Urban Shocker’s Weblog
Dominican Beisbol & Baltimore Orioles Baseball News

Feb
01
<a href="http://urbanshocker.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/mora.jpg”>

Melvin Mora & family at Camden Yards

(This article was originally published in volume 6, number 2 of La Prensa del Beisbol Latino, a publication of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).)

In late October, the Orioles declined their 2010 option on Melvin Mora, making their longest tenured player a free agent. While the move was unsurprising considering the third baseman struggled to post a career worst .679 OPS this past season at the age of 37, Mora’s decade of service in Baltimore deserves recognition.

Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson agreed. In September, “Number 5” made a rare appearance at Camden Yards to participate in a ceremony honoring Mora for playing more games at third base than any Oriole in the club’s 56-year history, other than Robinson himself. “To receive the award from Brooks, for me and my family, we feel blessed,” Mora acknowledged to The Baltimore Sun.

Mora’s family is worth mentioning, too. In 2001, his wife Gisel gave birth to quintuplets, raising the couple’s total number of offspring to six to match Mora’s uniform number. Just two years earlier, Mora had been a 27-year-old rookie with the New York Mets. They shipped him to Baltimore in the heat of the 2000 pennant race for a two-month rental of All-Star shortstop Mike Bordick. Few would’ve imagined that Mora would last a decade with the Orioles, including a pair of All Star appearances of his own.

One of ten children reared in Agua Negra, Venezuela, Mora saw his father shot dead at point blank range when he was six, boxed as an amateur and became a professional soccer player at age 16. He later accepted $10,000 to try professional baseball with the Houston Astros, but found himself laboring in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan by 1998 after failing to advance past Triple-A. Down but not out, he hit his way into a minor league offer from the Mets and made his major league debut the following year. He batted .161 in just 31 at bats over 66 games, but got an opportunity to play during the post-season, and batted .429 in the NLCS, including his first big league homer.

After being dealt to Baltimore, Mora performed as a semi-regular, “super sub” for a few seasons, shuttling between the infield and the outfield. When he led the AL in hitting for much of the first half and batted .317 in 2003, however, the O’s decided to let club home run leader Tony Batista depart as a free agent and make Mora the regular third baseman. Mora responded with a career year, including a .340 batting average that remains the highest qualifying mark in team history.

He started the Melvin Mora Foundation in 2005 to fund educational and medical needs in Venezuela, but his family established a year-round home near Baltimore in Fallston, MD. Though Mora’s career with the Birds appears to be over, it’s safe to say he’ll be back at Camden Yards sometime down the road to become the third Latino player in the Orioles Hall of Fame. Cuban Mike Cuellar and Luis Aparicio of Venezuela were inducted jointly in 1982.

by Malcolm Allen

Jan
31

ADAM JONES (Baltimore Sun photo)

      Food for thought for those of you who tend to disregard Adam Jones’ dual accomplishments last season of making the All Star team and winning a Gold Glove.   He had an historic season, one that should be remembered fondly for a long time by Orioles fans. 

Jones was the only Oriole to win a Gold Glove in a decade, and the first Baltimore outfielder to do it since Paul Blair 34 seasons before.  For Blair, it was the last of his eight Gold Gloves in a career marked by outstanding defense.  When “Motormouth” earned his first one in 1967, he was 23 just like Jones.  Some posters on the Orioles Hangout fan message board got into a bit of a tizzy recently when an internet writer claimed (among other things, most of which have been denied) that Baltimore manager Dave Trembley characterized Jones as (in the writer’s words) “a little mouthy”.  It’s hard for me to feel bothered by that remembering good ol’ “Motormouth”.
Here’s an interesting stat.

Adam Jones’ range factor per nine innings in 2009 was higher than any season Paul Blair had in his career.

2009 Jones = 3.21
1974 Blair = 3.18
1976 Blair = 3.17
1970 Blair = 3.13
1973 Blair = 3.00

Now I’ll return the forum to the people who want to argue that how many plays a guy actually makes is “meaningless” compared to how many the latest alphabet soup says he coulda woulda shoulda caught.  Then when they get tired of that, they can return to arguing how wins are “meaningless” etc. I’m kidding, but only half kidding.

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 Just to follow this up, I looked at 56 years of Baltimore Orioles centerfielders, 1954-2009.

Here are the top range factors per 9 innings based on playing at least half the club’s innings at the position:

3.22 – Al Bumbry (1982)
3.21 – Adam Jones (2009)
3.18 – Paul Blair (1974)
3.17 – Paul Blair (1976)
3.16 – Al Bumbry (1980)
3.13 – Paul Blair (1970)
3.06 – Chuck Diering (1954)
3.04 – Jim Busby (1957)
3.04 – John Shelby (1984)
3.01 – Mike Devereaux (1990)
3.00 – Paul Blair (1973)

Say what you will,but that’s pretty good company. Jonesy had a helluva year.

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In the modern Orioles 56 seasons in the American League, they’ve been represented on an All-Star team by 60 players, most recently Adam Jones in 2009.  At 23 years young when he notched the GWRBI for the AL with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly, Jones’ youth at the time of his first All Star selection bodes well for his big league future.  Only five players made their first All Star appearances in Baltimore Orioles uniforms at a younger age than Jones:  Two Hall of Famers, a guy who got traded for another, and a pair of kid pitchers who flamed out early due to arm trouble.

Right-hander Jerry Walker was the youngest Orioles All Star ever, just 20 years young when he started and won for the American League in 1959.  He went the distance for a 16-inning Baltimore victory less than six weeks later, never looked the same and was out of the big leagues to stay by age 25.  One year after Walker, the Orioles sent 22-year-old Chuck Estrada to the Midsummer Classic, and he too had his career cut short by injury.  Four Baltimore pitchers earned All Star selections when –like Adam Jones– they were 23.  Starters Bob Turley and Milt Pappas, both successful big leaguers, did it in 1954 and 1962 respectively.  Closer Gregg Olson did it in his sophomore season of 1990, while borderline Cooperstown candidate Mike Mussina was the last to do it, in 1992. 

When you look at position players, Jones’ peers as 23-year-old All Stars include Bobby Grich, who started at SS for the AL in 1972 before returning to the Game five more times as a second-baseman in his 17-year career.  Catcher Andy Etchebarren was on the American League squad a couple times early in his 15 seasons in the majors.  You may have heard of the other guy, too.  Fellow named Brooks Robinson.

Shortstop Ron Hansen was 22 when he started for the American League during his Rookie-of-the-Year campaign of 1960.  He never got back to the Midsummer Classic and got traded in a deal for Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio a couple years later, but carved out a 15-year major league career.  The only other Orioles to make an All Star team when they were so young?  Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken.

So congratulations again, Adam Jones!  Big tings a gwan in 2010.

