Watching Moyer awakens old O’s memories

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The World Series has returned to Philadelphia for the first time in 15 years. The fans are bathed in red and the series is tied 1-1. To the mound tonight for the Fightin’ Phils: Jamie Moyer.

A blast from the past, and I suppose most fans don’t even associate him with the Orioles, but I remember his time in orange and black quite vividly.

I met Jamie Moyer at the Huggins-Stengel Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. during the spring training of 1993. I wrote an extensive blog about my experience there last year but it was an incredible adventure covering those Orioles teams. One of my favorite experiences as a professional even after all of these years.

Moyer was a super astute student of the game, a likeable guy who a young Mike Mussina and others like Todd Frohwirth and Mark Williamson liked to talk strategy and “real pitching” with. He was a borderline major-leaguer at that point, who had bounced around three organizations and didn’t pitch in the big leagues in 1992 (he spent the whole summer in AAA Toledo after six years in the big leagues)

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He was a long shot to make the team coming out of Florida. He was a non-roster invitee and basically an afterthought. That was a season when Ben McDonald, Fernando Valenzuela, Rick Sutcliffe, Arthur Rhodes and Mussina were the starting staff.

It was 1993 and he was basically “washed up.”

Well, you know the rest of the story.

He made the team (and I think he might’ve had some coffee in Rochester that spring as well). He was a back of the rotation starter, who was wily mixing speeds and location like a Scott McGregor and used his smarts like a Mike Flanagan to get guys out. In three seasons of the Orioles’ heyday for attendance and overall interest after Camden Yards’ opening, he went 25-22 on some forgettable on-the-field teams sandwiched around the 1994 strike. He was on the field the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gerhig’s streak.

Moyer was a good guy, a real professional. His wife, Karen, is former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps’ daughter. Phelps was omnipresent around the team during those years, always making time to do my radio show and talk college basketball with me. Moyer’s wife was outgoing, friendly and loved sports. She even asked me for “GET NASTY” shirt and swore she wore it when she ran every day.

When he left the Orioles before the 1996 season, Moyer had made less than $3 million playing baseball for a decade.

He signed in Boston, was dealt to Seattle and went on to win 145 games in 10 seasons there as a franchise pitcher.

Moyer is still pitching in the World Series at the age of 46. He’s doing it in his hometown. He’s pitched 22 seasons and won 246 games but has never pitched in a World Series game after three other trips to the postseason. It’s the greatest night of his professional life and he’s made almost $60 million more dollars after being all but out of baseball 15 years ago, right around the last time his hometown Phillies were last playing October baseball.

The game started a little late, the fans are pretty stewed up in Filthy.

I hope Jamie Moyer pitches a classic.

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