I started with the Cubs as a media relations intern back in 1986. On my third day on the job, Jamie Moyer joined the team after being recalled from Triple-A. In my first “official” act as a Cubs intern, I got to help him carry his luggage and equipment to the clubhouse. That’s what interns do.
Two days later – on Monday, June 16 – Moyer made his major league debut, working 6.1 innings and earning the win over the Philadelphia Phillies 7-5. He not only defeated his hometown team, but he was opposed by Steve Carlton – who was in the twilight of his career (he would pitch through 1988).
Now, think about that matchup for a moment.
Moyer pitched for the Cubs from 1986-1988 before being traded to Texas as part of the infamous Rafael Palmeiro deal. He had his greatest success in Seattle, recording a pair of 20-win seasons (as a 38-year-old and as a 40-year-old) and going to the 2003 All-Star Game. At the age of 45, he was a 16-game winner for Philadelphia – and got to celebrate when the team of his youth won the 2008 World Series.
As I said, I met Jamie the first time he walked into Wrigley Field as a member of the Chicago Cubs, helping him drag his luggage and baseball equipment through the ballpark’s concourse. I joke that it was my first official act. Realistically, my first official act took place about 45 minutes after his major league debut, when – in the Cubs clubhouse – Jamie called me over; he wanted me to find his dad and bring him to the locker room. Reuniting a father and son after the son’s first big league win is an awesome moment to rewind in my head.
I recently spoke to Jamie for the series of stories I’ve been doing on legendary scout Billy Blitzer – the scout who signed Moyer. You’ll get to read the scout/player piece later this week.
After talking about Billy, we talked about various subjects – including the many things Jamie witnessed over a professional career that spanned from 1984-2012.
What was it like being a dad when baseball was your vocation?
Jamie Moyer: “I tried to be involved when I could, but my family understood what I was doing and where I was. I was supporting a family, and this job took you away seven months of the year. In the off-season, you had to work out and stay in shape. I had leeway, but we had a lot of great experiences through the opportunity of me playing baseball. I took my boys to the ballpark when they were little. I took them as they got bigger. I took them when they were in high school and in college. It’s been a family experience.
“When I was with the Phillies, any time we had a clinching game – as we got towards the end of the game, our boys came down to the clubhouse and put a uniform on. When that third out was made, they were in the dugout with their dad, and we celebrated … and we celebrated with teammates … and we celebrated in the clubhouse. That’s something really special that I had with my boys. You can take all the money and the notoriety and all that, but we had that special bond. I was also able to celebrate with the rest of my family and my parents.
“I would have loved to go to the World Series with every organization I was in, but if I could pick one, it happened in a magical way. It happened in 2008 in Philadelphia, where I was raised. I went to college there. My parents were there; they were able to witness it. My sister was there. My family was there. It was pretty special. In 1980, the Phillies had won their last World Series. I was a senior in high school, and I skipped school to go to that parade. Then in 2008, I was in the parade, going down Broad Street. Pretty cool.”
That would have to be No. 1 among your career highlights.
“Oh, yeah. But I feel like for me personally, I have a lot of highlights. My first major league start … Wrigley Field. And who was it against? The Philadelphia Phillies and Steve Carlton, my idol. That was pretty magical. Witnessing Nolan Ryan’s 300th career win; that was an unbelievable milestone. I’ve had the good fortune to play with some other 300-game winners: Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux. I played against Tom Glavine. Honestly, when are we going to see another 300-game winner?
“So to have the opportunity to be a witness to that … and I witnessed two of Nolan Ryan’s no-hitters. I witnessed his 5,000th strikeout; that’s a pretty big number. I was a teammate of Cal Ripken’s when he broke Lou Gehrig’s streak. I mean, some pretty monumental things in the game – and I had the good fortune to be there. I’ll always appreciate and respect that – because those feats were not easy to accomplish. And I was just a small, small, small piece of it.
“I was on the team that played the first night game at Wrigley Field. Pretty cool. And I was fortunate enough to play on an all-star team that went to Japan. Again … pretty cool.”
The longevity of it certainly helped. But you had your own accomplishments, too.
