Tuesday, September 29, 2009

For Most of the '89 Orioles, Postseason Baseball Remained a Dream

As part of its package revisiting the final dramatic push of the Orioles' 1989 "Why Not?" campaign The Sun provides quotes from players, fans, and general managers (including then Minnesota GM Andy MacPhail) who either were involved with or were following the exciting late-season action.

Among the most interesting of those quotes, at least to me, is the simple, telling wisdom of catcher Mickey Tettleton.

Said Tettleton in '89: "It's a lot of fun. You don't know as a player or as a fan if you're ever going to be in this situation again. Why not enjoy it?"

Most of the 1989 Orioles - 30 players from the 40-man roster - did not make the postseason later in their careers.

Tettleton, then in his sixth season and his second with the Orioles, played 14 years in the bigs. He appeared in the postseason just once in his career, as a member of the 1996 Texas Rangers team that lost the Division Series 3-1 to the New York Yankees.

At age 35, Tettleton served as a designated hitter in the Division Series, going 1-for-12 in four games with five walks and seven strikeouts. He had a .353 on-base percentage despite batting .083 in the series. His lone hit was an RBI single that plated Dean Palmer in the Rangers' 6-4 Game 4 loss.

The list of players from the '89 Orioles squad who would see post-season action later in their careers included the following:
-Brady Anderson ('96 and '97 Orioles)
-Chris Hoiles ('96 & '97 Orioles)
-Cal Ripken ('96 and '97 Orioles)
-Rene Gonzalez ('91 Blue Jays, '96 Rangers)
-Gregg Olson ('99 Diamondbacks)
-Jamie Quirk ('90 & '92 A's)
-And unlikely 1995 NLCS MVP Mike Devereaux, who also appeared in the 1996 playoffs with the Orioles.
The two players who would see the most post-season action were part of the regrettable Glenn Davis trade:
Steve Finley ('96 & '98 Padres; '99, '01 & '02 Diamondbacks, '04 Dodgers, '05 Angels) and Curt Schilling ('93 Phillies, '01 & '02 Diamondbacks, '04 & '07 Red Sox).
Only six players entered the 1989 season having already played post-season baseball:
-Brian Holton ('88 Dodgers)
-Mark Huismann ('84 Royals)
-Keith Moreland ('80 & '81 Phillies, '84 Cubs)
-Bob Melvin ('87 Giants)
-Quirk ('76 & '85 Royals)
-Mark Thurmond ('84 Dodgers).

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Eutaw Street Chronicles: Mo Vaughn - July 7, 1996

Mo Vaughn entered his last game before the 1992 All-Star break wondering if he belonged among the game's greats who would play in Philadelphia later that week.

By the end of the night there was no doubt.

Vaughn had threatened to skip the All-Star game with an injured finger after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a 4-3 loss to the Orioles one day earlier. The o-fer extended a streak of 13 games (57 at-bats) without a homer for Vaughn.

The streak ended immediately on July 7 as Vaughn's first-inning home run traveled 419 feet to Eutaw Street and gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. Vaughn was the ninth bronze bomber in Camden Yards history.

[More after the jump.]

The celebrated power hitter book-ended his first-inning blast with a 457-foot three-run shot in the ninth that made a loser of Orioles closer Randy Myers. Myers had been 18 of 21 in save opportunities including two saves in the Independence Day weekend series with the Red Sox.

Vaughn's two home runs traveled the combined length of roughly three football fields and padded the first baseman's substantial first-half numbers: .346, 26 home runs, 78 RBI.

"It took my breath away," said Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy of the ninth-inning home run into the upper reaches of the center-field bleachers. "I knew it was gone, but I just didn't know how far."

The 7-5 loss sent the Orioles into the break with a 46-39 record, six games back of the Yankees. The Red Sox improved to 36-49.

The uneven Orioles looked to have their own feel-good effort in hand in the late innings of the game after rallying from a 4-1 deficit. As they so often did during a season when they broke the 1961 Yankees' record for home runs with 257, the O's powered their way to the lead.

Brady Anderson brought the Birds to within one run in the seventh inning with his major-league leading 30th home run, a two-run shot off Tom Gordon.

Chris Hoiles then hit a two-run homer of his own in the eighth inning, this one off Joe Hudson, to stake the O's to a 5-4 lead.

Hoiles arrived back in the dugout to a phone call from Alan Mills, who took off his cap and waved from the bullpen where the call was placed. Mills could relax after O's starter Scott Erickson did the set-up work on his own with eight innings of seven-hit, four-run work.

