Wiedmer: Jamie Moyer has quality of hero at 49

Wiedmer: Jamie Moyer has quality of hero at 49

April 18th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jamie Moyer throws in the second inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

My wife says she wants to come back as a basset hound in her next life, since our lovable long-eared pooch tends to do nothing more than eat, sleep, bark, eat some more, sunbathe (presumably while sleeping), then sleep some more after that.

And while it's certainly hard to argue with desiring that lifestyle, I want to be a left-handed major league pitcher in my next life. More to the point, I want to be the next Jamie Moyer.

All Moyer did Tuesday night was become the oldest player in history -- 49 years, 151 days -- to win a major league start when the Colorado Rockies defeated the San Diego Padres.

But it doesn't end there. Moyer couldn't even pitch last season because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The guy was 48 and rehabbing. Then again, he is a father of eight whose children range from ages 5 to 20.

"It wasn't just about baseball," he said last year. "It was about quality of life."

Here' your quality of life: Moyer's in his 25th major league season with his eighth big-league club. The guy has won 267 times, good for 36th on the all-time wins list.

The man's won games in four different decades. Heck, at 47 he two-hit the Atlanta Braves to become the oldest player to toss a shutout.

How cool is Moyer? Led Zeppelin's classic "Kashmir" serenaded him as he walked to the mound to begin the first inning against the Padres. He's married to the former Karen Phelps, daughter of Coach Carnation, the one and only Digger Phelps.

The two were introduced to each other by legendary Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray when Moyer was still with the Cubs and Karen was an intern at WGN.

How tough is Moyer? He had to compete for a spot on the Rockies' roster in spring training. On a 49-year-old, surgically repaired arm he recorded a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings of spring ball while almost never throwing a pitch more than 80 mph.

Of course, he's got five pitches -- sinker, cut fastball, slider, changeup and curveball -- with which to vary that lack of speed, proving that variety sometimes tops velocity.

Or is all this just a product of becoming a middle-aged lefty?

After all, our area's Rick Honeycutt -- currently the pitching coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers -- pitched into his 40s and retired with three postseason victories and no losses in 30 playoff appearances.

Then there's Jesse Orosco, who retired at 46 having been a part of two World Series winners (Mets in '86, Dodgers in '88) and a major league record 1,252 appearances.

Yet all of this falls short of Moyer, who's been around so long that when he faced 22-year-old San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner last week, he was going against a guy who wasn't even born until Moyer was in his fourth major league season.

Moyer's best trait may not even be his longevity, however. He and Karen are known as one of the most giving couples in professional sports, which may be why he won the 2003 Roberto Clemente Award for his impact in the community.

"To me, it's a challenge, the physical and mental challenge of preparation," Moyer said last week. "And bringing something to the team that's a plus on the field and off the field."

Just by showing up this season he should have already accomplished that goal. But just in case you think he's about to be a one-final-year-wonder, he wears jersey No. 50.

If that's not an omen, it should be.