Friday, April 08, 2011

Flashback Friday: The Orioles' youngest Opening Day starter was part of the Kiddie Corps

For the second consecutive year, the Orioles started a pitcher in their home opener age 25 or younger. Brad Bergesen got the call at age 24 last year while Jake Arrieta, 25, did the honors on Monday. Both pitchers had a good three years or more on the Orioles' youngest Opening Day starter.

Jerry Walker was 21 years and 67 days old on April 19, 1960, when he took the Memorial Stadium mound to kick-off the Birds' season against the Washington Senators. Walker was part of the Orioles' original Kiddie Corps along with Steve Barber, 22, Chuck Estrada, 22, Jack Fisher, 21, and Milt Pappas, 21.

Together with veteran pitchers Hoyt Wilhelm, 37, and Hal "Skinny" Brown, 35, the Kiddie Corps posted a league-best 48 complete games (Arnie Portocarrero, 28, had one of those 48 complete games). The O's overall pitching staff tied the Yankees for lowest ERA at 3.52

Catcher Gus Triandos described what made the staff effective in John Eisenberg's, "From 33rd Street to Camden Yards: An Oral History of the Baltimore Orioles."

"The young guys didn't spot pitches; they just wound up and threw good stuff," said Triandos. "They didn't work on things. They just called a fastball and zinged it. You knew they'd be somewhere around the plate. They had good stuff, had good control. And then when Wilhelm relieved with the knuckler, it was tough on hitters."

Earlier this year, O's broadcaster Fred Manfra identified the Kiddie Corps' "kicking ass in big league baseball" among his childhood baseball memories.

The 1960 Orioles posted the franchise's first winning record, 89-65, since moving to Baltimore from St. Louis (the 1957 Orioles finished an even 76-76). They did so on the arms of a young pitching staff. They'll need a similar effort from their current Kiddie Corps in 2011 to post the franchises' first winning season in 14 years.

[Note: Jerry Walker is currently vice president and special assistant to the GM for the Cincinnati Reds.]

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