Enter Myers, who would finish the season with 31 saves.

The closer retired pinch-hitter Alex Delgado and center fielder Lee Tinsley in the ninth before enabling Vaughn's heroics by walking Jeff Frye and allowing a John Valentin single. Having induced a game-ending flyball from Vaughn just three nights earlier, Myers left a 1-0 fastball over the plate that the Boston slugger devoured.

Vaughn's game winner was the second-longest home run in Camden Yards history at the time and still ranks fourth in the ballpark's history. He hit a career-high 44 home runs in 1996, which was the second in a string of six straight seasons of 30 or more home runs for Vaughn.

Myers, meanwhile, established a new Orioles record in 1997 with his league-leading 45 saves.

Click here for past editions of The Eutaw Street Chronicles.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Would Wild Bill Say?

Legendary fan Wild Bill Hagy was known to turn down cab fares from Yankees and Red Sox fans.

Legend has it he also dropped these folks off in questionable neighborhoods on occasion.

At least Hagy was picking on someone his own size.

A school teacher and devoted Red Sox fan in Van Buren, N.Y., forced one of his fourth-grade students to turn his C.C. Sabathia T-shirt inside out.

Here's a bit of the story:
Van Buren Elementary fourth-grader Nathan Johns thought his teacher was kidding Wednesday when he instructed him to go to the bathroom and turn his Yankees T-shirt inside out.

The blue shirt read “New York No. 52” on the front and “Sabathia” for the New York Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia, on the back.

“ I thought to myself ‘Is he serious or is he kidding,’” said Nate, 9, a student in Peter Addabbo’s fourth-grade class. “But he had this look like he wasn’t kidding at all.”

Nate complied, and said he was later told to wear it that way until dismissal. At lunch, Nate said the fifth-graders made fun of him because he wearing his shirt inside out. “It was such a horrible day.” Nate said. “I don’t ever want anything like to happen again.”

I'm guessing Wild Bill would conclude that both parties were in the wrong - the teacher for being a Red Sox fan and the student for being a Yankees fan.

Image source: Here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Looking Back on Better Days ... with Chris Hoiles

The Hall of Very Good has posted an interview with Chris Hoiles that serves as a nice reminder of better days in Birdland.

Hoiles reflects on Ripken's streak, Harold Baines Hall of Fame candidacy, homering off Randy Johnson, hitting two grand slams in one game, and hitting a grand slam while down three with two outs and two strikes.

There's also some steroids talk in there, but I'm trying to keep things positive this week.

An excerpt follows. Follow the link to the full article for an interesting read.
HOVG: And if that wasn’t big enough…you kinda became known for some big ones while with Baltimore. In 1998, you became only the ninth player to hit two grand slams in one game. Walk me through that. It has to be a thrill.

HOILES: Well, the two grand slam game was special to me, because I went from playing every day to part-time with Lenny Webster. I hadn't played in a few days, and that was my first start in a while. Plus it was in Cleveland, where I have a lot of friends and family come to because of where I grew up. The first one was a 2-0 count split finger from Charles Nagy and the second was a 3-2 fastball from Ron Villone. Very special night, especially after it was all over and I found out that I was only the ninth person to do it. Three of the nine were Orioles and I was the first catcher to do it.

HOVG: Two year prior (May 17, 1996), you ended a pretty crazy game with what some call the “ultimest” grand slam. Full count, two outs, base loaded…down three. What was that like?

HOILES: It was an awesome feeling, knowing that the game was on the line when I came to bat. Nothing like it.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking Back on Better Days: They Were Still Asking "Why Not?" in '89

This week's effort to remember some September bright spots in Orioles history amidst the team's current discouraging September run continues with a look back 20 years to the O's celebrated "Why Not?" season.

On Sept. 23, 1989, the O's defeated the New York Yankees 10-2 behind strong hitting from the lower half of the team's lineup.

The Birds' number five hitter, Randy "Moose" Milligan, went 2-for-3 with two runs and a stolen base (one of only 16 in his eight-year career), and the remainder of the lineup followed suit:

6. Craig Worthington, 2-for-5 with a double and a home run;

7. Stanley Jefferson, 3-for-4 with a double and three runs;

8. Jamie Quirk, 1-for-3 with a sacrifice, RBI, and run scored;

9. Roberto Kelly, 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Bob Milacki picked up his 13th win of the season for the Birds with seven innings of work against the Yankees. Milacki, who won a career high 14 games in 1989, allowed seven hits and two runs while walking six and striking out four.

