Thanks to some sloppy defense by his Rockies’ teammates, Jamie Moyer was thwarted in his recent attempt to surpass Jack Quinn as the oldest pitcher to win a major league game. However, the 49-year old Moyer and his 22-year old opponent Madison Bumgarner did manage to make an imprint on history. The 26 years and 256 days between the birthdays of the grizzled veteran and fresh faced youngster represented the largest age differential for opposing starters in almost 47 years.
When the 59-year old Satchel Paige faced 29-year old Bill Monbouquette at the end of 1965 season, it was the culmination of a publicity stunt by Kansas Athletics’ owner Charles O. Finley. Of course, that didn’t stop Paige from throwing three shutout innings. Twelve years earlier, Paige was also involved in the second largest age differential for starters when he faced 18-year old Bob Miller in 1953. Had he not inexplicably been excluded from the majors during the interim, Paige’s name would likely be all over the list above. Instead, it’s Phil Niekro who dominates, but maybe not for long. If Moyer has a rematch with Bumgarner, or faces pitchers like Randall Delgado, Blake Beaven, Rick Porcello, Stephen Strasburg, Neftali Feliz, Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Cahill, Mike Minor, or Mat Latos, he’ll gradually take Niekro’s place.
Moyer has also contributed to three of the seven games since 1918 that have featured a combined starters’ age of at least 87 years. Although the Rockies’ lefty should have a few chances to add to the list, his prospects for topping the record of 90 years and 135 days, which is held by Don Sutton and Phil Niekro, seem slim. The Mets’ Miguel Batista (41 years and 53 days on April 12, 2012) is the only active opponent who could combine with Moyer to surpass the high water mark, but he is currently relegated to bullpen. So, unless he happens to get a spot start against Moyer, or another veteran makes a comeback at just the right time, the ageless lefty will probably have to wait until next year to break Sutton and Niekro’s record.
With the exception of a spike in older starters during the middle of the last decade, the percentages of pitchers 40 and older or 20 and younger have been trending down. So, if Moyer isn’t able to find someone to help him break the records set by Paige/Monbouquette and Niekro/Sutton, they just might last forever. Unless, of course, Moyer lasts forever himself, which might not be out of the question.