Right Field

Another Old Pitcher

By now you know that last night Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a major-league game. That distinction had belonged to Jack Quinn, who in 1932 won three games for the Dodgers, the last of them being on September 13, when he was 49 years and 70 days old. Moyer last night was 49 years and 151 days.

Moyer is also the oldest pitcher to appear in a game since Hoyt Wilhelm pitched for the Dodgers against the Phillies on July 10, 1972. It was Wilhelm’s last major-league game.

Today is the sixtieth anniversary of his first.

After the Giants’ 7–6 loss to the Dodgers at Ebbets Field on April 18, 1952, if you thought about Hoyt Wilhelm at all, and you probably wouldn’t have, you might have said to yourself that he was having his cup of coffee in the majors — that a soft-tossing superannuated rookie, a bullpen piece who threw a knuckleball he couldn’t control, had just earned his ticket back to the Giants’ AAA  team in Minneapolis, where, after maybe another season or two of nothing to write home about, he would quietly quit professional baseball and call it a fun ride.

His line in the box score for the game may look harmless enough — 0.1 innings pitched, no runs, one hit — but the play-by-play account tells a different story.

Wilhelm replaces starter Jim Hearn in the bottom of the second with one out. The first batter Wilhelm faces, Pee Wee Reese, hits a sacrifice fly on the first pitch and drives in Gil Hodges from third. The run is charged to Hearn. Wilhelm gives up a double to Billy Cox and then a walk to Jackie Robinson, to load the bases. A wild pitch advances all the runners. Carl Erskine scores. Again, the run is charged to Hearn. After walking Roy Campanella to reload the bases, Wilhelm gets the hook from Giants manager Leo Durocher.

So began the 21-year career of this Hall of Fame pitcher. He was 29 — and 267 days, actually, which made him almost 30, an advanced age for a rookie. Talk about postcocious.

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