The Saturday evening match-up of division rivals - the O's penultimate home game of the year - attracted 48,308 fans to Memorial Stadium. The Orioles closed out the season on a six-game road trip that ended, fittingly, in Toronto.

With the win the Orioles moved to within one game of the first-place Blue Jays, who lost to Milwaukee. It was the closest the team would get for the remainder of the season.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Looking Back on Better Days: The Orioles' First Pennant

Forty-three years ago today, on Sept. 22, 1966, the Orioles clinched their first American League pennant with a 6-1 victory over the Kansas City Athletics.

It was the modern Orioles' first-ever pennant, and the franchise's first pennant since the St. Louis Browns won their only one in 1944.

Jim Palmer, then in his second year in the majors, picked up a complete-game victory for the Birds, allowing five hits and one earned run while striking out eight and walking one against the A's.

It was Palmer's 15th and final regular-season victory. He went on to pitch a complete-game shutout in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series against the Dodgers.

Four Orioles batters registered multi-hit days against the Athletics' Lew Krausse, led by Frank Robinson's 3-for-5 effort with two doubles and two RBI. Russ Snyder, Boog Powell, and Davey Johnson picked up two hits a piece.

The O's outlasted Minnesota for the pennant, finishing nine games ahead of the Twins.

For a pleasant change of pace from current times, the Yankees finished in last place in the 10-team American League in 1966 with a record of 70-89. New York was a half-game behind the ninth place Boston Red Sox.

Image source: Here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Looking Back on Better Days: The Orioles' First No-Hitter

Weekend games in September weren't always so gloomy for the Orioles.

Yesterday was the 51st anniversary of the first no-hitter in modern franchise history.

Hoyt Wilhelm held the New York Yankees in check on Saturday, Sept. 20, 1958, recording eight strikeouts against two walks in the Orioles' 1-0 victory at Memorial Stadium. His was the first of five no-hitters in Orioles history.

Gus Triandos powered the O's to the win with his career-high 30th home run of the season in the seventh inning.

Don Larsen - just two seasons removed from a perfect Game 5 in the 1956 World Series - pitched six innings before yielding to Bobby Shantz, who took the loss for the Yankees.

The Orioles finished the 1958 season in sixth place in the eight-team American League with a record of 74-79.

Image source: Here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flashback Friday: Beau Knows Doubles

With his 52nd double on Tuesday Brian Roberts knocked Beau Bell out of the franchise's top spot for doubles in a season. Roberts tied Bell's record 51 doubles in 2008.

Nevertheless, you won't hear Bell's name much in relation to the record because he played for the St. Louis Browns - "perhaps history's worst Major League franchise" - before they moved to Baltimore in 1954.

This week's Flashback Friday revisits Bell's record-setting 1937 season.

Roy Chester Bell was a 6'2", 185 pound right fielder who occasionally logged time at the infield corners.

He played a total of seven seasons in the majors and posted his best numbers in 1937 when he led the league in hits (218) and doubles (51) and posted career-highs in home runs (14) and slugging percentage (.509). It was his second-best year for batting average (.340) and on-base percentage (.391).

Not surprisingly given his success, he played in a career-high 156 games in '37.

Bell joined Harlond Clift as the first of 18 St. Louis Browns to be All-Stars. Both players were members of the 1937 American League All-Star team, though neither one appeared in the July 7 game at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.

At season's end, Bell finished 17th in the MVP race won by Charlie Gehringer of the Detroit Tigers. He ended the 1937 season in the Top 10 among American League players for average, games played, at-bats, plate appearances, hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, singles, runs created, extra-base hits, and times on base.

Bell, like Roberts is currently doing, hit well for a losing team; believe it or not, he had it much worse than does Roberts.

The 1937 St. Louis Browns finished 46-108, 56 games behind the New York Yankees, who won the World Series behind the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig. The Browns' problem was pitching, not hitting.

Five Browns players batted .300 or better in 1937: Bell (.340), Clift (.306), Ethan Allen (.316), Joe Vosmik (.325), and Sammy West (.328). The team compiled 10 or more hits for 15 consecutive games, a mark matched this season by the Florida Marlins.

However, the Browns pitching staff posted a 6.00 ERA. Three players - Oral Hildebrand, Jack Knott, and Chief Hogsett - lost 17 or more games that season.

Bell and Roberts also reached their high mark for doubles at similar ages. Bell's 51 doubles came at age 29; Roberts tied Bell's record at age 30 and broke it at age 31.

