The 49-year old lefty returns to the mound in Buffalo for the Norfolk Tides, 19 years after he last pitched for a Baltimore Orioles Triple-A affiliate.
By Bob Socci
Here I sit, at my second different cafe on this damp and dreary Saturday morning in downtown Buffalo, trying to get my head around tonight’s scheduled appearance of 49-year-old Jamie Moyer for the Norfolk Tides.
Nineteen years after he last pitched for a Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, Moyer faces the Buffalo Bisons on Star Wars Night at Coca-Cola Field.
Of course, much has been written and said about the lefty who’s long defied time, while baffling big-league hitters by turning their aggression against them, with his precise location of pitches thrown at varying speeds: slow, slower and slowest.
He opened this season with the Colorado Rockies after finishing last year on the mend, rehabbing from reconstructive elbow surgery. In his 10 starts with the Rockies, before being released, Moyer pitched in his 50th different big league ballpark and became the oldest starter to record a major league victory.
That you no doubt know already. What I’m looking for, filling up on dark roast while filling the pages of my notebook, are tidbits you may not know. At best, the following are nuggets of interest illustrating just how far — and how long — Moyer has traveled to return to this point: a minor league mound in Western New York. At worst, what follows is minutiae left unrepeated, if not unread.
- Moyer was inked to a minor league deal by the Orioles on Wednesday, June 6, almost exactly 28 years after he signed his first pro contract with the Chicago Cubs on June 7, 1984.
- He began his pro career at the age of 21 in Geneva, N.Y., about an hour and a half to the east of Buffalo by way of the New York State Thruway. The only other member of those G-Cubs to reach the majors was pitcher Laddie Renfroe, who made four appearances with Chicago in 1991.
- When Moyer first appeared in the International League with the 1992 Toledo Mud Hens, his teammates included fellow pitcher Dave Johnson. Tonight Moyer follows Friday’s outing in Rochester by his new teammate, Steve Johnson — the son of, yes, that Dave Johnson.
- Moyer was 30 when he went 6-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 8 starts for the Rochester Red Wings in 1983. Among the other pitchers to appear for the Wings that season were Arthur Rhodes, at 23, and Fernando Valenzuela, at 32.
- He made his major league debut on June 16, 1986, as the winning pitcher in the Cubs’ 7-5 triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field. Moyer was charged with two hit batsmen in Philly’s lineup that day: ex-Oriole interim manager Juan Samuel and current-Oriole bench coach John Russell. Russell’s son was Baltimore’s 32nd-round selection in this year’s draft.
- Moyer’s lone World Series start was the pivotal Game 3 of the 2008 Fall Classic between the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays. With the series tied at a win apiece, Moyer worked 6.1 IP toward a no-decision. Philadelphia eventually won by a 5-4 final. The Phillies’ pitcher of record was J.C. Romero, who may very well find himself following Moyer in this series as a member of Norfolk’s bullpen. Philadelphia went on to win the next two games en route to the title.
- With 25 years of major-league experience, Moyer joins a Norfolk club whose lineup the last two days at Rochester included Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada and Bill Hall. Those three position players have combined to play in more than 4,400 games, totaling nearly 16,500 official at-bats in 37 big-league seasons.
- One of sport’s most-active and far-reaching philanthropists, Moyer received the 2003 Roberto Clemente Award for community service. The Tides’ Roberts and Hall were both nominated for the honor in 2006 for their respective work in the Baltimore and Milwaukee communities.