That '40s show

BOB ELLIOTT

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

The first hit Roger Clemens allowed in the major leagues was a two-out single in the first inning by the Cleveland Indians' Pat Tabler.

There were 4,004 fans at old Cleveland Stadium on May 15, 1984 to see the future Hall of Famer's debut.

"We knew Boston had some hot-shot rookie going for them," Tabler said. "After the game our guys were talking about what we thought. I (said) 'he's OK, not too bad.'

"He didn't become Roger Clemens until he began throwing that split finger in 1986."

Now, Tabler sits high above home plate in the broadcast booth as a Blue Jays analyst and tells viewers about the ace right-hander.

Tabler saw the best of Clemens as a player and now as a broadcaster is watching this ace member of the 40-and-up pitching phenomena.

When Clemens makes his 2007 debut with the New York Yankees this week there will be 13 major-league arms who are 40-something. And that's not counting Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez, who is listed as 41 if you look back at an international roster. The New York Mets list his age as 37.

In 1987, there were seven arms 40 and up, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In 1967, there were two. One was Braves right-hander Lew Burdette. The other was knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm.

This year's baker's dozen includes nine taking the ball every fifth day. Many are front-of-the-rotation. Teams expect to win when most of these oldies have their turn -- check them out: Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Jamie Moyer, Greg Maddux, David Wells, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Woody Williams and Clemens.

The six 40-something starters in 1987 had a combined won-loss mark of 52-73. Only Tommy John had a winning record, going 13-6 with the Yankees.

So, what has changed? Is it supply and demand? Were these current guys that good during their 20s and 30s that it's only reasonable to see them do well in their 40s? Four of the starters are lefties. Is the desire for lefties out of control?

What's next? Some aged starter pitching while collecting his pension? Here are some reasons more good pitchers continue to ply their trade well into their 40s:

1. SPECIAL IS SPECIAL.

Tabler recalls facing Nolan Ryan. "The guy was unbelievable, almost like he wasn't human, a freak of nature," Tabler said.

"I faced him on a 3-2 count with the Rangers and he threw me a change outside. I took it for ball four and he nearly chased me down the first-base line yelling 'swing the bat! Swing the bat!' I thought we'd never see another one.

"Well, here's Roger Clemens." The first time I saw Clemens was late in a spring game at Winter Haven, Fla..

Al Newman, a Montreal Expos prospect, hit a line drive between the legs of the minor leaguer. Clemens walked halfway to first and yelled at Newman: "Don't you ever hit a ball up the middle on me again!"

Newman and I had to look up in the Red Sox guide after the game as to who this college pitcher from the Texas Longhorns was.

2. THE ABILITY TO ADJUST.

Baseball is a game of adjustments, sometimes from a hitter's first at-bat to his second. There are even more adjustments to pitching in your 40s compared with pitching in your 20s. Pitching coach Leo Mazzone had Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux with Atlanta.

"The thing about those three guys, when they were on the mound, Bobby Cox managed for them to win the game," said Mazzone, now pitching coach with the Baltimore Orioles.

"Clemens still has power, but the rest have made adjustments. They had to, to be able to pitch this long."

Maddux said it has been an easier adjustment for Clemens because "he was so much better than everybody in his 20s and 30s."

3. THEY WERE GOOD THEN, THEY STILL ARE.

The 40-year-olds have amassed 19 Cy Young Awards, seven league championship or World Series MVPs and two perfect games.

"The remarkable thing is how great the guys still pitching in their 40s really are," Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "They are still pretty much on top of their games, the type who can still pitch at the top of a rotation. It's an amazing thing to watch."

Moyer had amassed 59 wins at age 33, when the 1996 season began. He has won 161 games since.

"As a group they have been persistent enough to learn the craft," Arizona pitching coach Bryan Price said. "Moyer didn't turn things on until his 30s. You start to enjoy what you do when you figure it out."

4. BETTER MEDICINE.

If a pitcher tore his ulnar collateral ligament before 1974 he was done. He'd best apply to Sears or ask the father-in-law for a job at State Farm.

"I was called up to the Red Sox in 1961 and the club said Tom Brewer threw his arm out -- that was it, his arm was dead, it was over," said Galen Cisco, former Jays pitching coach.

That all changed when Dr. Frank Jobe replaced the elbow ligament on Tommy John's left arm with a tendon from his right wrist Sept. 25, 1974. John went on to pitch until 1989, winning 164 games after his surgery -- one fewer game than Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax won in his career.

"Sports medicine is better, a trainer's knowledge is so much, much better," said Tabler, who retired after the 1992 season. "When I broke in if you broke your wrist, trainers would put it in a cast for eight weeks. Now, they have you throwing in days."

5. EXCELLENT MECHANICS.

Clemens looks like he is in a rocking chair some nights. His delivery is so simple. He'll throw 100 pitches and maybe 98 are identical.

"Watch a closeup of him on TV as he starts his motion and gets to his balance point, his head barely moves," said Team Canada coach Remo Cardinale, who tutored Jeff Francis and Adam Loewen among others.

Watching Glavine you could mistake him for a guy trying to beat his buddy skipping stones across a stilled pond. Of the gang, Johnson probably has the most violent delivery, not uncommon for someone 6-foot-10.

6. CHASING NUMBERS.

Maddux won his 300th in 2004, Glavine will win his 300th this season. Smoltz beat Glavine in Atlanta for his 200th win -- to go along with 154 saves.

"Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz have the carrot in front of them," Tabler said. "They have a drive players don't, they have all the money in the world, they're after numbers.

"They're such competitive people, they love to compete, whether it's golf or baseball, Smoltz is like that." Mazzone said "all are tremendous competitors."

7. BETTER DIET AND EXERCISE PROGRAMS.

Maddux uses a trainer in the off-season and this season began yoga with his Padres teammates.

Moyer, who won 20 for the first time at age 39, keeps fit with weight training and spinning, or indoor cycling. He and his wife own a spinning studio in Seattle.

While just as many pitchers have been accused or found guilty of using steroids or HGH, none of this bunch has ever been suspected save Clemens. A web site reported he had tested positive and the commissioner's office issued a denial, which it never does.

8. A LOVE OF MONEY.

The 12 active 40-somethings will make about $85.7 million. Clemens signed a prorated $28-million, one-year contract with the Yanks on May 6 and is scheduled to start Monday. So add another $18 million or so to that.

Smoltz earns $8 million this year and $26 million the next two seasons, while Johnson makes $16 million.

Boston is paying Schilling $13 million and Wakefield $4 million. Maddux earns $10 million, and Wells $3 million. Glavine is getting $9.5 million, Moyer $6 million, and Williams $6 million.

9. A LOVE OF THE GAME.

This group competes with the wisdom of 40-year-olds, but the enthusiasm of 25-year-olds and the guile of riverboat gamblers.

"I do know this, the one thing older pitchers have in common is a great love for the game and a great love for competition," said Tracy, the ex-Dodgers manager.

"You can tell how much they enjoy the game by the look on their faces when they pitch. None of them needs to pitch anymore (financially) but they do it because they love baseball. You've got to love to play to play it as long as those guys have.

0. IT'S IN THE GENES.

Smoltz says genetics have played a part of being able to recover and persevere.

Clemens has linebacker thighs and, like many others, had his arm touched by an angel.

"Clemens is blessed by good genetics and has an incredible workout routine," Tabler said. "You add his fire, the will inside him and you've got something. For his shoulder, elbow and legs to be able to take all that for so many years is amazing.

"I read how hard he worked out with the Jays and that rubbed off on Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay."

Moyer, 44, faced Johnson, 43, earlier this season, the first time since Sept. 21, 1989, in Texas. At a combined 88 years and 48 days, Johnson (43 years, 241 days) and Moyer (44 years, 172 days) broke the record set April 24 when Johnson faced Wells. Johnson and Wells were a combined 87 years and 300 days.

No matter how many days, how many years, like Tabler said when he saw Ryan, we'll never see a group like this again.

11. SUPPLY AND DEMAND.

Former Jays manager Buck Martinez says one reason why so many 40-year-olds are pitching is the way young pitchers are rushed to the majors. Hence, the need to keep older guys around.

"Until someone changes the way pitchers are developed, the cost will go up and the age will as well," Martinez said. "Some GMs in the game know what they read. They read Clemens, Maddux, Smoltz, Schilling, Wells. All were good. Maybe they can be good again. Just one more time." A lack of patience with prospects leads to shortcuts, so younger pitchers are asked to learn in the majors.

"Baseball should give something back to pitchers: Raise the mound, get rid of Questec or axe the DH," Martinez said. "What would you rather see? Cecil Fielder and Fred McGriff hitting 50 home runs or a little second baseman hitting 20?"

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JAMIE MOYER

Born: Nov. 18, 1962 MLB Debut: June 16, 1986 Career ERA: 4.17Wins: 348 Losses: 178 Saves: 0

DAVID WELLS

Born: May 20, 1963 MLB Debut: June 30, 1987 Career ERA: 4.08 Wins: 232 Losses: 151 Saves: 13

RANDY JOHNSON

Born: Sept. 10, 1963 MLB Debut: Sept. 15, 1988 Career ERA: 3.22 Wins: 283 Losses: 149 Saves: 2

ROBERTO HERNANDEZ

Born: Nov. 11, 1964 MLB Debut: Sept. 2, 1991 Career ERA: 3.38 Wins: 66 Losses: 69 Saves: 326

MIKE TIMLIN

Born: March 10, 1966 MLB Debut: April, 8 1991 Career ERA: 3.57 Wins: 70 Losses: 68 Saves: 140

TOM GLAVINE

Born: March 25, 1966 MLB Debut: Aug. 17, 1987 Career ERA: 3.46 Wins: 295 Losses: 194 Saves: 0

GREG MADDUX

Born: April 14, 1966 MLB Debut: Sept. 3, 1986 Career ERA: 3.08 Wins: 337 Losses: 206 Saves: 0

JOSE MESA

Born: May 22, 1966 MLB Debut: Sept. 10, 1987 Career ERA: 4.31 Wins: 79 Losses: 107 Saves: 320

TIM WAKEFIELD

Born: Aug. 2, 1966 MLB Debut: July 31, 1992 Career ERA: 4.28 Wins: 156 Losses: 139 Saves: 22

WOODY WILLIAMS

Born: Aug. 19, 1966 MLB Debut: May 14, 1993 Career ERA: 4.13 Wins: 125 Losses: 108 Saves: 0

CURT SCHILLING

Born: Nov. 14, 1966 MLB Debut: Sept. 7, 1988 Career ERA: 3.44 Wins: 212 Losses: 140 Saves: 22

JOHN SMOLTZ

Born: May 15, 1967 MLB Debut: July 23, 1988 Career ERA: 3.26 Wins: 200 Losses: 139 Saves: 154


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