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Jamie Moyer credits his time with Orioles with helping turn his career around

When Colorado Rockies left-hander Jamie Moyer became — at 49 — the oldest pitcher in history to win a major league game last Tuesday night, it probably didn't cross his mind that a few million middle-aged guys suddenly felt a little bit younger and lot more alive.

It wasn't about that. It wasn't some quest to prove that life begins at almost 50, or to prove anybody wrong. It wasn't to write his name in the record book or write out Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Jack Quinn, who was a couple months younger when he set the record 80 years ago that Moyer just broke.

"That's not how it started out to be," Moyer said on Saturday. "It's been pointed out to me that I've become an inspiration to the 40-plus crowd. I never really meant it to be that way, but it has turned out that way so I'm going to embrace it."

The reason he decided to attempt a comeback with the Rockies after missing the entire 2011 season with torn elbow ligaments was fairly basic, and it apparently was not on the advice of Father Time.

"I don't think pitching until I'm 50 is the driving force behind this," Moyer told reporters after Tuesday's victory over the San Diego Padres, in which he pitched seven innings and did not allow an earned run. "The main thing for me is that I still believe I can do this."

Why else would he have undergone Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in his late 40s if it wasn't truly for the love of the game and the chance to challenge himself on the baseball diamond one more time.

So far, he has met that challenge and then some. Though it took him three starts to get his first victory of 2012, he has pitched well enough to average just a shade under six innings per start and rank 20th among National League starters with an impressive 2.55 ERA.

This is all pretty amazing in and of itself, but it's borderline miraculous when you consider that 19 years ago at this time, he was a 30-year-old journeyman knocking around the minor leagues and getting the sage advice from friends and family that it was time to think about doing something else when his career seemed to fizzle out after six largely discouraging major league seasons.

That's where we come in.

During this, Oriole Park's 20th Anniversary season, Moyer's historic performance on Tuesday night should remind Orioles fans that it was during the First Anniversary season at Camden Yards (which is a nice way of saying the second season) that Moyer turned his career around and would emerge over the next few years as one of the game's most effective pitchers.

The Orioles signed him to a minor league contract after he spent the 1992 season in the Detroit Tigers system, but they couldn't have expected much. He had won a total of two major league games over the previous three seasons and was one of those guys who got to stick around just a little bit longer because he threw with his left hand.

He started the season at Rochester and didn't get called up until late May, but his 12 wins were — at the time — the second-most victories ever by an Orioles pitcher who had opened the season in the minor leagues.

Moyer credits the makeup of that 1993 team and the support from Orioles fans with helping him turn his career around.

"That team was a very close-knit team and it made me feel very comfortable as a pitcher," he said. "The pitching staff was very close and we always seemed to be talking pitching, particularly me and Mike Mussina and Todd Frohwirth. It was just a team that I really enjoyed playing with and the fan support was tremendous. They (the fans) were great to us."

Things would get decidedly better a few years later in Seattle, where he beguiled a league full of steroid-era sluggers and won 20-or-more games in a season twice with his unique ability to throw a baseball in a teacup and not break it. He's the ultimate finesse pitcher who proudly describes his four speeds as "slow, slower, slowest and reverse" and clearly relishes each opportunity to illustrate that it is possible to win at the major league level without a Stephen Strasburg fastball.

Now, he's proving that it's possible to win at the major league level when you still remember black-and-white TV, though he insists he's not trying to make some grand statement about the irrelevance of age. He has been telling various media outlets all week that it was never about being the oldest pitcher. It's about still being a good pitcher and still being able to help a major league team win some games.

"Maybe when I'm a little older I'll look back on some of those things and say, 'That was pretty cool,'" Moyer told USA Today. "But if I get caught up in that now I would lose track of what I'm doing. There will be a time and a place for all of that. I think now it's about proving something to myself."

The victory on Tuesday night over the Padres was the 268th of his major league career, tying him with Orioles Hall of Famer Jim Palmer on the all-time list. He is scheduled to go for No. 269 on Monday night in Pittsburgh.

Might be worth the drive. Just don't leave your blinker on all the way.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck in his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here" on baltimoresun.com and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays at noon on WBAL (1090AM) and wbal.com.

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