I wouldn’t want to predict that this will be Jamie Moyer‘s final season. But, if it is, it will be interesting if, as the oldest player in baseball, he gets a chance to appear in a game with the youngest player. Incidentally, Moyer has previously done exactly that, most recently on July 15, 2010 for the Phillies against Starlin Castro and the Cubs.
Presently, the youngest player to appear in an NL game this year is Jose Altuve of the Astros, just 6 weeks younger than Castro. The Astros and Rockies started the season against each other, and both Moyer and Altuve appeared in that series but, alas, not in the same game. But, the season is young – that opportunity may yet arise. The only younger AL player to play so far this year is Drew Hutchison of the Blue Jays – but Toronto and Colorado are not scheduled to meet this year.
After the jump, I’ll look at a few games from the past where the torch was passed.
Let’s start with the oldest to the youngest torch passing. Here are a couple of interesting occurrences.
August 10, 1945 and September 7, 1945. These two games featured two different kinds of torch passing. The first tilt was the Reds and Dodgers. Pitching in relief for the Reds that day was Hod Lisenbee, called into service as a wartime replacement player and that year’s oldest player at 46 as well as the last player born in the 1800s to appear in the majors. As they would do 52 times that year, the Dodgers started 17 year-old Tommy Brown at SS. Brown was, at that moment, the youngest player in the majors, although younger teammate Erv Palica had appeared twice as a pinch-runner at the start of the season. In any event, the two Lisenbee-Brown ABs were the first time that a batter and pitcher had more than a 29-year age gap.
In the second game, Lisenbee and the Reds faced the Phillies. Starting for the Reds and making his career debut was 18 year-old Herm Wehmeier, the NL’s youngest pitcher that year. Unfortunately for Wehmeier, he couldn’t make it through the 2nd inning and was relieved by Lisenbee, making his final career appearance. Kind of reverse torch-passing but interesting nonetheless that the youngest and oldest pitchers would connect in their respective career debuts and finales.
September 22, 1953. This Browns-Tigers game featured the final career appearance by Satchel Paige. Final, that is, until Paige made his 3-inning cameo with the Kansas City Athletics 12 years later. Opposing Paige was a Tigers team with three 18 year-old starters – rookie Al Kaline, starting pitcher Bob Miller and second baseman Reno Bertoia, making his career debut. In their only career meeting, Paige would strike out Kaline before yielding an 8th inning single. When Paige and mound opponent Bob Miller faced each other at bat, it was the first occasion since Lisenbee and Brown that a batter and pitcher had a 29-year age gap, something that has not happened since. That age gap is also the biggest ever between two pitchers opposing each other in a game. (Note: for the record, there were several batters more than 29 years younger than Paige, including the opposing pitcher, in Paige’s one-game stint with the Athletics on Sep 25, 1965). Paige went 7+ innings for the win, allowing just 4 hits with 5 Ks and only one BB.
The other kind of torch-passing is from a legend to his successor. Here are a couple of those instances.
April 20, 1939. This was the season opener between the Yankees and Red Sox, and the career debut for Ted Williams. Starting for the Yankees, of course, was first baseman Lou Gehrig, the then AL career batting average leader among active players at .341. Williams got a hit in the game, but it was a double so he wasn’t able to spend a moment chatting at first with Gehrig (though taciturn Ted may not have done so anyway). This would be their only meeting before Gehrig’s career sadly ended 7 games later. Williams, of course, would retire many years later, also as the active AL batting average leader.
September 30, 1951. This was the regular season finale for the Yankees, already home and dry as AL champions yet again. 1951 was the rookie season for Mickey Mantle who started 83 games that year, all in RF until the double-header the day before this game when Mantle played in CF with Joe DiMaggio getting the day off, after playing both ends of another double-header the preceding day. For the season finale, Mantle was back in RF and DiMaggio in CF. The Yankees got off to a quick 3-0 lead and, as they took the field for the top of the 4th inning, DiMaggio took a seat on the bench as Mantle moved over to CF. Symbolic yes, but probably not intentionally so. Nevertheless, interesting that this would happen in the final regular season game of DiMaggio’s career.
What other torch-passing games do you remember?