the stretch run. Anyone who knows baseball knows that guys like Moyer... well, he would surely be out of the majors in a few of seasons or less, an unremarkable but decent career under his belt.


Except... that's not quite what happened. Something really clicked when he landed in Seattle: after the trade that year, he went 6-2 in 11 starts with a very tidy 3.31 ERA for the Mariners in the second half after that trade, and was re-signed over the winter. And instead of his previous pattern of one good season followed by lackluster efforts, in 1997- at the age of 34- he put out his best year to date with a 17-5, 3.86 record. His style was a throwback, but an effective one: he focused on location and not allowing walks, and letting his fielders do the work, and developer a well-deserved reputation as a solid #2/#3 pitcher, eating up 200+ innings a year with ~15 wins and a sub 4.00 ERA. His lone All-Star appearance came in 2003, on his way to a career year with a 21-7 record. At the age of 40. Jamie Moyer would go on to pitch in 11 seasons for the Mariners, racking up an 145-87 record with an ERA of 3.97 until he was traded to the Phillies in 2006, when the last place Mariners were 11 games under .500 and looking ot add young talent for the future.


At this point, surely, no one would bat an eye if Jamie Moyer had retired at the end of the 2006 season. After all, who would sign him? He'd had a long 20-season career at that point, separated into two acts: the first, a bottom-of-the-rotation guy spending 10 years figuring out how the game worked, and the second putting it all together to have 11 seasons pitching at a high level of success to amass over 200 career wins. And while never a fastballer, his fastball velocity at this point was averaging 81mph- the kind of speed at which major league hitters would tee off like it was batting practice. Most of all, he'd be 44 at the start of the 2007 season, and clearly had been living on borrowed time for quite a few seasons already.


Except... well, our baseball Methuselah is nothing if not stubborn! Sure, only 16 players in major league history had ever started a game at the age of 45 or above, but what the heck- why not start a third act to his already storied career? Surprise surprise, the old man still had some gas left in that tank. After the end of that 2006 season, he signed a two year extension, where he went on to win 14 and then 16 games while bolstering the middle of the rotation for a contending playoff team. Those numbers were good enough for the now-World Champion Philadelphia Phillies to re-sign Jamie Moyer to yet another two-year contract. And while he still put up a workable 21-19 record in the 2009-2010 seasons, age seemed to finally, at long last, catch up with Jamie Moyer: he began to lose significant time to injury, culminating in an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow that prematuraly ended his 2010 season.

The Phillies understandably did not sign Moyer for another stint, and that as they say is that: a career admittedly shy of the Hall of Fame, but one people would marvel at as a model of persistence and fundamentals for years to come. 267 wins, 2405 strikeouts, an All-Star appearance, a World Series ring, and innumerable quirky records related to his age and longevity. He'd stuck around long enough that salaries were enough that he'd netted $82M in career salary, as well as deservedly earned a reputation around the league as a genuinely decent person, devoted family man, and dedicated humanitarian. After 24 major league seasons- 9th most in the modern era for any player, 6th most for any pitcher- it was finally time for ol' Jamie Moyer to hang up his cap and enter his golden years with a fantastic career behind him and decades of philanthropic work with his family still to come.


Except... well, Moyer had Tommy John surgery back in the winter of 2010, and now fully healed 18 months later he has just posted a 2.77 ERA in spring training to secure a starting rotation roster spot with the Colorado Rockies. And maybe with this newly rejuvenated arm, the old man actually has a fourth act still left to unfold...
posted by hincandenza at 9:48 PM on March 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


until he was traded to the Phillies in 2006, when the last place Mariners were 11 games under .500 and looking ot add young talent for the future.

Not exactly. Moyer wanted to go back to Philadelphia to retire (he grew up in Souderton). The trade the M's made could best be described as a "courtesy trade" -- the Phils didn't give up much (no one expected either prospect to have any impact in the majors). In retrospect, it was yet another stupid trade by the M's under Bill Bavasi.

And the secret to Moyer's success was a lack of speed. He was throwing 90-91 for the Cubs when they dumped him for lacking speed. In his Mariners heyday, he'd throw 70-80 with a curveball in the 60s and an occasional changeup in the high 50s. In a league where the average pitcher's changeup was faster than Moyer's fastball, what he threw was nothing like what hitters faced. Getting a 69MPH changeup when you're used to hitting 93 MPH fastballs wrecks your timing.

And on top of that, the Mariners used to roll Rafael Soriano out of the bullpen to replace Moyer in the 7th or 8th. You're chasing 70 MPH slop for 7 innings, but all a sudden you're facing a guy who throws 98. It just wasn't fair.
posted by dw at 10:50 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Tim Wakefield deserves some recognition here.
Wakefield began his pitching career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but is most remembered for his 17-year tenure with the Boston Red Sox, starting in 1995 and ending with his retirement in 2012 as the longest-serving player on the team.[1] Wakefield, at the time of his retirement, was the oldest current active player in the majors, and one of two active knuckleballers; the other being R. A. Dickey.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:34 AM on April 1, 2012


I think Tim Wakefield deserves some recognition here.

I think the assumption is that Wakefield's career was artificially prolonged because he was a knuckleballer. After all, he never had, say, a fastball in the first place, so he couldn't lose speed on it as he aged. That said, anyone who starts while throwing knuckleballs deserves credit.
posted by hoyland at 5:38 PM on April 2, 2012


Jamie got his first win of the season tonight, becoming the oldest pitcher to win a MLB game.
posted by gladly at 8:42 PM on April 17, 2012


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