Bill Conlin: Phillies' Moyer making history

Posted: June 28, 2010

HE WAS THE Morning Mayor of March.

Jamie Moyer had off-season surgery to repair the torn groin and abdominal muscles that ended his 2009 season. There were some complications that landed him back in the hospital and Charlie Manuel wanted his spring training to proceed slowly. And early.

Early as in that ubiquitous staple of early spring training known as the "B" game, with its 10 a.m. start and cast of players soon destined for minor league assignment with their linebacker and offensive tackle numbers.

In his first two Milkman's Matinees, Moyer faced Blue Jays hitters whose combined uniform numbers totaled something like 595. Jamie's a.m. opponent was always the Phillies' Pinellas County cousins, the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto trains in Dunedin in a ballpark and complex just 5 miles from Bright House Field.

His third appearance against the Blue Jays was in Dunedin. Manager Cito Gaston had sent a gaggle of high-number players to the minor league complex. On a cold morning Moyer faced a lineup whose numbers added up to more like 125. The mix of regulars and future 25-man roster guys roped Jamie's soft assortment of stealth all over the yard. "That's going to happen when I don't hit my spots," Moyer shrugged. "And today, I obviously didn't."

Yesterday, the man who could not blacken Mother Nature's eye with his fastball faced Toronto's regulars once again. This time it counted.

What chance did the man who has become the homer office, so to speak, have to stay tied at 505 with Robin Roberts for the most big flies served in the history of the game?

Not to mention it was 92 degrees at game time.

"I've seen him in [Miami] Florida, where it's hotter than it was today, go deep into games," Manuel said after another amazing chapter in the career of a man who is pitching better than any 47-year-old man in the history of the game.

Moyer continues to perform at an insanely high level against the elite of major league baseball. He followed the Fenway bombing by the Red Sox with a magnificent eight-inning, one- walk, five-strikeout three-hitter in Yankee Stadium that lifted the reeling Phils off the deck.

A juggled Manuel lineup - Chase Utley batting No. 2, Jason Werth No. 3, Shane Victorino No. 5 - provided Moyer with an 11-2 laugher lowlighted by a four-error Bad News Bears exhibition of errant throwing that produced six unearned runs, including four in the seventh.

But the oppressively hot afternoon centered on the history that Jamie Moyer wrote with his just-off-the-corners sorcery.

A scoreless second was his 4000th inning of work. Most of the other 39 men to hit that number were Iron Men from eras that predated pitch counts and the rest of the coddling nonsense that has produced the likes of Jays manager Cito Gaston making a right-left switch with his team down by nine runs. Brian Tallet's first pitch hit Chase Utley to load the bases.

If you are going to throw a record home run, the perpetrator might as well be the cleanup hitter. With two outs in the third, Vernon Wells shaved the Phils lead to 4-2 with a two-run homer to left. No. 506.

After that, Moyer's stuff aged like a Chateau Trotano 1989 Pomerol. The hotter it got as the season's first non-sellout crowd - "only" 42,571 and credited to Toronto - the more Jamie rode Rob Drake's liberal zone - an homage to Frank Pulli. He left to a thundering ovation, having allowed just six hits and seven more strikeouts.

If Samuel Taylor Coleridge were alive today, he would be writing "The Rhyme of the Ancient Lefthander."

Now, this is where you start to hear Twilight Zone music tinkling in the background:

Jamie Moyer is 9-6, which ties him for the staff lead with Roy Halladay. What were the odds of that? This is the third time he has won nine games before July 1. The first time was 2001, when he went 20-6 for the Mariners. The second was 2003, when he was 21-7.

The man who has won more games in his 40s than he did when he was in his 20s is on pace to win 20 games for the third time in his career. You know Manuel will try to find a way to get Moyer to the All-Star Game, even though he says, correctly, "There's a lot of pitchers this year with high win totals and low ERAs." Including Halladay.

But if the noodle-armed man, who has dropped Father Time for an eight-count, should win 20 games, he will be the first pitcher older than 42 to do so. He is nine wins short of Jack Quinn's 18, set in 1928. He leads all non-knuckleballers in innings pitched with 858 1/3 since turning 43.

On the afternoon Jamie Moyer passed Robin Roberts- way to keep it in the Phillies family - by serving Big Fly No. 506, I remembered something Original Mets righthander Roger Craig said in 1962 after going 10-24 for Casey Stengel's Amazings.

"You've got to be pretty damn good to lose 24 games," he said.

In 1963, the future Giants manager was even better, going 5-22 with a 3.25 ERA.

As Casey Stengel said, "You could look it up."

You've got to be damn good to keep getting the baseball for 25 years.

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com. For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/conlin.

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