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Oh, and one last thing.  I still think this should be Adam Jones’ at-bat music.  One of you twitterers let him know it’s the peoples’ choice:

Jan
19

Game One hero for the Gigantes - Alexi Casilla (Minnesota Twins)

GAME 1 – 1/18/10

GIGANTES 2, ESCOGIDO 1Leones lefty Francisco Liriano (Twins) ran his string of innings without allowing an earned run to 37 2/3, but one unearned run and the equally effective pitching of the Gigantes’ Jose Capellan resulted in a tie game that lasted through the seventh-inning stretch.  LF Fernando Martinez (NY Mets) homered in the third for Escogido’s only score, but the game was decided on a two-out, seventh inning blast by the Gigantes Alexi Casilla(Twins) off Cincinnati Reds closer Francisco Cordero.  Dario Veras worked a perfect ninth for the save, and Gigantes skipper Felix Fermin got an early leg up on his bid to win a sixth Dominican League title as a manager.  He earned five titles –including two Serie Final wins over Escogido– with the Aguilas in the last decade.

Aquilino Lopez

GAME 2 – 1/19/10

GIGANTES 1, ESCOGIDO 0Alexi Casilla (Twins) was the hero for the second night in a row, driving in the only run of the game in the sixth inning following a bunt single and a sacrifice.  Escogido’s Nerio Rodriguez took the loss despite seven strong innings, bowing to Aquilino Lopez and the Gigantes bullpen.  Wilson Valdez (Phillies) bunted his way aboard to start the winning rally, Lucas Montero moved him over, and Casilla recorded the GWRBI for the second straight day.  With the tying runner in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, Dario Veras popped up Brayan Pena and struck out Carlos Gomez (Twins).  The Gigantes lead the best-of-nine final series two games to none. 

Fernando Martinez

GAME 3 – 1/20/10

ESCOGIDO 13, GIGANTES 4LF Fernando Martinez (Mets) went 5-6 for five RBIs –falling a triple short of the cycle– to lead a 21-hit Leones attack as they clawed their way back into the series.  Shortstop Joaquin Arias (Rangers) chipped in four hits of his own, and Willie Otanez drove in three.  Aided by three unearned runs, Escogido led just 4-1 at the start of the eighth before pouring it on against the Gigantes bullpen.  Winning pitcher Nelson Figueroa (Mets)  and his relievers held down the Gigantes, save for Wilson Betemit (Royals), who homered twice and drove in all four runs.

Edward Valdez

GAME 4 – 1/21/10

ESCOGIDO 3, GIGANTES 2The Leones evened up the series behind another strong start by winning pitcher Edward Valdez, who’s now 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA this post-season.  SS Joaquin Arias (Rangers) ripped a two-run homer among his two hits to lead the offense, and relievers Merkin Valdez (Blue Jays), Jose Veras and Santiago Casilla (SF Giants) allowed just one baserunner over the final three innings.  Veteran Victor Zambrano, who went 0-4 in the Venezuelan League this winter, started and lost for the Gigantes.

JOSE CAPELLAN

GAME 5 – 1/23/10

GIGANTES 3, ESCOGIDO  2Leones lefty Francisco Liriano (Twins) ‘s string of 40 innings without allowing an earned run was snapped in the third on a bases-loaded double by Juan Francisco (Reds).  Francisco picked up a third RBI on a single two innings later, and that was enough for red-hot Jose Capellan, who’s now 3-0, 2.03 in the playoffs on the heels of a 7-3, 2.15 regular season.  Kevin Barker’s two-run shot off Capellan in the sixth brought Escogido within a run, but three Gigantes relievers combined to strike out seven over three hitless innings to finish it.  Dario Veras whiffed Game Three hero Fernando Martinez (Mets) for the final out with a man on first. 

WILKIN CASTILLO

GAME 6 – 1/24/10

ESCOGIDO 5, GIGANTES 4Wilkin Castillo’s two-run single was the first of three straight run-scoring hits with two outs in the Escogido half of the third, as the Leones put a four spot on the scoreboard to seize control of the game.  Southpaw Heath Phillips whiffed seven over six strong innings for the victory, and Escogido evened the final series at three games apiece after withstanding a ninth-inning scare.  Alexi Casilla (Twins) stroked a bases-loaded triple for the Gigantes to make it a one run game, but Escogido closer Santiago Casilla (Giants) struck out Nelson Cruz (Rangers) and retired Juan Francisco (Reds) on a ground out to nail down the victory.

ANTONIO BASTARDO

GAME 7 – 1/25/10

GIGANTES 2, ESCOGIDO 0The pivotal seventh game saw the two teams go a combined 0-16 with runners in scoring position and beating the ball into the ground for a combined 27 infield outs.  The Gigantes bounced into four doubles plays and failed to record a single extra-base hit, but managed to prevail on a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh after an error by Leones 1B Kevin Barker.  Antonio Bastardo (Phillies) earned the win in relief of Victor Zambrano after recording three of his five outs on strikeouts, and Dario Veras made it four saves in four Gigantes final series victories.  Nelson Figueroa (Mets) was the hard luck loser.

ARGENIS REYES scored the winning run to keep the Leones alive

GAME 8 – 1/27/10

ESCOGIDO 4, GIGANTES 3 (11 innings):  The Dominican final series is heading to a decisive Game Nine tomorrow.  The Leones were two outs from being eliminated when pinch-runner Gilberto Mejia scored on Wladimir Balentien’s groundout in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings.  In the last of the 11th, DH Brayan Pena greeted reliever Pedro Viola with a two-out, bases loaded, line drive single to center.  Gigantes 1B Wilson Betemit (Royals) appeared to be the hero in the top of the ninth, when his second homer of the game broke a 2-2 deadlock that had stood sincce the fifth inning.  Jose Capellan pitched well again, but it went for naught as a pair of unearned runs helped Escogido hang around long enough for Pena to win it.

FRANCISCO LIRIANO

 

GAME 9 – 1/28/10

ESCOGIDO 5, GIGANTES 2 The Leones del Escogido won their 13th Dominican League title –and first in 18 years– behind the overpowering pitching of Francisco Liriano (Twins).  Liriano limited the Gigantes to a lone infield single over five shutout innings in which he struck out 10.  Opposing starter Victor Zambrano didn’t surive the third, as the Leones seized control with a Wladimir Balentien longball to break the ice, and a strong game by 3B Alex Valdez (Angels).  Valdez (2-4 with a double) drove in or scored the other four Escogido runs,  dashing the championship hopes of the Gigantes, who pulled within 3-2 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth.  Congratulations to manager Ken Oberkfell and his players!

