The everyman nature of Jaime Moyer’s success, even now, is what stands out on the eve of his induction into the Mariners’ Hall of Fame.
“In some ways,” he said, “not getting drafted out of high school might have been the best thing that ever happened to me. It sure didn’t feel that way at the time, but it lit a fire inside of me that burned for the next 30 years.
“If you tell me I can’t do something, then I’m going to work night and day to show you that I can. Two hundred and sixty-nine wins later, I know in my heart that I gave it my all.”
Moyer, a left-hander, spent 25 years in the big leagues, including 11 with the Mariners from 1996-2006. It was with Seattle that he enjoyed his greatest success; he remains the franchise’s all-time leader in victories.
Even his former teammates still aren’t sure how he did it.
At a luncheon to honor Moyer on Friday at Safeco Field, former outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., recalled: “We’d just come in and say, ‘Dude, you throw 82 miles an hour.’”
Moyer’s longtime catcher, Dan Wilson, explained: “He perfected the change-up. He threw change-ups off his change-up. The tighter the situation for the hitter, the slower the pitch would come in.”
That was a lesson learned while pitching in the early 1990s in Baltimore.
“The first thing that pops in my mind is (former Orioles teammate) Doug Jones,” Moyer recalled. “Doug Jones used to say, ‘The louder it gets in the stadium, the softer I throw.’”
Moyer took that advice to heart.
“He was an artist out there,” Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven said of Moyer in one many video tributes shown at Friday’s luncheon. “He was the left-handed version of Greg Maddux.”
Minnesota manager Paul Molitor, another Hall of Fame player, recalled how facing Moyer never left you feeling uncomfortable as a hitter until you assessed your results.
Molitor noted, “You walked away saying, ‘He got me again.’”
Moyer, 52, will be inducted Saturday as the ninth member of the Mariners Hall of Fame in an on-field ceremony before the 1:10 p.m. game at Safeco Field. The ceremony is expected to start at 12:30 p.m.
Former Seattle manager Lou Piniella, inducted last year, recalled the July 30, 1996, trade that brought Moyer to the Mariners from Boston in exchange for outfielder Darren Bragg.
Moyer, then 33, was a journeyman pitcher 10 years into his career. He was 66-77 with a 4.50 ERA in 223 games with five teams. He had never won more than 13 games in a season.
“I remember our general manager, Woody Woodward, calling me and saying, ‘Listen, we can get Jamie Moyer from the Red Sox,’” Piniella said. “‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘You know, I’ve seen him pitch. He is a very competitive guy.’
“I liked the fact he’d pitched in small ballparks in his career. I knew he knew how to pitch and get people out. At the same time, we knew he wasn’t overpowering. But he had this uncanny ability to keep hitters off-stride. … So I said, ‘Yeah, we should get him. He’ll be a valuable asset for us as a fourth or fifth starter.’ And, boy, did I underestimate his ability.”
Moyer went 145-87 with the Mariners. He won 20 games on two occasions, was picked as an All-Star in 2003 and finished in the top six in the Cy Young Award voting on three occasions.
He also found a comfort zone in the Northwest. This is where his children grew up and where he, along with his wife Karen, started the Moyer Foundation, which aids children suffering from loss or family addiction.
The foundation now runs camps across the country.
“Over the past 15 years,” Moyer said, “we’ve been able to serve thousands of kids. Showing them someone believes in them. Helping them find hope in darkness. Helping them become the people they’re meant to be.”
Moyer received numerous awards over the years in recognition of his foundation’s work, including the Hutch Award and the Roberto Clemente Award.
“Seattle is a huge part of who I am,” Moyer said in concluding his remarks at Friday’s luncheon. “It’s a big part of my baseball journey that’s brought me to this moment. And it’s at the heart of the Moyer Foundation’s work.
“No matter where I go, no matter what I do, Seattle will always be a part of me. And today means I will always be a part of the Seattle Mariners. I’m very proud of that.”
Mariners’ Hall of Fame members
First baseman Alvin Davis (inducted 1997)
Broadcaster Dave Niehaus (2000)
Outfielder Jay Buhner (2004)
Designated hitter Edgar Martinez (2007)
Pitcher Randy Johnson (2012)
Catcher Dan Wilson (2012)
Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. (2013)
Manager Lou Piniella (2014)
Pitcher Jamie Moyer (2015)