Stephen Pryor’s apparent promotion from the Tacoma Rainiers’ bullpen to the big leagues was not scheduled to coincide with the news of the Colorado Rockies releasing Jamie Moyer.
It just turned out that the happiest day of Pryor’s brief professional career was the same day Moyer, no longer able to postpone the inevitable, had reason to dread.
Pryor is 22, the season’s first call-up from a Seattle Mariners farm system blessed with an abundance of power arms.
Since joining the Rainiers from Double-A Jackson, the right-hander has struck out 15 batters in 12 innings, without allowing an earned run. The Mariners’ decision to push Pryor toward the next level was easy. He throws pitches that clock 100 mph. He’s ready.
Moyer is 49, a season removed from the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him in 2011. Since setting a longevity record on April 17 – oldest starting pitcher to record a big league victory – Moyer has gone 1-3, surrendering 57 hits and 29 earned runs in 36 innings. The Rockies’ decision to show Moyer the door was easy. He throws pitches that give hitters the sense they’re taking batting practice. He’s ready.
Such is baseball’s circle of life: while a veteran pitcher is forced to contemplate the end of the road, a fireball thrower bursts onto the scene. A middle-aged man’s baseball requiem corresponds with a kid’s baseball baptism.
It’s difficult to feel sorry for Moyer, who parlayed his flawless mechanics and cerebral craftsmanship into a 25-year career that included everything except a sense of regret at its conclusion. He did good work on the field and performed good works off of it, establishing a Seattle-based charity foundation with his wife, Karen, that comforts children in distress.
Moyer’s ability to give back was steeped in self-made success. A decade after the left-hander reinvented himself into a soft-tossing master of the change-of-pace pitch, he twice won 20 games with the Mariners, and represented Seattle at the 2003 All-Star Game. Traded to Philadelphia for a pair of Single-A pitchers who never escaped the bushes, he went on to earn a World Series ring with the 2008 Phillies.
The guy’s career reads like a baseball history book. He made his debut for the Cubs against Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in Wrigley Field, the first of 50 big league ballparks he’d see from that most exalted seat in the house, the pitcher’s mound. His rookie salary was $60,000, or roughly $7.94 million less than he commanded with the Phillies in 2010.
But Moyer’s most intriguing contribution to the history book is as a cog in baseball’s circle of life. He got his call to the big leagues from Triple-A Iowa in the middle of June 1986, three months before the great Tom Seaver pitched his final game. (Seaver retired in Boston, where he wound down in the shadow of a hot-shot Red Sox rookie named Roger Clemens.)
Seaver’s career began with the New York Mets on April 13, 1967, about five weeks before fellow Hall of Famer Whitey Ford retired from the Yankees.
Ford, who showed how a soft-tossing lefty can enjoy fame and fortune in the right market – his nickname was “Chairman of the Board,” was a Yankees rookie in 1950, the season right-hander Harry “Gunboat” Gumbert called it quits with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Gumbert’s debut was in 1935, the year former Red Sox ace Babe Ruth retired after spending a few desultory weeks with Boston’s other team, the Braves. Ruth’s career began in 1914, the season 237-game winner Clark Griffith bowed out with the Washington Senators.
Griffith broke into the bigs in 1891, the year Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn retired from the Cincinnati Reds.
“Old Hoss” wasn’t all that old when he gave it up – 36 – but that tired, overworked right arm of his must’ve made him feel like he was 136.
Radbourn won a single-season record 59 games in 1884, but that wasn’t the amazing stat. He struck out 441 in 6782/3 innings, but those weren’t the amazing stats, either. The amazing stat is that between Aug. 9 and Sept. 24, Radbourn started all but one game for the Providence Grays. He pitched every day, for a month.
Radbourn’s life after baseball wasn’t pleasant. A gunshot sustained in a hunting accident cost him an eye and severely disfigured his face.
He suffered mental illness, dropped out of society, and died as a hermit. He was 42.
Radbourn’s cruel fate is emphasized on his tombstone in central Illinois, where his name is misspelled as “Radbourne.”
But Charley Radbourn once won 59 games in a season he served as a one-man starting rotation, and he should be remembered as the first link in a circle-of-life connection between the 19th century and the 21st century: from Old Hoss, to Clark Griffith, to the Babe, to Gunboat Gumbert, to Whitey Ford, to Tom Seaver, to Jamie Moyer.
Stephen Pryor, the ball is yours.
May the force be with email@example.com