Dec
29

Reds 3B Juan Francisco led the Domincan League in HR & RBI

Please forgive my extended absence. 2009 was crazy, and only occasionally in a good way. Anyway, regular season action in the Dominican League wrapped up just before Christmas, and the playoffs are just getting started. Without any further ado, here’s a recap of the regular season (the last shall be first):

6th place – ESTRELLAS ORIENTALES

Southpaw Evan MacLane recorded the best WHIP among the league’s ERA qualifiers and went 5-2 to rank second in victories.  Unfortunately, the rest of the Estrellas’ pitchers went 10-33 in a pretty miserable winter campaign.  The club’s 4.99 ERA was the worst of any team, and their offense scored the fewest runs per game.  On the bright side, Detroit Tigers catcher Robinzon Diaz batted .333 to finish second in the batting race.

5th place – AGUILAS CIBAENAS

Despite a strong finish that brought their final record to .500, the once-mighty Aguilas followed up last season’s dismal post-season showing by missing the playoffs altogether.  An inability to win at home (10-15) undermined their fortunes, as did Victor Diaz’s power outage.  After breaking the league’s single-season home run record just a year ago, Diaz went deep just once in 134 at bats.  Longtime stalwarts Luis Polonia and Jose Lima looked their age and contributed little.  If you’re looking for positives, LHP Ben Jukich –a 27-y.o. from the St. Louis Cardinals– topped the league in strikeouts and 1B Kevin Barker posted the circuit’s third-best OPS.

4th place – TOROS DEL ESTE

Featuring power pitchers and contact hitters, the Toros held on to the fourth and final playoff spot behind the league’s highest scoring offense.  The keystone combination of SS Manuel Mayorson (Florida Marlins) and 2B Victor Mercedes both hit over .300, and Texas Rangers reserve Esteban German led the league in runs scored despite a .237 batting average (his OBP was .395).  Nobody saved more games than former big leaguer Julio Manon’s 17, and Cleveland Indians OF Jose Costanza swiped 12 bases in limited action to tie for tops in the circuit.

3rd place – GIGANTES DEL CIBAO

The free-swinging Gigantes led the league in home runs by a wide margin and featured three of the top five finishers in OPS.  Cincinnati Reds 3B Juan Francisco led all players in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases in a banner winter campaign.  Veteran Wilson Betemit (Kansas City Royals) had the best OPS of all at .928, while Erick Almonte (Milwaukee Brewers) was the on-base percentage king at .457.  OF Luis Durango (San Diego Padres) tied for the most steals.  On the mound, Gigantes pitchers led the circuit in ERA, paced by 28-y.o. RHP Jose Capellan (not to be confused with the Toros’ 23-y.o. LHP with the same name).  Capellan’s 2.15 ERA was the best among qualifiers, and his 7-3 won-lost record also made him the winningest hurler in the DR.

2nd place – TIGRES DEL LICEY

“El Glorioso” is back in the playoffs again thanks to a team effort that shows few of their players dominating the statistical leaderboard.  The primary exception being 34-y.o. Timo Perez, who hit .356 to win the batting title.  Perez also ranked second in OPS, while closer Oneli Perez (no relation) saved 16 of Licey’s 28 victories to be the second most prolific closer.

1st place – LEONES DEL ESCOGIDO

Escogido’s pitchers issued the fewest walks, and their hitters coaxed the most en route to the league’s best regular season record by 2 1/2 games.  Escogido players swiped the most bases on the circuit, and got solid play out of Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2B Alex Valdez, who batted .308 with a league-leading six triples.

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ROUND ROBIN PLAYOFFS

12/26/09

Licey 4, Gigantes 0Ubaldo Jimenez (Colorado Rockies) struck out nine (or 10 depending whether you believe the USA or DR account) in five innings of one-hit pitching, and batting champ Timo Perez went 4-4.

Escogido 3, Toros 2 (11 inn.):  Despite committing four errors, Escogido prevailed on Wilkin Castillo’s walkoff home run off Alexi Ogando.  Escogido tied the game in the 8th on a bases loaded walk by Toros closer Julio Manon.

12/27/09

Gigantes 4, Escogido 3 (12 inn.):  Escogido tied the game on Brian Myrow’s 8th-inning homer, but the Gigantes prevailed on Ramon Santiago’s line drive double to left in the 12th that scored Ambiorix Concepcion from first base.

Toros 3, Licey 1Veteran Ramon Ortiz pitched well, but his error handling a bunt in the 7th led to what proved to be the go-ahead run. 

 12/28/09

Escogido 7, Gigantes 0Edward Valdez hurled the first six innings of the shutout, and his Escogido teammates took advantage of seven bases-on-balls issued by Gigantes pitchers.  Carlos Gomez homered, stole a base and scored three times for the victors.

Licey 8, Toros 1Licey broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth when they scored runs on a throwing error and a balk.  “El Glorioso” batted around and blew the game open two innings later.  CF Jose Bautista had a big game for the winners, going 3-4 with a double, 2 RBIs and an outfield assist.

 12/29/09

Gigantes 6, Licey 5The Gigantes rallied from an early 4-2 deficit against Jorge Sosa, taking the lead for good on Juan Francisco’s two-out RBI single in the fourth.  Dario Veras worked a perfect bottom of the ninth for the save.

Toros 9, Escogido 3The Toros trailed 3-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, but pounded out 19 hits to win going away, including a 4-4 performance by leadoff hitter Jose Costanza.  SS Pedro Ciriaco drove in four runs with his three hits, three of them coming on a bases loaded double that gave the Toros the lead for good.

 12/30/09

Escogido 3, Licey 0Seven Escogido pitchers allowed a mere five singles, while Licey starter Daniel Cabrera struggled with his control yet again in a losing effort.  Willis Otanez’ RBI double started the scoring, and proved to be the game-winning hit.  After Licey’s league batting champion Timo Perez was twice hit by pitches, three of his teammates were ejected:  two pitchers in the fifth inning for throwing close to Escogido’s Carlos Gomez, and Ronnie Belliard in the ninth after he was hit as well. 

Gigantes 6, Toros 5Ruddy Yan drove in three runs with a double and a triple to help the Toros carry a two-run lead into the sixth, but the Gigantes rallied and prevailed in the ninth when Vince Sinisi singled home pinch-runner Luis Durango.  Just before allowing the decisive hit, Toros closer Julio Manon wild-pitched Durango into scoring position.

1/2/10

Escogido 5, Licey 2Escogido moved into sole possession of first place in the Round Robin playoffs behind a strong performance by southpaw Francisco Liriano, who whiffed seven over five shutout innings.  The Leones swiped six bases in the victory, three of them by leadoff hitter Freddy Guzman, who also doubled, scored & drove in a run.