However, Bell was not as consistent as Roberts, who this season joined Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, Paul Waner and Stan Musial as the only players to hit 50 or more doubles three times.

Bell's next-highest totals were 40
doubles in 1936 and 39 doubles in 1939. He hit 51 doubles in the minors for the Texas League's Galveston Buccaneers in 1934.

Be sure to check out the St. Louis Browns Fan Club. The group will holds its 25th reunion in October.

Image source: Here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Five Moments from the 2009 Season that Offer Hope to Orioles Fans

After a miserable post-All Star Break performance, the Orioles are providing fans with some September highlights.

The Birds are still losing more than they're winning with a 6-7 mark this month; however, the team already has exceeded its September win totals from 2008 (5-20) and 2002 (4-24).

The O's are already more than halfway to their traditional 10 September wins, a mark they reached in 2007 (10-19), 2006 (10-18), 2005 (10-18), and 2003 (10-16).

The team's best September mark this decade came in 2004 when they went 18-10, which they followed up with a 42-28 start to the 2005 season. How does 60-38 sound?

Nevertheless, I've argued multiple times (here, here) that the team's second-half record in 2009 offers little indication of how the O's will perform in 2010.

A better indicator of the team's future potential is a series of moments the O's have produced during the 2009 season that provide ample reason to believe that Birds fans are not just being sold a bill of baseball goods.

Here are five Orioles moments from the 2009 season that, as Poison once said, give me something to believe in.

1. Nolan Reimold's Magical May

The 2009 season started with questions about who would play left field for the O's. Nolan Reimold provided the answer.

Reimold homered in three consecutive games during a five-game Orioles win-streak in May, including an 11th inning, three-run, walk-off blast to power a 12-10 victory and series sweep of the Blue Jays.

The consecutive home-run streak came during Reimold's 12th, 13th, and 14th games in the bigs.

Organizational depth. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

2. A September Surprise

The Orioles ended a 10-game slide against the Yankees earlier this month behind Chris Tillman.

One day later Brian Matusz pitched a gem in his final outing of the season to give the Birds their first road-series win against an A.L. East opponent in 2009. And it just so happened to come against the best team in baseball.

This is the cavalry of which Dave Trembley spoke.

3. Brian Roberts Doubles Down

Brian Roberts already has broken his own team record for doubles, tallying his 52nd such hit on Tuesday.

Roberts is the fourth player in MLB history to post three seasons with 50 or more doubles. The others are Hall of Famers: Tris Speaker, Paul Waner and Stan Musial.

During a season when he's been questioned about everything from his leadership to his hustle, Roberts has posted career highs in doubles and RBI and is closing in on his best years for runs scored and home runs.

He will soon record his fourth consecutive season with 30 doubles and 30 stolen bases.

That's leadership by example.

4. Nick Markakis' Quiet Consistency

Nick Markakis is listed as one of the most underrated players in baseball. If he keeps posting seasons with a .300 average, 20 home runs, and 100 RBI Baltimore's best-kept secret will be covert no longer.

Markakis is in good position to finish with a .300 average for the third straight season after batting .291 as a rookie. Meanwhile, his 13 outfield assists are tied for second in the American League. He led the category in 2008 with 17 outfield assists.

Roberts and Markakis re-upped with the team in the off-season and their numbers haven't gone down, which has fans debating which player should be named Most Valuable Oriole?

5. Matt Wieters Finishing Strong

Matt Wieters rallied the O's from a five-run deficit on Tuesday with a two-run single and a three-run homer.

He hit a two-run, walk-off homer on Wednesday and twice gunned down Carl Crawford on stolen-base attempts, which had happened to Crawford just once before during his eight-year career.

The kid has arrived.

Honorable Mention Moments: Felix Pie hits for the cycle, Luke Scott's home-run binge, Adam Jones' well-deserved All-Star debut.

Do you have some favorite moments of your own that produce optimism for the O's future? Share them in the comments section.

Image source: Here.

Noland Reimold Likes Playing in ... Kansas City?

Nolan Reimold did an online chat Wednesday on ESPN, which identified him as a "leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year."

As you'd expect, Reimold kept his responses fairly plain. The lone surprise is his choice for favorite baseball stadium besides Camden Yards.

