Jamie Moyer doesn't defy Father time with brute force, as Nolan Ryan once did. Instead, the 47-year-old Philadelphia Phillies' lefty is still getting major league hitters with guile and a fastball topped by high schoolers a third his age.
Moyer, a father of seven, on Wednesday pitched eight strong innings to best the mighty Yankees. But even before that, he should already have cemented his place as the favorite player of everyone with grey around their temples, anyone who ever studied the lines on their face and wondered where the time went.
“I don’t think that I’m old. So I don’t believe it,” Moyer said after the game, when the inevitable questions from reporters 10 years his junior came. “Regardless of what people think or say I still feel like I can go out and compete, and that’s my ultimate job.”
There have been older players in the Major Leagues, but few whose best years came when their peers were retiring. That's the difference with Moyer: He won 20 games - the benchmark for pitchers - for the first time at age 38, then did it again at 40. He won just 34 games in his 20s, but has piled up 112 in his 40s. He now has 265 victories for his career, and insists he has no immediate plans to go off into the sunset. Why would he? He's still effective, and he's making $7.75 million this year.
"I don't know about other people, but I know I'm amazed at what he can do," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who played against Moyer and is actually two years younger, was equally impressed.
"It's amazing what he's done," Girardi said. "Any time a man pitches at his age, you're somewhat surprised. But if someone was going to do it, he's always had that work ethic, and that part doesn't surprise me."
Here are some other baseball players who have stuck around long after hitting the big 4-0:
- Hoyt Wilhelm - Like Moyer, his best years came after his 30th birthday. In fact, he was 29 when he first pitched in the majors, in 1952. Unlike Moyer, Wilhelm, who stuck around until he was 16 days shy of 50, tossed less physically taxing knuckleballs. But those floaters got him to the Hall of Fame after a stellar career as a starter and reliever.
- Phil Niekro - Another knuckleballer who came into his own after turning 30, Niekro pitched until he was 48, piling up 318 wins and making it to the Hall of Fame.
- Nolan Ryan - The exception that proves the rule that only lobbers can last, Ryan was still throwing well over 90 miles per hour when he retired in 1993 at age 46. With 324 career wins, he was elected to the Hal of fame in his first year of eligibility.
- Satchel Paige - All of his best years came in the Negro Leagues, when blacks were barred from the majors. But Paige, who famously said, "Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter." finally got his chance in 1948 at age 41. He pitched for five years before coming back for a three-inning stint in 1965 at age 59. The Red Sox managed just one hit off of him.
- Julio Franco - bona fide superstar at shortstop in the 1980s and early 1990s, Franco used a grueling fitness regimen to prolong his career well into his 40s, finally retiring from a pinch-hitter role with the Mets in 2007 at age 49.
- Minnie Minoso - He retired from a stellar career at age 38 in 1964, but was brought back by the White Sox as a pinch hitter in 1976 at age 50 and again in 1980 at age 54. Call it a stunt, but he can say he played in the major leagues in five different decades.