If the Phillies are going to win the World Series this year, they are almost certainly going to need a well-pitched game or two from the oldest player in the major leagues, Jamie Moyer.
How old is Jamie Moyer, you ask?
Last night I dreamed of baseball cards. I dreamed I found cards I hadn’t known I’d owned, or that had belonged to my brother, and I was back in my childhood room looking at them, discovering them, many of the cards strange oddities. The only one I can specifically remember was emblazoned on the front with the line “Vincente Romo is a bodyguard in the offseason,” a line that was wrong, almost certainly, for being inaccurate, wrong for being on the front of the card, wrong for misspelling Vicente Romo’s name, and wrong for not even being on Vicente Romo’s card at all but on the card of some previously unknown relative of Jose and Hector and Tommy Cruz. All the mistakes made the card seem to pulse with value, with life, the way cards felt in my fingers when I was young. I didn’t want the dream to end.
Jamie Moyer is so old that he provides an active link to the veteran superstar pictured at the top of this post in a real baseball card from 1976, a card I held in my hands as an 8-year-old, a card from a world that despite all my constant backward-gazing efforts on this site and elsewhere, including in my dreams, still seems, most of the time, dead and gone.
When I was pulled from my dream of the card of the fourth Cruz brother I felt sad. My ESPN-tuned radio alarm clock was blaring. It was cold in the room, still dark outside. Time to get up. The kingdom of childhood, of endless discovery, had risen again in full, only to vanish instantly in the timely meaningless squalling of Mike and Mike.
But maybe that world, or some shred of it, is not gone as long as Jamie Moyer is around. Statistically speaking, he is a contemporary of Tony Perez, the star player in the card that pulsed in my young fingers back in 1976. In his final season a few years later, Tony Perez went 0 for 3 against a rookie named Jamie Moyer.
And maybe, to take it a little farther by using a time-traveling exercise pioneered by Bill James in his Historical Baseball Abstract, worlds even more distant than my childhood are still with us as long as Jamie Moyer is around. Moyer, who tomorrow night will start arguably the most important game to date of 2008, faced Tony Perez in 1986, and Tony Perez, in his first full year in the league, 1965, faced Warren Spahn in his last, and when Warren Spahn broke into the majors in 1942, he was a teammate of the oldest player in the league, batsman Johnny Cooney, and Johnny Cooney broke into the league as a pitcher in 1921, when he faced a Philadelphia Phillies squad that featured a 47-year-old pitcher/manager named Kaiser Wilhelm, and Kaiser Wilhelm broke into the league in 1903, when the oldest player was Chief Zimmer, and Chief Zimmer debuted in 1884, when the oldest player was “Old Reliable” Start, and Old Reliable Start began excelling at the Sporting Pursuit of Base Ball before the first shots were fired in the Civil War. For those keeping score at home, that’s just six degrees separating the Lincoln era from what seems to be the dawn of the Obama era, thanks to the baffling, time-defeating junk still springing, hallelujah, from the fingers of Jamie Moyer.