Toros @ Gigantes:  postponed by rain

1/3/10

Gigantes 2, Licey 1With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Alexi Casilla snapped a 1-1 tie by greeting reliever Atahualpa Severino with a ground ball single to right that drove Francisco Peguero home from second with the winning run.  Licey put a man aboard in the top of the ninth, but Dario Veras retired Ronnie Belliard to save the Gigantes victory.

Toros 4, Escogido 3Ruddy Yan took Panamanian Manny Corpas deep with a man on in the seventh to snap a scoreless deadlock and put the Toros on top.  They led 4-0 after a pair of unearned runs in the ninth, but held on to win by the slimmest of margins after Alex Valdez’ three-run homer off Julio Manon in the bottom of the ninth got Escogido back in the game.

1/4/10

Escogido 4, Gigantes 3 (13 inn.):  The Gigantes forced extra innings with a two-out, pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, but Escogido improved the best record in the round robin playoffs on Kevin Barker’s decisive homer off Chris Baker in the top of the 13th.

Toros 8, Licey 6The Toros were being shut out on one-hit with two outs in the top of the seventh, but exploded to score eight times before the inning was over.  Victor Mercedes’ three-run homer got the Toros started, and their last three tallies were unearned following Licey shortstop Erick Aybar’s error.

1/5/10

Gigantes 9, Toros 2The Toros made errors on consecutive fifth-inning plays, and the Gigantes made them pay by cashing in three unearned runs to take control of the game.  Brandon Duckworth and three relievers limited the Toros to only four hits.  The Gigantes currently have the best winning percentage in these Round Robin playoffs.  Catcher Saul Soto whacked a couple doubles in the victory.   

Licey 7, Escogido 6Licey blew a 5-1 lead after a costly error in the bottom of the seventh, but prevailed after two miscues by Escogido infielders led to a pair of runs.  With the tying runners in scoring position and nobody out, three straight Escogido hitters falied to get the ball out of the infield against Licey closer Oneli Perez.  Emilio Bonifacio and Jorge Sosa were standouts for Licey. 

1/6/10

Gigantes 5, Toros 2The hottest team in the post-season improved their record at home in front of a  Three Kings Day crowd in the make up of a rainout.  Veteran righty Jose Capellan continued his stellar winter pitching, defeating  his younger southpaw namesake.   Wilson Betemit bashed a solo homer among his 3 RBIs, and youngster Francisco Peguero (SF Giants) added three hits and racked up an outfield assist. 

1/7/10

Gigantes 7, Escogido 5 (11 inn.):  For six innings, the Gigantes were shut out on a single hit by Escogido southpaw Francisco Liriano.  When Liriano departed however, the Gigantes fought back to force extra innings, and won the game in the 11th after Francisco Peguero’s bases-loaded single.  Escogido cut a four-run deficit in half in the bottom of the frame, but their rally came up shot.  Leones’ RF Wladimir Balentien stroked three more hits to raise his Round Robin batting average to a tournament-leading .467.

Licey 2, Toros 1Ubaldo Jimenez earned the victory with another strong effort (6ip 4h 1r 7k), and CF Jose Bautista’s third-inning home run snapped a 1-1 tie and capped the contest’s scoring.  Toros’ SS Pedro Ciriaco raised his post-season average to .406 with three hits in the defeat.

 1/8/10

Licey 9, Escogido 1Ramon Ortiz carried a shutout into the seventh inning, and Licey long balls from Jose Bautista and Ronny Paulino helped blow the game open in a six-run eighth inning against Franciso Cordero.  Shortstop Erick Aybar stroked four hits, drove in two and stole a base for the victors. 

Toros 9, Gigantes 2First-baseman Yurendell De Caster went 4-5 with a double, triple and 4 RBIs to lead the Toros to victory.  Lefty Raul Valdes pitched into the seventh to earn his second victory of the Round Robin.  Gigantes skipper Felix Fermin and pitcher Julio Del La Cruz were ejected in the third inning, along with Toros SS Pedro Ciriaco after De La Cruz hit Ciriaco with a pitch.  Despite the loss, the Gigantes (7-4) still have the best record of the semi-finals, with the other three teams all deadlocked at 5-6.

1/9/10

Gigantes 8, Licey 4Gigantes right-fielder Lucas Montero (Cleveland Indians) went 5-5 to lead a 15-hit attack that was also augmented by Wilson Betemit, who homered to drive in his ninth and 10th runs of the semifinals.  Montero also stole two bases and threw out a runner at third base in an all-around performance.  Phillies lefty Antonio Bastardo retired all seven men he faced, standing out as the most effective Gigantes pitcher.

Escogido 3, Toros 1Escogido righy Edward Valdez carried a no-hit bid for five-and-two-thirds innings to earn the victory.  Kevin Barker doubled twice for the winners, and back-to-back two-baggers by Willis Otanez and Wilkin Castillo early on gave the Leones a lead they’d never lose.

1/10/10

Gigantes 2, Licey 1 (10 inn.):  Wilson Valdez stroked a game-winning single for the first-place Gigantes after Licey’s Anderson Hernandez and Ronny Paulino made errors on consecutive plays to start the bottom of the 10th.  After issuing an intentional walk to load the bases, Licey right-hander Oneli Perez surrendered the walkoff hit.  The Tigres only score came on CF Jose Bautista’s first-inning home run, before Bautista was ejected for arguing a called third strike in the fifth.  New manager Jose Offerman also got the boot.  Lucas Montero made in nine times on base in two nights with a single, double and a pair of walks.  He also put down a successful sacrifice bunt.  The Gigantes have won more extra-inning games in this year’s semifinals than the other three clubs combined.

Escogido 7, Toros 1First-baseman Kevin Barker doubled twice and homered in a 4-4 performance to lead the surging Leones.  Wladimir Balentien stayed hot with a two-run homer of his own, and pitchers Health Phillips and Nelson Figueroa combined on a three-hitter.  The Toros and Licey are both now two full games behind Escogido for the second slot in the finals, with the Gigantes poised to seize the first spot barring a collapse.

1/11/10

Licey 10, Toros 1The Tigres built a 7-0 lead by the third inning and never looked back, as the Toros were held to a single run for their third consecutive loss.  Jorge Sosa worked six innings of two-hit shutout ball for the victory, and Erick Aybar and Emilio Bonifacio were the offensive stars.  Aybar stroked three singles and scored a trio of runs, while Bonifacio knocked in three with a double and a single.  In dropping to 5-9, the Toros became the first team to clinch a losing record in the Round Robin.

Gigantes 4, Escogido 3The Gigantes improved to 6-1 in one-run games this post-season.  Escogido centerfielder Carlos Gomez cut down what would have been to go-ahead run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh following Ramon Santiago’s game-tying single.  Santiago then swiped second, and scored the decisive tally on a two-out single by Francisco Peguero.  Jose Capellan earned another victory with seven innings of five-hit pitching.  He struck out seven.