“Personally, being a 20-game winner twice was pretty special. I won 20 and 21, and it wasn’t an easy feat. But I didn’t do it alone. I had teammates that allowed me to accomplish that. They caught the ball, they threw the ball, they hit the ball. They ran bases. They played every day. They played hurt. And then, two years ago, I was elected into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame. I never expected something like that to happen to me.
“Back in 1984, if you would had asked me, ‘Do you think you’ll play until your 49 years old?,’ I probably would have said ‘Yeah, I’d love to.’ But you know, not until I played with guys named Charlie Hough and Nolan Ryan in Texas, and saw them at their ages – in their 40s and still playing – that’s when I started thinking, ‘Man, someday I hope I can do that.’ I enjoyed it. I loved the game. I had passion for the game. I loved being around it. I loved the challenges. Sometimes, the challenges were pretty tall, but you figured out a way to get through it. Being around guys like that … you watched them get through it. You watched how they worked. You watched how they were as teammates. You can really learn a lot by using your eyes and your ears, and that’s what I learned how to do as I went through my career.
“As I got older, I became far more appreciative of opportunities and playing and teammates and coaches. That comes from maturity. I’m not tooting my own horn … it’s reality. I could have been a knucklehead and just closed my eyes to all of it and just said, ‘The heck with everybody else. It’s all about Jamie.’ But I didn’t view it that way. It takes 25 guys and a coaching staff and an organization. It goes from the parking attendants to the players to the front office to the fans to the ownership. And then you have to have a community that supports it.”
It’s been five years since you last played. Do you miss putting on a uniform?
“Yes and no. I went up to Seattle for Opening Day, and it was a lot of fun. It brings back a lot of great memories. It brings back a lot of warm fuzzy feelings. But then you start thinking about the travel and the soreness and the stiffness and the aches-and-pains and being away from family. I’m a little bit older, and I realize my body can’t do it anymore. My mind says, ‘Oh yeah, let’s do it.’ But my body says, ‘Yeah, you go do it. But we’ll sit here and watch.’ I know that I can’t, but I do miss it. I do miss seeing the guys. When I went to Seattle, I saw some ex-teammates. We laughed and joked and had a good time. We reminisced. But that’s kind of where it stops and starts.”
Tell me about all your kids.
“Dillon is 25. He’s out of baseball now and working in real estate in Seattle (note: Dillon, a former infielder, played four years of minor league ball). Hutton is 23, and he’s in Double-A with the Anaheim Angels. He’s in Mobile, Alabama, right now (note: Hutton, a second baseman, was the Angels’ 7th-round pick in the 2015 draft). Timoney is 21, and she’s going to graduate from St. Mary’s College in South Bend in December. And Duffy is 19. She’s currently a sophomore at Santa Clara University, where she plays soccer.
“McCabe is 13 and he’s in seventh grade. Grady is 12 and she’s in seventh grade. Katilina is just turning 11 and she’s in fourth grade. Yenifer is 10 and she’s in fourth grade.
“So we have two out of college, two in college and four in elementary school.”
I know you still keep in touch with Jay Blunk (a former Cubs intern who is now an executive vice president with the Chicago Blackhawks). When you first reached the majors, you shared an apartment with him. In this day and age, how often do you think a major league player shares an apartment with a media relations intern?
“Yeah, how about that? Crazy. I don’t know if that’s happening too often. And now he’s a world champion. He’s a hockey specialist, and he doesn’t know which end of the stick to hold. But it was great. I enjoyed meeting Jay and our relationship and the fun we’ve had over the years. Jay is a great guy.”
For me, it’s hard to believe for as long as your career was, you only spent a short amount of time in Chicago. But a whole lot of people remember you from your time here.
“I really enjoyed Chicago. The fans … Wrigley Field. We obviously didn’t play the way we would have liked to have played. We played like many of the other teams played for over 100 years. But it was fun to watch the World Series last year, watching from afar and seeing the excitement – and seeing the city take it in.
“And my old teammate, who got called up to the majors with me – Dave Martinez – he was the bench coach. How cool was that? And another teammate, Chris Bosio, is the pitching coach. I played with Chris in Seattle.”
You played long enough, it’s sort of like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”
“Yeah, there are a lot of connections. But when you play for 20-some years, it’s going to happen. That’s the fun part about it.”