A Good Word for the Geezers

So I see that Jamie Moyer just became the oldest pitcher to pick up a win against the Yankees. Good for him. I remember when he first came up. Frankly, he wasn’t very good. It took him until age 30 to find his place on the mound. Since then he’s won over 250 games. As usual with baseball, he’s not the first pitcher to discover his abilities after he’d become a geezer in baseball terms. Meet Charles Arthur “Dazzy” Vance.

Vance was born in 1891 in Nebraska. He made it to the Major Leagues in 1915 with Pittsburgh. He was 24. He also wasn’t anything special. He went 0-1 and was sent to the Yankees, where he was equally bad going 0-3. He went back to the minors, came back to the Yankees for a two game stretch in 1918, went 0-0, then wandered back to the minors. So far he was 0-4 and age 27.

He resurfaced in 1922 at Brooklyn, aged 31. He’d spent the years in between gaining control of his fastball. He went 18-12, picking up his first win at age 31. For the rest of his 30s, he was a premier pitcher in the National League. Between 1922 and 1928 he led the league in wins twice, topping out at 28-6 in 1924. He also led the NL in strikeouts every year. His peak was 262, also in 1924. His career year was obviously 1924. He won the MVP. He was 33. He won two ERA titles, with 1928 being his lowest at 2.09. By 1930 he was 39. It was the year they changed the ball and offenses exploded, especially in the NL. Hack Wilson had 58 home runs and set the RBI record. Bill Terry hit .400. Want to guess who won the ERA title? You guessed Vance, didn’t you? Of course you’re right. His ERA was 2.61, the only ERA under 3.00 among NL starters with 20 or more games.

He had two more good years, then his career began to collapse. Of course he was 42 when that happened. There was a trade to St. Louis in 1933. He went to Cincinnati in early ’34, then back to St. Louis to end the season. He went 1-1 in 19 games (only four starts), but got into his only World Series as a bullpen pitcher for the Gas House Gang Cardinals. He got into one game, pitched 1.1 innings, giving up an unearned run and no decision.

In 1935, at age 44, he went back to Brooklyn for a final season. He went 3-2 in 20 games, all in relief, then retired. For his career he was 197-140 with an ERA of 3.24. He had 2045 strikeouts to 840 walks in 2967 innings. In 1955 he made the Hall of Fame. He died in 1961.

With the possible exception of Moyer, Vance is probably the greatest “old” pitcher ever. He has 197 wins, all after the age of 30. A lot of pitchers have won 200 games after age 30, but they had good, substantial careers prior to age 30. So Vance is kind of unique. By way of comparison among Dodgers pitchers, remember that all of Sandy Koufax’s wins come prior to the age when Vance won his first. Not bad for a geezer, right?

Dazzy Vance

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3 Responses to “A Good Word for the Geezers”

  1. William Miller Says:

    Just for the record, Randy Johnson had a career record of 75-69 before he turned 30. He was a remarkable 228-97 after he turned 30.
    Nice post on Vance.
    BTW, not sure how a career record of 197-140 gets you into the HOF.
    Bill

  2. Sportsphd Says:

    For once the Hall looked past wins. Seven strikeout titles and a 125 era plus in a great hitter’s era are impressive numbers.

  3. verdun2 Says:

    Vance went to the HoF in the same year as Hartnett, Lyons, and DiMaggio. It was the writers, not the veteran’s committee, that put him in. I don’t know their thinking, but if you look over the era of the 1920s, Vance is the NL’s best pitcher (only Grove in the AL is better) and he puts up a bunch of strikeouts in an era when a hitter could lead the league in strikeouts with 100. So maybe he got in on one of those “best pitcher of his era” type ideas. That’s strictly speculation on my part.
    v

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