1/13/10

Escogido 3, Licey 1:  Francisco Liriano has now pitched 22 innings without allowing an earned run in the Round Robin, registering a 24:3 strikeout:walk ratio and surrendering a stingy total of 11 hits.  Ubaldo Jimenez wasn’t sharp for Licey, and the Tigres cannot finish with a winning record in these semifinals.  Wladimir Balentien continues to swing a hot bat for Escogido, doubling in one run and scoring another.  The two teams combined went 1-21 with runners in scoring position.

Toros 6, Gigantes 1Raul Valdes’ perfect game bid ended on Juan Francisco’s two-out single in the seventh, but the Toros’ 32-year-old southpaw from Cuba whiffed nine in his eight innings to run his post-season record this winter to 3-0, 1.05.  The Toros used three two-out hits in a row to seize an early advantage, but led only 2-1 entering the bottom of the eighth when they poured it on against reliever Charlis Burdie.  Stat of the Day:  Gigantes LF Lucas Montero went 0-4…but he’s still sporting a .563 batting average in the Rounc Robin.   

1/14/10

Licey 7, Escogido 5Licey staved off elimination with a come-from-behind victory at home on the strength of a five-run sixth inning.  After Wily Mo Pena doubled home the tying run, the Tigres surged ahead on a pair of bases loaded walks, and pulled away when two runs scored on an Alex Valdez error.  Escogido pounded out 16 hits, but left 11 runners on base in a missed chance to clinch a spot in the finals.

Gigantes 7, Toros 4Nelson Cruz homered twice and drove in four runs to lead the Gigantes to a comeback victory in a meaningless game as far as the finals are concerned.  Saul Soto also went deep for the victors, who got 7 2/3 innings of shutout relief from six relievers after falling behind 4-1 early on.

1/15/10

Escogido 10, Gigantes 1Right-hander Edward Valdez improved to 3-0, 1.08 in the Round Robin with six strong innings, and 1B Kevin Barker went 4-5 to lead a 16-hit attack.  Wilkin Castillo drove in three runs, and Fernando Martinez added three hits for Escogido.  The Gigantes never threatened after falling behind by six runs in the first four innings.

Licey 7, Toros 1In a must win game for Licey, Jason Standridge and the bullpen carried a shutout into the bottom of the ninth, while Anderson Hernandez’ 3-hit/3-RBI night spurred the offense.  The Tigres remain one game behind Escogido for the second slot in the finals heading into tomorrow’s games.

1/16/10

Gigantes 10, Licey 6Gigantes RF Nelson Cruz blasted a second-inning grand slam off Edwar Ramirez, and Licey’s vain hopes of getting back to the finals vanished when they trailed 10-0 by the middle of the third inning when catcher Ronny Paulino and manager Jose Offerman had already been tossed.   Offerman slugged 1B umpire Daniel Rayburn.  Licey actually managed to bring the tying run to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Frank Martinez took a called third strike from Hector Cardenas and Anderson Hernandez flied out to end it.  Even if Licey had won, it wouldn’t have mattered because Escogido won the other game.

Escogido 4, Toros 3Regular season champion Escogido clinched a showdown with the Gigantes in the final thanks to three unearned runs after a pair of two out errors by the Toros in the fifth inning.  Escogido RF Wladimir Balentien went 2-4 to finish with a Round Robin-best .407 batting average among qualifiers.

Jul
14

Being the relatively broke Baltimore Orioles fan living in New York City that I am, I just have to check out the O’s Single-A New York-Penn League affiliate, the Aberdeen IronBirds, when they come to town.

Here are a few amateurish shots that stood out from the awful ones, taken at a pair of recent games. The Staten Island Yankees are evil by association, but they play in a beautiful ballpark that’s literally a two-minute walk from a free Staten Island Ferry ride from Manhattan. Takes you right by the Statue of Liberty. Watch out for aggressive tourists wielding fancy cameras. Tickets are $14.

The Brooklyn Cyclones, a New York Mets farm club, play right off the beach in Coney Island. Take the F train down early and get some swimming, sun, sand & original Nathan’s hot dogs. Tickets are $16.

Fow what it’s worth, the IronBirds whacked a franchise record four home runs to build a 7-2 lead in the game I saw at Staten Island. With a toddler dozing on my shoulder, I had to leave with the outcome apparently in hand, but those dastardly pinstripers in diapers rallied to prevail 8-7.

At Brooklyn, the IronBirds were down 3-1 entering the seventh, but scored three times to take the lead. The Cyclones tied it with two down in the bottom of the ninth, but Aberdeen won it in 12 to snap Brooklyn’s winning streak at 10.

6/28 @ Staten Island - Richard D'Oleo demonstrates a good eye

6/28 @ Staten Island - Richard D'Oleo demonstrates a good eye

At Staten Island 6/28 - pitcher Nick Haughian with his back turned after a foul ball

At Staten Island 6/28 - pitcher Nick Haughian with his back turned after a foul ball

7/8 @ Brooklyn - Tyler Sexton delivers a pitch that John Servidio whacked over the fence

7/8 @ Brooklyn - Tyler Sexton delivers a pitch that John Servidio whacked over the fence

7/8 @ Brooklyn - Ken Moreland (34) & Arthur Bonevacia

7/8 @ Brooklyn - Ken Moreland (34) & Arthur Bonevacia

3B Levi Carolus & SS Garabez Rosa in Brooklyn 7/8

3B Levi Carolus & SS Garabez Rosa in Brooklyn 7/8

Jason Rook leads off first after singling home a 7th inning run

Jason Rook leads off first after singling home a 7th inning run

Garabez Rosa - 90 feet from scoring the tying run

Garabez Rosa - 90 feet from scoring the tying run

Some Coney Island scenery as Tyler Sexton delivers a pitch

Some Coney Island scenery as Tyler Sexton delivers a pitch

Jul
07
Jeremy Guthrie checks out a new baseball after allowing another dinger

Jeremy Guthrie checks out a new baseball after allowing another dinger

First things first, I’m a big Jeremy Guthrie fan, so nothing I’m about to write is meant to disrespect him in any way, or belittle his considerable talent as a major league pitcher. Heck, part of me is even hoping to reverse jinx him somehow, resulting in an epic 13-1, 2.14 second half. That said, “Have you noticed how many of Guthrie’s pitches are getting hit over the fence this year?”

