Allowing 505 Home Runs Makes Pitcher Great

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One man reached two sports milestones this week. Jamie Moyer, who pitches for the Philadelphia Phillies, won his 266th game, moving him to 35th on the list of all-time winningest pitchers. When he served up a home run on Tuesday night, Jamie Moyer also tied the all-time record for the most home runs allowed. NPR's Scott Simon talks with humorist Joe Queenan about the feat.


One man reached two sports milestones this week. Jamie Moyer, who pitches for the Philadelphia Phillies, won his 266th game, moving him to 35th on the all-time list of winningest pitchers. And when he served up a home run on Tuesday night to Russell Branyan of the Cleveland Indians, Jamie Moyer tied the all-time record for most home runs allowed - 505.

Jamie Moyer is 47 years old. He's in his 24th season in the Major Leagues.

I'm joined now by a writer who's often described as the Phillies' number one fan and former Phillies sufferer, author Joe Queenan. Joe, thanks for being back with us.

Mr. JOE QUEENAN (Author): I'm very happy to be here.

SIMON: Now, is this home run record, in a peculiar way, a tribute to Jamie Moyer's career?

Mr. QUEENAN: Yes, it is, because you can only get a record like that if you've been around a really, really long time. And he is going to surpass a truly great pitcher, because the guy who holds the record is Robin Roberts...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. QUEENAN: ...who pitched for the Phillies in the 1950s, and he was the best right-hander in the National League throughout that era. He won 286 games. And Robin Roberts didnt care if people hit homeruns off him - absolutely didnt care. He didnt like if you hit Grand Slams, but he didnt mind if you hit a homerun.

And Jamie Moyer is exactly the same way. He couldnt care less if you hit a homerun off him. He doesnt care. It doesnt make any difference to him at all.

SIMON: You mean as long as he wins the game, or...

Mr. QUEENAN: Well, the thing about homeruns is that when you have two guys on base, then you got to change the way you deliver the pitch and you got to watch to make sure guys aren't stealing bases. So it's mentally disruptive. When you give up a homerun, the ball leaves the park, they get one run and you go back to work.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. QUEENAN: And I think mentally it's just a lot easier on pitchers. I think young pitchers become unnerved when they give up homeruns, because they think it in some way is unmanly. But when youve thrown 505 gopher balls, you dont take it personally anymore.

SIMON: So how would you characterize Jamie Moyer as a pitcher?

Mr. QUEENAN: He is one of the most unusual people to ever play the game, because it's unheard of to be a starting pitcher at that age. You can be a relief pitcher well into your 40s, throwing screwballs and knuckleballs, and pitching an inning here and an inning there. But this is a guy who last week beat the Yankees and became the oldest pitcher to ever beat the Yankees. And the Yankees are a great baseball team, and he beat them in Yankee Stadium. Thats just unheard of.

SIMON: You, I gather, share a kind of connection with Jamie Moyer.

Mr. QUEENAN: We both went to St. Joseph's University and you just dont hear that much about it. You hear about basketball players who go to St. Joe's, cause Jameer Nelson from the Orlando Magic went there, and Delonte West, who plays with LeBron James, went there. But they dont produce very many baseball players. I think Jamie Moyer could be the only one who's ever played in the Major Leagues.

So every time he wins a game, I call up all of my friends who went to Harvard and Princeton and Yale and ask them if they have any pitchers from their universities who beat the Yankees at age 47 in Yankee Stadium. It's great.

I am so happy for him, but Im also so happy for me, because every time he wins I can just say - people say, how can the guy do that? And I said, well, he went to a Jesuit school, he went to St. Joe's. I mean we're immortals. We're indestructible. We're Jesuits.

SIMON: Big game on Sunday, where in fact Jamie Moyer might break Robin Roberts' record. Do you there ought to be - I mean it's not a record you would ordinarily be real proud of, although for all the reasons you explained, maybe he should. But do you think there ought to be a pause in the game, for there to be some kind of a ceremony?

Mr. QUEENAN: Oh, he wouldnt like that at all. He doesnt like any conversation about what he has accomplished at his age. He approaches baseball as his job and he just figures his job is to get people out. And he doesnt like the whole sort of freak show element to it. He doesnt like it one bit.

SIMON: Joe, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Mr. QUEENAN: Thank you.

SIMON: Joe Queenan, his memoir "Closing Time," just out in paperback.

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