Some of the more interesting topics Reimold addressed include the following:

Whether he dislikes Yankees or Red Sox fans more.
"Humm ...that's a tough one. I would have to say both equally. When they come into Camden Yards, they get loud with their cheers and stuff. They are very loyal fans."
Hitting his first major-league home run at Yankee Stadium against Mariano Rivera.
"Yes, I did get the ball back. I hit it to center field where there weren't any fans so the guys in the bullpen got it for me. I couldn't have hit it off a more respectable pitcher and to have it in Yankee Stadium was icing on top of the cake."
His favorite moment of his brief major-league career.
"I would have to say the walk off homerun against Toronto. Seeing all my teammates waiting at the plate for me was awesome."
And of course his favorite stadium besides Camden Yards.
"I like the newer stadiums so I will have to go with Kansas City. The big screen in the outfield is pretty nice."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Roberts Breaks His Own O's Record for Doubles

Move over Beau Bell.

With his run-scoring double in the third inning of Tuesday night's game against the Rays, Brian Roberts has set an Orioles record for doubles in a season with 52.

The total tops Roberts' previous record of 51, which he established just last season. Beau Bell hit 51 doubles with the 1937 St. Louis Browns.

Roberts now owns or shares the top three spots in the Orioles' record book for doubles in a season.

He is tied with Bell for the second-most doubles (51) and Miguel Tejada (50) for the third-highest total.

George Sisler, Aubrey Huff, Nick Markakis, Heine Manush, Cal Ripken, and Joe Vosmik round out the team's Top 10.

Roberts and Markakis Make "All-Underrated Team"

"He has more home runs (15) and RBIs (73) than reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia and more hits (164) than Chase Utley. He has a higher on-base percentage (.355) than Robinson Cano, and a higher slugging percentage (.463) than Dan Uggla despite the fact that Uggla has almost twice as many home runs."

Sports Illustrated's Ted Keith has named Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to his "All-Underrated Team." In fact, Roberts captains the squad of players who "are having quietly excellent years and they did not make the All-Star team.

After a lengthy opening anecdote about Roberts that's worth reading, Keith writes the following:
How underrated has Roberts been this year? He has more home runs (15) and RBIs (73) than reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia and more hits (164) than Chase Utley. He has a higher on-base percentage (.355) than Robinson Cano, and a higher slugging percentage (.463) than Dan Uggla despite the fact that Uggla has almost twice as many home runs. Roberts is also going to finish the season with over 30 stolen bases, is currently tied for the most runs scored (100) by a second baseman and will likely lead the league in doubles.
Here are a couple of recent Roar from 34 articles about Roberts' quietly outstanding season:

Brian Roberts Doubles Down but Still Has Doubters

Brian Roberts Hits Doubles Like He's Craig Biggio

Monday, September 14, 2009

Managers on the Hot Seat

SI.com's Jon Heyman tells us what we already know: Dave Trembley has some chance of leaving as the O's manager.
It wasn't a good sign when Orioles upper management put off a decision on Trembley's incredibly inexpensive 2010 option (believed to be for about $600,000) to gauge the Orioles' finish. Trembley's teams have been weak finishers, and it doesn't help him that Aubrey Huff and George Sherrill are gone in trades, or that top rookie pitchers Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman are being shelved due to innings counts. Trembley was brought in specifically because this is a rebuilding situation, as Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck recently pointed out. But at this point, there's a decent chance he won't survive to see it through.
Somewhat more interesting is Heyman's list of potential managers available to those teams that give their skip the old heave-ho at season's end. The list includes Bobby Valentine, Buck Showalter, Willie Randolph, Jose Oquendo, Kirk Gibson, Ryne Sandberg, and this Orioles-specific offering:
Tom Kelly. Have to assume he's enjoying retirement. But might old friend Andy MacPhail be tempted to lure him out of it?
Doesn't Heyman know that when it comes to his past MacPhail only has a thing for ex-Cubs?

For at least one weekend, "O" stands for Optimism

In these dreary late-season days you take optimism wherever you can find it. Thankfully, the Orioles provided an easy source during their weekend series with the Yankees.

We're not quite to "Wait 'Til Next Year" territory; more like "Wait a Couple of Years." Nevertheless, a series win over the Yankees - incredibly, the Orioles' first road series win this season against an A.L. East opponent - is good no matter when it comes.

The Yankees will always spend their way into contention, which never makes a "we're on the way up while they're on the way down" comparison in accurate. Still, it's encouraging to see our youth outperform their age.

On Friday, our young ace, Chris Tillman, matched a soon-to-retire veteran who has given the Orioles fits throughout his career, Andy Pettitte, to help the O's win.