I ask because I have, and if the pace keeps up, Guthrie’s going to shatter the Orioles club record for serving up home runs. Witness Exhibit A, Baltimore’s single season leaders for coughing up long balls since the team commenced American League play in 1954:

35 – Scott McGregor (1986)
35 – Sidney Ponson (1999)
35 – Robin Roberts (1963)
34 – Mike Cuellar (1970)
34 – Scott McGregor (1985)
33 – Kris Benson (2006)
33 – Bruce Chen (2005)
33 – Ken Dixon (1986)
32 – Eric Bell (1987)
32 – Rodrigo Lopez (2006)
32 – Ben McDonald (1992)
32 – David Wells (1996)

When the Orioles hit the halfway mark of the 2009 season over the weekend, Guthrie had already surrendered 19 gopher balls. Road games and left-handed hitters have proved particularly troublesome for him so far this season but, quite frankly, if you scrutinize his splits, he’s getting hit hard for distance across the board.

Home runs aren’t the only thing he’s giving up more of. Triples, doubles and singles are on the increase and, of course, his ERA. The stuff still seems to be there, so hopefully his location will improve and the wins will follow. Meanwhile, let’s home for solo home runs and see how high Guts can climb the list.

Apr
21
Brad Bergesen is scheduled to debut tonight

Brad Bergesen is scheduled to debut tonight

On September 25, 1985, a powerful Baltimore Orioles lineup hit into four double plays and got blanked 3-0 in front of a sparse crowd in Milwaukee as Brewers right-hander Jaime Cocanower hurled his only career shutout. Many miles away, on what was also the 68th birthday of pitching guru Johnny Sain, Bradley Anthony Bergesen was born in Concord, California. Weather permitting, Bergesen will make his major league debut tonight, pitching in Baltimore for the Orioles against the White Sox.

Bergesen is scheduled to become the 46th Oriole to experience his big league baptism with a starting pitching assignment since American League baseball came to Baltimore in 1954. Overall, the 45 men who did it before him won 14, lost 16, got 15 no-decisions and pitched to a 4.27 Earned Run Average. Their average outing looked like this: 5.81 innings, 5.44 hits, 2.98 runs, 2.76 earned runs, 3.04 walks, 3.22 strikeouts & 0.64 home runs allowed. Here is a breakdown of the number of innings they completed:

100% completed at least 2 innings
95.6% completed at least 3 innings
82.2% completed at least 4 innings
68.9% completed at least 5 innings
53.3% completed at least 6 innings
37.8% completed at least 7 innings
15.6% completed at least 8 innings
8.9% completed at least 9 innings
2.2% completed 10 innings

Using Bill James Game Score, here are the five worst major league debuts by Orioles starting pitchers
7/30/2002 @ Tampa Bay – John Stephens gave up a grand slam to Jared Sandberg in the bottom of the first, one of three long balls surrendered in a three-inning, 10-hit, nine-run horror show
7/29/2006 v. White Sox – Jim Johnson walked three and got pounded for nine hits and eight runs.
9//29/1963 v. Tigers – In four innings, Wally Bunker was tagged for 10 hits and six runs. He was only 18-years-old!
7/18/2001 v. Rangers – Sean Douglas didn’t survive the fourth innings, allowing nine hits and six runs.
5/9/1987 @ White Sox – In the shortest outing of these 45 debuts, lefty Jeff Ballard allowed seven hits –including two homers– and six runs in two innings. Two of the runs were unearned.

Now, here are the best Oriole debuts by Game Score, ascending from fourth (first two listed are tied) to first.
8/5/2008 @ Anaheim- Southpaw Chris Waters hurled eight shutout innings of one-hit ball to beat the Angels. Until 34-year-old Japanese veteran Koji Uehara’s first game two weeks ago, the then 27-year-old Waters was the oldest Orioles to make his MLB debut with a start.
9/18/1988 @ Detroit – Bob Milacki also worked eight innings of one-hit shutout ball to give future hope in an otherwise bleak Orioles season.
9/26/1956 v. Yankees – Charlie Beamon walked seven, but struck out nine Yankees and pitched a four-hit shutout.
9/26/1962 v. KC A’s – 19-year-old Dave McNally fired a two-hit shutout, the first of many brilliant efforts from the lefty.
9/15/1966 v. Angels – Tom Phoebus gets the highest grade for his four-hit shutout, due in part to a nifty eight strikeouts versus just two walks.

Tom Phoebus debuted with a shutout in 1966

Tom Phoebus debuted with a shutout in 1966

Jesse Jefferson deserves a special mention. On June 23, 1973 at Fenway Park, he came within one out of shutting out the Red Sox 1-0 in his debut, but Rico Petrocelli blasted a game-tying home run. Not to worry, the Orioles went back ahead in the top of the 10th and Jefferson got three more outs for an extra-inning victory.

Sammy Stewart also deserves highlighting for striking out seven straight White Sox in his first game on September 1, 1978.

Here’s a complete chronological listing of Orioles pitchers who started a game in their MLB debut (Bold indicates they won):

Charlie Beamon -1956
Steve Barber – 1960
Dave McNally – 1962
Wally Bunker – 1963
Dave Vineyard – 1964
Frank Bertaina – 1964
Tom Phoebus – 1966
Dave Leonhard -1967
Jesse Jefferson – 1973
Paul Mitchell – 1975
Sammy Stewart – 1978
Dave Ford – 1978 (I was there for a doubleheader on my 8th birthday)
Mike Boddicker – 1980
Allan Ramirez – 1983
Bill Swaggerty -1983
Ken Dixon – 1984
Jeff Ballard – 1987
Jose Mesa – 1987
Curt Schilling – 1988
Pete Harnisch – 1988
Bob Milacki – 1988
Anthony Telford – 1990
Mike Mussina – 1991
Arthur Rhodes – 1991
Richie Lewis – 1992
John O’Donoghue – 1993
Scott Klingenbeck – 1994
Rick Krivda – 1995
Jimmy Haynes – 1995
Rocky Coppinger – 1996
Chris Fussell – 1998
Matt Riley – 1999
John Parrish – 2000
Lesli Brea – 2000
Sean Douglas – 2001
Rick Bauer – 2001
John Stephens – 2002
Daniel Cabrera – 2004
John Maine – 2004
Hayden Penn – 2005
Jim Johnson – 2006
Garrett Olson – 2007
Radhames Liz – 2007
Chris Waters – 2008
Koji Uehara – 2009

Good luck to Brad Bergesen. Here’s to three straight Orioles winning their big league debuts for the first time in club history.

by Malcolm Allen
malallen@live.com

P.S. – Bergesen’s scheduled to start on the 49th anniversary of Steve Barber’s debut in 1960, the earliest starting pitcher debut in Orioles history other than the aforementioned Uehara game two weeks back. While Barber lasted only four innings against the Senators against Memorial Stadium, allowing three runs (one earned), he will forever be distinguished as the first 20-game winner in club history.

