Tony Perez

October 24, 2008

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.


  1. 1.  Brilliant. Pulling those two historical arcs side by side puts them both into remarkable perspective. I wonder if Obama is at bad at baseball as he is at bowling. Probably. I’d still love to see him throw out the opening pitch next season.

  2. 2.  1 : I don’t know about baseball, but in the clip I saw of him playing pickup the Big O looks like a good hoops player. (Strong lefty handle, good passer.)

    FYI: A new reader of the site has been posting interesting new comments on old posts for Rudy Meoli (Angels), Cubs ’77, Mike Easler (Pirates), Bill Lee (Red Sox), Mark Belanger (Orioles), Rickey Henderson (A’s), and Carl Morton (Braves).

  3. 3.  Here’s an enjoyable HBO segment on Obama and b-ball:

  4. 4.  Jamie Moyer played with Harold Baines for the 1995 Baltimore Orioles

    Harold Baines played with Minnie Minoso for the 1980 Chicago White Sox

    Minnie Minoso played with Phil Cavarretta for the 1955 Chicago White Sox

    Phil Cavarretta played with Charlie Grimm for the 1936 Chicago Cubs

    Charlie Grimm played with Harry Davis for the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics

    Harry Davis played with Denny Lyons for the 1897 Pittsburgh Pirates

    Denny Lyons played with Joe Start for the 1885 Providence Grays

  5. 5.  I would be shocked if Jamie Moyer would be voting for Obama for president. Moyer married Digger Phelps’ daughter. And Digger Phelps is a good friend of one Dan Quayle and once had political aspirations in Indiana.

  6. 6.  5 Tsk. Bob, are you holding the sins of the father against his son-in-law?

    It was kinda cool to hear (I didn’t see the clip) that there were six Rays on stage with Obama down in Tampa last week. Pro athletes usually try to avoid politics publicly (see Jordan, M. Schilling is an exception).

  7. 7.  If you change Phil Cavaretta to Jimmy Foxx you get to the beginning of Major League Baseball

    Phil Cavaretta played with Jimmy Foxx for the 1944 Chicago Cubs
    Jimmy Foxx played with Zack Wheat for the 1927 Philadelphia A’s
    Zack Wheat played with Bill Dahlen for the 1911 Brooklyn Dodgers
    Bill Dahlen played with Cap Anson in 1987 Chicago Colts
    Cap Anson played for the 1871 Rockford Forest Citys

    138 years of baseball in 8 generations. I don’t know if you can get back to the origins of baseball in fewer players. But it is an interesting question.

  8. 8.  Gorgeous essay, Josh.

  9. 9.  “Bill Dahlen played with Cap Anson in 1987 Chicago Colts”

    Heck, you could skip a few steps then. Jamie Moyer himself played for the 1987 Chicago Colts!

  10. Well, you saw it. Throws like a girl.

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