As I wrote in a previous post, Pettitte has become the second all-time winningest pitcher against the Birds in large part because our own pitching has been so poor during the bulk of the left-hander's career. Tillman won't necessarily return the favor to the Yankees with his win total against them, but he will block the path of future Bronx pitchers looking to match Pettitte's numbers against the Birds.

Saturday's game was even more encouraging as Brian Matusz stared down A.J. Burnett for seven innings and hardly blinked. Matusz, a rookie on the rise, gave up one earned run while Burnett, a pricey free-agent acquisition seemingly on a sharp decline (just Google "Burnett struggles" for evidence), gave up six earned runs.

Granted, it's still pretty muddy around these parts, but at least for one weekend there was some joy in Mudville as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hey, Boston: Try Beating Teams Other Than Ours

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe has observed that outside of playing the Orioles, the Blue Jays, and the National League, the Red Sox are a pretty mediocre bunch.
No team in baseball has more wins over one opponent this season than the Sox do over the Orioles. Last night's win made the Sox a sterling 12-2 against Baltimore this year, a record that includes an unforgettable 11-10 loss on June 30 in which the Sox somehow blew a 10-1 lead. This year, the Sox have not lost a game to the Orioles in which the Boston starter was anyone other than John Smoltz.

The Orioles have not been the Sox' only punching bag. The Sox are 11-4 against Toronto (another doormat) and went 11-7 against the inferior National League. That leaves the Sox at 46-45 against everyone else. All of this suggests the Sox are far closer to being a mediocre team than they are an elite one.

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a duck.

Good luck making that case to Red Sox fans at Camden Yards. Something about "You're only good because you play us so much" doesn't sound like a winning argument.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dennis Martinez, Alfredo Simon, and Miami's Nica League

"When I'm home in Miami, I go about every other Sunday to watch them play," Dennis Martinez says. "It's just a great atmosphere."

The most recent edition of The Miami New Times tells the story of the Nica League, which it describes as follows: "A mix of former pros, up-and-coming stars, and some of the best Latin baseball this side of Managua or Santo Domingo. It all comes together from morning until sunset weekends at Tamiami Park in West Dade and McMillan Park near Kendale Lakes. And it's amazing."

The weekend Nica League isn't to be confused with the formal Nica League - the Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League (LNBP)

The New Times story includes quotes from Orioles great Dennis Martinez, a Nica League alum whose son Ricky is now a regular.

Youthful confidence aside, 23-year Major League veteran and future hall-of-famer Dennis Martinez knows talent when he sees it. "The Nicaraguan League is one of the elite leagues in all of Miami," says Martinez, one of only 18 pitchers to have thrown a perfect game and the winningest Hispanic pitcher in the Majors. "[The league] is pretty much between Division I and Division II [in college], but pitching-wise, it's better than Division II."

Martinez's 21-year-old son, Ricky, pitches and mans center field for first-place team Rivas. Last spring, he made only 12 appearances as a pitcher for Nova Southeastern University; he's attempting to reinvigorate his career by transferring and trying out for Florida International University, a Division I team.


"The league gives the opportunity to develop young players involved in high school and college," says the elder Martinez, now a pitching coach for the St. Louis Cardinals single-A affiliate in Jupiter. "Plus there are a lot of ex-professional players that play. It's a real good league."

Alfredo Simon also is a product of the Nica League. In fact, it's where the O's discovered him.
Just a few years ago, Alfredo Simón was pitching in the Nica League to prepare for the Mexican pro league. The Baltimore Orioles saw him pitch in Mexico, signed him in September 2008, and gave him a start in the Major Leagues the same year.

Simón is the rare ultimate success story, and most of the Nica League knows that. It's the fraternity that keeps them coming to a park where paracortos are shortstops, entradas are innings, and America's favorite pastime is béisbol.

The movie "Sugar" comes to mind, which means I'll have the Spanish version of Hallelujah stuck in my head all day.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Flashback Friday: Curt Motton Wins Game 2 of the 1969 ALCS

"The pitch was away on the outer part of the plate, and I did something I rarely did - I hit it to right field. I just wanted to make good contact and hoped things worked out."

-Curt Motton, on his game-winning RBI single in the 1969 ALCS

Curt Motton played some outfield, but really he was a career pinch-hitter.

One of Motton's most famous pinch hits - an 11th inning RBI single against the Twins forty years ago - carried the Orioles to a 1-0 victory in Game 2 of the 1969 ALCS. The O's won the series 3-0.