Apr
17
Neifi Perez (#13) celebrates his slam off Al Reyes

Neifi Perez (#13) celebrates his slam off Al Reyes

Watching last night’s Orioles-Rangers game, I was excited in an otherwise awful contest (from a Baltimore perspective) to see the 2009 debut of right-hander Radhames Liz, who’d just been recalled from Triple-A. Unfortunately for Mr. Liz (and us O’s fans), his first pitch was hammered for a grand slam by Nelson Cruz. Now Cruz, like Liz, was born in the Dominican Republic, so I set out to discover how many times that had happened before.

Let’s begin with a little general history of Dominican players and their grand slams. The next Dominican-born big leaguer will be the 475th, and players from the D.R. have hammered 9,438 home runs in the majors. Roughly half the players from that country are pitchers.

Now, the first Dominican to hit a grand slam in the majors was Felipe Alou of the Giants. It came against the Cubs Dick Ellsworth on May 15, 1961. More than five-dozen of Alou’s countrymen have hit at least one, with the tally around 200 overall. Here are leaders:

Most Grand Slams By A Dominican-born Player
20 – Manny Ramirez
11 – Miguel Tejada
10 – George Bell
9 – Tony Batista
9 – Sammy Sosa
8 – Julio Franco
8 – David Ortiz
8 – Aramis Ramirez
7 – Adrian Beltre
6 – Albert Pujols & Fernando Tatis

My favorite all-time player, Joaquin Andujar, is the only Dominican pitcher to hit one. Even more impressive –Andujar never surrendered one in 2153 innings.

Roberto Pena, Frank Taveras and Luis Polonia all hit inside-the-park grand slams, while Rick Joseph, George Bell, Henry Rodriguez and Carlos Pena all hit walkoff shots with the sacks full. I can’t resist mentioning that Bell’s blast came off Mitch Williams.

The most famous Dominican grand slam feat was turned it by Fernando Tatis of the St. Louis Cardinals on April 23, 1999. Not only did Tatis hit two grand slams in a single game at Dodger Stadium; he hit them off the same pitcher…in the same inning!! (Chan Ho Park was the unlucky hurler)

Back to idea of Dominicans hitting grand slams off Dominican pitchers. It’s happened 18 times since Ozzie Virgil became the country’s first son to reach the majors in 1956 –five of them in the 2000 season alone. Al Reyes is the only pitcher to serve up round trippers to one of his countrymen with the bases juiced, while only one batsman has ever hit more than one off a paisano. Miguel Tejada did it –not twice, not three times– but four times against his Dominican brethren. No wonder Tejada is known as “La Gua Gua”. (“The Bus”, as in, he’s going to drive you home).

Here is the complete list of grand slams hit by one Dominican-born player off another:

6/28/1983 – PEDRO GUERRERO (Dodgers) off ELIAS SOSA (@ Padres)
8/19/1995 – NELSON LIRIANO (@ Pirates) off YORKIS PEREZ (Marlins)
6/11/1999 – JUAN ENCARNACION (Tigers) off MANNY AYBAR (@ Cardinals)
4/20/2000 – SAMMY SOSA (Cubs) off MIGUEL BATISTA (@ Expos)
4/27/2000 – HENRY RODRIGUEZ (Cubs) off JOSE LIMA (@ Astros)
5/21/2000 – ADRIAN BELTRE (Dodgers) off JESUS SANCHEZ (@ Marlins)
9/7/2000 – DAVID ORTIZ (Twins) off RAMON MARTINEZ (@ Red Sox)
9/30/2000 – MIGUEL TEJADA (@ Athletics) off FRANCISCO CORDERO (Rangers)
9/29/2001 – MIGUEL TEJADA (@ Athletics) off JOSE PANIAGUA (Mariners)
9/9/2002 – JOSE GUILLEN (@ Reds) off AL REYES (Pirates)
8/7/2003 – ENRIQUE WILSON (@ Yankees) off JOAQUIN BENOIT (Rangers)
9/15/2003 – MIGUEL TEJADA (Athletics) off RAMON ORTIZ (@ Angels)
9/25/2004 – PEDRO FELIZ (@ Giants) off YHENCY BRAZOBAN (Dodgers)
6/27/2005 – JULIO FRANCO (Braves) off VALERIO DE LOS SANTOS (@ Marlins)
7/24/2005 – NEIFI PEREZ (Cubs) off AL REYES (@ Cardinals)
5/19/2006 – TONY BATISTA (Twins) off JOSE CAPELLAN (@ Brewers)
9/10/2008 – MIGUEL TEJADA (@ Astros) off DENNY BAUTISTA (Pirates)
4/15/2009 – NELSON CRUZ (@ Rangers) off RADHAMES LIZ (Orioles)

by Mal Allen
malallen@live.com

Apr
15
Mark "The Bird" Fidrych on the hill

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych on the hill

The news of Mark Fidrych’s death hit me pretty hard.  He pitched in the first major league baseball game I ever attended and –though I was only six-years-old– he made a lasting impression and deserves more than a little credit for turning me into a lifelong baseball fanatic.  I never had the pleasure of meeting the 1976 AL Rookie-of-the-Year, but I mailed some things to him to be autographed over the  years.  He signed them and sent them back quickly without fail, and I was happy to receive a signed McCarthy postcard of “The Bird” less than a month ago.  As a tribute to one of baseball’s all-time great characters, here’s an account of the night I saw him pitch, pieced together by my boyhood memories, indispensable websites like baseball-reference.com & retrosheet.org, and (mostly) newspaper accounts of that game penned by Tom Boswell, Dan Shaughnessy, Bill Tanton & Lou Hatter.  Whether you’re a fan of Fidrych, the Baltimore Orioles or just the great game of baseball, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

On the Fourth of July, 1977 in Baltimore, Maryland, more people filed into Memorial Stadium than on any other Independence Day, and the hometown Orioles and post-game fireworks extravaganza were not the primary reasons why.  That distinction belonged to the opposing starting pitcher, whose face was on the front of Sport magazine, and had already graced covers of Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone since Opening Day.  Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was about to make his first (and what proved to be only)  local appearance, and an awful lot of people were determined not to miss it.  “Will the fans in the right field bleachers please sit closer together so that more people can get in the ballpark?” pleaded PA announcer Rex Barney as game time drew closer.

If they were coming to see the 22-year-old, frizzy-haired, pop culture phenomenon in all his spontaeous glory, they may have already been too late.  “You can already see that Fidrych is doing less of that stuff that the fans love,” observed Orioles manager Earl Weaver.  “He says he saw himself on TV for the first time over the winter, and it probably embarrassed him some.  He still talks to himself, but you don’t see him running around the infield as much, shaking everybody’s hand.”

Tigers veteran DH Rusty Staub agreed…to a point.  “When the game gets tight, his concentration is so intense that he’s still liable to do anything,” remarked Le Grande Orange. 

