Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jamie Moyer

It is my pleasure today to abandon my usual rolled-in-a-ball-with-quills-out posture and talk about something really good about our society.

Last night Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher in the history of major league baseball to pitch a complete-game shutout. Like the "iron men" Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken before him, Jamie Moyer is a class act, an example of natural ability, hard work, self-discipline, and sportsmanship. He doesn't have a blazing fastball, a wicked curve, or any of the other things that usually characterize a great pitcher; but there's no hint that he cheats, either.

I don't know that he trusts Jesus alone for his righteousness before God, but by at least God's common grace he is certainly an exemplary American.

I learned that he's a family man years ago, before a game in Philadelphia when he was still with the Seattle Mariners. He was chatting with someone he apparently knew apart from baseball as he was signing autographs. (He grew up within a bike ride of my home here.) He was obviously happy to accommodate the fans, unlike one of his younger teammates, a flash in the pan who was my nine-year-old's hero at the time. He is also generous with his earnings: the Jamie Moyer Foundation built a very nice Boys' and Girls' Club facility just up the road from our house, also while he was with the Mariners.

He was traded to the Phillies a couple of years ago after a disappointing season with the Mariners. I wondered if the old horse had come home to pasture, and indeed, at the end of last season, I figured the guy was about through. Late in the summer he was taken out of the starting rotation and put in the bullpen to be used to save the arms of the better pitchers when games were out of reach one way or another. The radio announcers are paid to put the best possible spin on such situations, but I believe they were telling the truth when they said he had had a positive attitude about the demotion and was determined to help out as best he could: no prima donna, he pitched in long relief arguably better than he had as a starter.

He didn't give up over the winter and ended up winning a place in the starting rotation this year. It hasn't been an easy season. Near the end of his second start, Larry Anderson, the Phillies' color announcer and another former Mariner pitcher, noted that Moyer's earned-run average for ten of his innings pitched was 0.00, but for two of them it was 45: he had given up two five-run innings. One wondered how long it would be before the team would needs to replace him with a younger, more reliable arm.

Then there was last night. Yes, the team he pitched against is in last place. Yes, he was pitching at home. And yes, in a world in which thousands of people are starving to death, and in a nation in which people are losing their futures, very little that happens on the baseball diamond is of any consequence.

But I saw a bit of America last night: a guy who loves his family and his community and humbly shows up for work and does his best got a well-deserved standing ovation from Philadelphia sports fans, who have a well-deserved reputation for nastiness.

Last fall, as the Phillies were losing the World Series to the Yankees, I was hoping the manager would put him in for an inning or two, even of a losing game, just so the fans could give him the standing O he deserves. Well, he deserved better than that, and last night he got it.

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