Jamie Moyer Becomes MLB's Oldest Winning Pitcher
If you're in need of a reminder that chronological age doesn't matter, the sports world provides several uplifting examples this season.
1. Pitcher Jamie Moyer
Forty-nine-year-old Jamie Moyer (left), the subject of this recent SecondAct article, made the regular-season roster of the Colorado Rockies.
April 18 update: On Tuesday night Moyer made baseball history by becoming the oldest pitcher ever to get a win in the major leagues. He won in a 5-3 game against the San Diego Padres. "I didn't think about this day because I thought it would be unfair to my teammates and the game," says Moyer. "To me, it was more important that I won for this team."
He isn't just an athletic curiosity or fan favorite. Moyer's reliance on guile and precision in his pitching, rather than on raw speed, has enabled him to actually improve his winning percentage with age. He's a solid starter for the Rockies, and has regained the form that he had before suffering an elbow injury that compelled him to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2011 season. "It's the same guy," Rockies manager Jim Tracy explains in this Associated Press article, noting that Moyer still has "the same stuff, same velocity, same pitches. When he's right, same type of effectiveness."
Moyer -- who got his first major league start when President Ronald Reagan was in his second term -- posted a 2.77 ERA this spring and beat out two twentysomething pitchers for a spot in the starting rotation. He's the oldest player in the majors since former Atlanta Braves infielder Julio Franco played in 2007 at age 49.
2. MLB's (Growing) 40+ Club
Jamie Moyer is part of a fortysomething resurgence in baseball, the Associated Press reports. Other players who are still going strong in that age bracket include Moyer's teammate Jason Giambi; Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees; Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves; Jim Thome and Jose Contreras of the Philadelphia Phillies; Henry Blanco and Takashi Saito of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and Darren Oliver and Omar Vizquel of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Vizquel, who turns 45 on April 24, is poised to become the oldest shortstop in major league history, eclipsing the record set by Bobby Wallace of the St. Louis Cardinals back in 1918.
"I don't want to be sitting on the couch at home watching TV while I can still move and do what I'm able to do," Vizquel tells the AP. "I think I can still compete here at a high level, the highest level in the game."
3. Swimmer Diana Nyad
Another athlete who's poised for a comeback this summer is -- big surprise! -- endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, who is in training for yet another attempt at swimming the 103 miles from Havana to Key West. Nyad, who turns 63 in August, writes in her blog that she's already swimming for as long as 10 hours straight in her open-water workouts in the Caribbean. She also reports that she's tinkering with her swimming stroke to compensate for the wear and tear that her shoulders have experienced over the years. She calls the stroke "longer and stronger," explaining that the technique entails pressing harder under water throughout the stroke and keeping the hands in the water longer on each stroke. The new method turns out to be more efficient, as well. Even though her cadence of 53 strokes per minute is about six strokes slower than her traditional rhythm, Nyad says she's actually swimming "just a tad faster than last year."
4. Runner Kathy Martin
This New York Times article highlights the prowess of 60-year-old distance running virtuoso Kathy Martin, who recently set a world age-group record for the 3,000 meters (roughly the equivalent of two miles), finishing in 11 minutes and 16.5 seconds. She also set the indoor world record for her 60-64 age group in the 1,500 meters, with a time of 5:12.2.
When Martin first took up running at age 30, she says she was so out of shape that she couldn't even finish a mile (and confesses that she had to reward herself with brownies and hot fudge sundaes as an incentive to keep working out). She entered her first track meet in her late 40s and discovered, to her shock, that she was one of the fastest senior runners in the world. Now she trains seven days a week, doing plyometric strength exercises and weight training to supplement her five- to 12-mile training runs.
5. Gymnast Johanna Quaas
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't include 86-year-old German gymnast Johanna Quaas, who gave this demonstration of her abilities on the parallel bars at a recent gymnastics meet.
According to this MSNBC article, Quaas' performances have become such a sensation on YouTube that she's had to hire a public relations agent to handle requests for interviews. A former gym teacher and team handball champion in her youth, Quaas no longer competes, but says she still performs backward rolls, cartwheels and headstands "just for fun."
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