A powerful pull hitter, Motton set what was then a major-league record in 1968 when he hit consecutive pinch-hit home runs. Motton's power earned him his keep with Earl Weaver; however, his game-winning hit in the '69 ALCS was an uncharacteristic opposite-field single.

Motton batted against Ron Perranoski, who came on in relief of Dave Boswell, a Baltimore native, after Boswell tossed 10.2 innings of shutout baseball.

Boog Powell had opened the Orioles' half of the 11th inning with a walk and was sacrificed to second on a Brooks Robinson bunt. Boswell then intentionally walked Dave Johnson and retired Mark Belanger on a pop-out to third base.

In came Perranoski and up stepped Motton - pinch-hitting for catcher Elrod Hendricks - for his only at-bat of the game.

"The pitch was away on the outer part of the plate, and I did something I rarely did - I hit it to right field," Motton recalled in Jeff Seidel's 2006 book Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone? "I just wanted to make good contact and hoped things worked out."

The hit made a winner of the Orioles and of Dave McNally, who struck out 11 batters and gave up only three hits in 11 innnings of work.

Motton's ALCS effort capped the best season of his career. He batted .303 with six home runs and 21 RBI in 89 at-bats. Motton also tallied a .398 on-base percentage with 13 walks against 10 strikeouts for the 1969 Orioles, who won a franchise-best 109 games.

He had just one at-bat in the 1969 World Series, an eighth-inning pinch-hit appearance in place of Dave McNally in Game 5. Motton grounded out to shortstop during a 3-3 tie, and the Mets went on to score two runs against Eddie Watt in the bottom of the frame for a series-clinching 5-3 victory.

Motton won a World Series ring with the Orioles in 1970. His name appears alongside numerous Oriole greats in the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame.

Image: Here.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Luke Scott Closes In On Rafael Palmeiro for the Most Eutaw Street Home Runs

Rafael Palmeiro might want to make room for Luke Scott atop the Eutaw Street home run leaderboard.

Scott is one behind Palmeiro for most Eutaw Street home runs after his 412-foot blast on Tuesday against the New York Yankees. It was Scott's fourth bronze bomb in just two seasons with the Orioles, quickly approaching Palmeiro who hit his five in four different seasons (1996, 1997, 1998, & 2004).

Given the angle, Scott's long ball seemed like it could reach the Warehouse (watch the video); however, the hit fell some 27 feet short of the brick facade and does not rank in the Top 20 for longest Eutaw Street home runs.

It was the third-longest Eutaw Street home run of Scott's four efforts (420 feet on July 19, 2008; 415 feet on Sept. 8, 2008; 412 feet on Sept. 1, 2009; and 394 feet on July 11, 2009).

Earlier this season - on June 28 - Adam Dunn one-hoppped the Warehouse with a 442-foot shot that was one foot short of the all-time longest bronze bomb, hit by Henry Rodriguez on June 17, 1997.

Nevertheless, Scott holds a unique spot among bronze bombers.

-Scott is the third player to hit multiple balls onto Eutaw Street in the same season. Rafael Palmeiro did so twice in one day (April 11, 2007) while Jason Giambi accomplished the feat on consecutive days in 2008.

Giambi's three bronze bombs are tops among visiting players. No player has done it three times in one season.

-Scott is the first player to hit multiple Eutaw Street home runs in consecutive seasons. His visits to Eutaw Street in 2008 came on July 19 and Sept. 8. In 2009, they came on July 11 and Sept. 1. I'm sensing a pattern.

Fortunately, none of the Yankees' five home runs on Tuesday reached Eutaw Street.

The Bronx Bombers are the leading bronze bombers among visiting teams after a 2008 outburst left them with six total Eutaw Street home runs. The former leaders - of course - were the Red Sox with four.

Four Eutaw Street home runs have been hit this season, which is halfway to the record mark of eight that were hit in 2008. The next most dangerous season to be on the walkway during game action was 1996 when seven balls gave fans a reason to duck and cover.

For more information, see Roar from 34's archive of Eutaw Street home runs.

Image: Here.

The 10-year Anniversary of Cal's 400th Home Run

Sept. 2, 2009, marks the 10-year anniversary of Cal Ripken's 400th home run. The hit came during an 11-6 Orioles victory over Tampa Bay at Camden Yards. Ripken is one of only seven major league players to record 3,000 hits and 400 home runs.

Here's the story of my effort to be there for No. 400, as told in a Roar from 34 posting shortly before Cal's Hall of Fame induction ceremony:
Cal hit home run No. 399 on Sunday, July 25, 1999, in an 8-7 victory over the (then) Anaheim Angels. Thirty-five games later, on Sept. 2, 1999, Cal homered in an 11-6 victory over the Devil Rays to reach the 400 mark. Cal always saved his greatest work for the month of September.

Sixteen of the 35 games between home runs 399 and 400 were played at Camden Yards. The game during which I thought Cal would go deep was a Thursday afternoon contest on July 29 against the Texas Rangers. I played hooky from work to see it happen. It wasn’t the Devil who made me do it; it was Ken Rosenthal.

I’ve written before about my rocky parasocial relationship with Rosenthal, the one-time Sun columnist who suggested on multiple occasions that Cal needed to end The Streak. However, on the morning of July 29, 1999, Rosenthal’s column did more to entice than incite. I can’t track down the original piece, but my memory of Rosenthal’s sentiments remains vivid.

Rosenthal painted a beautiful baseball portrait. When better for Cal to hit his 400th home run than today, the writer asked rhetorically, on a beautiful afternoon at Camden Yards, right before the team heads out on a six-game road trip? Baseball lore suggests he’ll do it before a home crowd. Today could be the day. Today will be the day. You don’t want to miss it.

Before that Thursday I had skipped work for baseball only once, on Oct. 15, 1997, Game 6 of the ALCS. (Skipping school is another story.) The Orioles lost 1-0 to Cleveland in extra innings, but it was well worth it. So, on July 29, I decided once more to ditch work and head to the ballpark.

In the bottom of the 3rd, Cal, batting seventh, strode to the plate to lead off the inning. The Birds trailed by a run. In keeping with baseball etiquette, the crowd rose to its feet and applauded the archetypal hometown hero. I, like 43,710 others around me, desperately wanted to witness baseball history.

Almost on cue, Cal ripped a screaming drive into the shadows of the left field line. From my upper deck seat I couldn’t tell if the ball had cleared the fence, which only heightened the sense of anticipation.

Go to war, Miss Agnes?”

More like, “Go to second base, Mr. Ripken.”

Cal’s shot fell inches short of the seats. Instead of his 400th career home run, we were treated to his 22nd double of the season. It was his only hit of the day on a 1-for-3 afternoon.

More than a month later Cal hit the first of his final 32 career home runs, No. 400 of 431. My cousin, who rarely attends O’s games in person, was at Camden Yards that night. A stranger at a Westminster gas station randomly gave him his ticket.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Why Does Pettitte Always Beat the Birds?

Andy Pettitte dominated the Orioles on Monday just as he has done for the majority of his career.

There have been occasional exceptions to Pettitte's domination of the Birds. The most recent installation of the Eutaw Street Chronicles recounts one of those exceptions when the O's scored nine first-run innings against him on April 30, 1996. Otherwise, it's been lights out.

From The Sun:
Pettitte, 37, improved his career record against the Orioles to 26-6 with a 3.56 ERA in 39 appearances (37 starts). He is tied with Catfish Hunter for the second most victories all time against them. Another former Yankee, Whitey Ford, heads that list with 30 wins. Pettitte (12-6) was so dominant that in retiring the first 20 Orioles he never went to a three-ball count, and he went to a two-ball count just eight times.
There's no denying Pettitte's abilities. However, a primary reason that he is tied for the second-most victories against the Birds is that our own pitching has been so bad during the majority of his career.

As evidence, compare Pettitte's career numbers against the O's with the numbers he's posted against the Red Sox. We can hit like Boston, but we can't pitch like them.

The lefthander has started 38 games against Baltimore, 35 against Boston. He's won more than 80 percent of the former games, 65 percent of the latter. The difference, however, isn't team hitting.

Pettitte has a slightly higher career ERA against the Red Sox (3.76) than he does against the Orioles (3.65), but otherwise the numbers largely favor the O's bats over Boston's.

Pettite has given up twice as many home runs to the Orioles (18 to 9 for Boston), has a slightly higher WHIP (1.426 to 1.406), strikes out fewer batters per nine innings (5.1 to 7.1), and has a lower strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.56 to 2.41).

Both teams' batting numbers against Pettitte are roughly equivalent (the Orioles numbers are listed first): .275 average vs. .278 average; .338 OBP vs. .334 OBP; .384 SLG vs, .385 SLG; .722 OPS vs. .719 OPS.

Nevertheless, Pettitte is 25-6 against the Orioles and 17-9 against the Red Sox. The difference isn't the hitting, but rather the pitching. The O's simply haven't had the necessary arms to match Pettitte's consistency throughout his career.