None of Fidrych’s antics would have attracted much attention at all if he hadn’t been such an effective pitcher, good enough to start the All-Star Game and led the league in Earned Run Average en route to Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 1976.  After tearing cartilage in his left knee during spring training in 1977, “The Bird” missed six weeks and lost his first two outings after returning.  He arrived in Baltimore riding a streak of six straight complete game victories, however, averaging less than one walk per game and pitching to a 1.33 ERA.  In other words, he was back, and pitching better than ever.

The six o’clock, Monday night affair got underway with Detroit centerfielder Ron LeFlore grounding out to short against Orioles lefty Rudy May.  Less than a year later, LeFlore –who served time for armed robbery before the Tigers discovered him in prison– would be played by LaVar Burton in a TV movie. 

Each team stranded a runner after a first-inning single, but the Tigers drew first blood when right-fielder John Wockenfuss clubbed a 2-2 pitch for a solo home run just over Al Bumbry’s glove at the 385-foot sign in left-center an inning later.  The right-hand-hitting Wockenfuss stood deeper in the batters’ box than the rules permitted, nearly stepped on home plate when he strode into the ball, and wiggled his fingers in anticipation when the pitcher went into his delivery.  When I close my eyes, I can still see my Uncle Charlie imitating him.

John Wockenfuss whacked a pair of dingers

John Wockenfuss whacked a pair of dingers

Detroit’s lead increased to 2-0 in the third on a trio of consecutive singles.  Tito Fuentes got it started with one-out safety to the right field corner.  Ken Singleton corraled the ball quickly to prevent extra bases, but Fuentes scored after Staub and 1976 first-round pick Steve Kemp each knocked hits through the right side of the infield.  With runners at first and third and only one out, Baltimore shortstop Mark Belanger’s long run into centerfield to make an over-the-shoulder grab of a blooper deserved every decibel of the loud ovation it inspired.  Wockenfuss grounded out to end the threat, as May settled down to retire 15 of the next 16 Tigers hitters.

Southpaw Rudy May - the winning pitcher

Southpaw Rudy May - the winning pitcher

The lead looked like more than enough for Fidrych.  Despite putting the leadoff hitter on in each of the first two innings, he didn’t allow any Orioles as far as second base until the fourth.  When Baltimore finally got their first baserunner in scoring position with two down, 1976 AL RBI leader Lee May struck out.  The O’s got another man to second with two away in the fifth, but Fidrych escaped again by making Bumbry his second strikeout victim of the evening.  Though Tigers manager Ralph Houk noticed his young ace was uncharacteristically getting a lot of pitches up in the strike zone, Fidrych described himself as “in the flow, in the groove, watchin’ ’em hit those sliders in the infield.”

“We killed all the worms around home plate for the first four or five innings,” Weaver agreed.

Nevertheless, “The Earl of Baltimore” encouraged his troops to go after Fidrych’s pitches early in the count and try to hit the ball to the opposite field.  Meanwhile, the Tigers right-hander boogied on the mound as Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” played before the bottom of the sixth, then proceeded to record his 10th & 11th outs on ground balls to begin the inning.  And then it happened.  “Orioles Magic” wouldn’t come into the local vernacular for another two years, but there’s simply no other way to describe what happened next. 

Baltimore right fielder Ken Singleton, who’d end up hitting a (then) club record .328 in 1977, fell behind no balls and two strikes before battling back to even the count.  On what Fidrych called a “perfect pitch”, 2-2 fastball in on the hands, “Singy” fought it off and pushed it in to left for a base hit.  On Fidrych’s very next pitch, a switch-hitting rookie named Eddie Murray took him deep.  Fidrych punched the air with his fist as the ball sailed over the fence in left-center, his lead and his shutout bid disappearing into the night.  Murray had been strictly a right-handed hitter until the previous year, but the clutch longball demonstrated his early mastery of a learning curve that would eventually lead him to the Hall of Fame.

Eddie Murray - Rookie's blast tied the game

Eddie Murray - Rookie's blast tied the game

Lee May kept things going for the Orioles with a line drive double to the left-field fence, unnerving Fidrych, who stalked around the mound and audibly protested “What?!” when personal catcher Bruce Kimm signaled him to intentionally walk Doug DeCinces.  After half the Tigers infield approached the mound to convince “The Bird” it was standard strategy with weak-hitting catcher Rick Dempsey due up next, Fidrych delivered a pitch that “The Dipper” lined into right to drive home the go-ahead run.  Baltimore’s lead grew to 5-2 when Belanger dropped a pop fly double just fair into short right field with two strikes, driving Fidrych to scream obscenities in frustration.  “When a team starts finding the holes, the other pitcher just has to start thinking,” Fidrych explained.

Fidrych would have plenty of time to do that.  Al Bumbry grounded a single up the middle for the sixth straight Orioles hit (around the intentional walk), and Fidrych’s night was all over, his shortest outing of the season to that point.  He got a rare standing ovation for a visiting player, and tipped his cap twice in response before firing his glove in frustration as he entered the first-base dugout (that drew boos).  “You have to respect the fans, you have to show your gratitude,” said Fidrych after the game.  “It was neat, but they came to see me get shelled and that’s what happened.”

Detroit closed the gap on solo homers Staub in the eighth, and another long ball by Wockenfuss off tiring Rudy May’s first pitch in the ninth.  Southpaw reliever Tippy Martinez struck out the first man he faced, but the Tigers got the tying run to the plate after one-out single.  With powerful pinch-hitter Ben Oglivie representing the tying run, the game ended with an exciting play that made Weaver rightfully look like a genius.  Tony Muser had replaced Lee May at first base for defensive purposes, and he dove to spear Oglivie’s line drive, landing with half his body in foul territory.  Muser then scrambled partially to his feet and slid headfirst into the first base bag to beat Detroit’s Milt May for the game’s final out on an unassisted double play. 

Tony Muser - what a play!

Tony Muser - what a play!

Final score:  Orioles 6, Tigers 4.   The whole thing took just an hour and 59 minutes! 

“The Fourth of July was a bang…for Baltimore.  I saw to that.” said Fidrych in the visiting clubhouse when it was through.  “Things sure changed fast.  To get six runs with two outs and nobody on.  I’ll bet they don’t do that again all year.”

He was right about that, but missed the mark a bit when he said “They’re (fans) only gonna come as long as I win.  If I wasn’t winning, I’d be just another player.  They ain’t gonna drive no hour to see a guy who loses.”

Mark Fidrych lost to the White Sox four days later in Detroit.  Four days after that he lasted only 15 pitches against the Blue Jays before exiting with a sore shoulder.  He would win only four more major league games in just 16 starts the next three years before injuries ended his once bright big league career for good, but the fans never forgot him or stopped cheering for him…and they never will.  Rest in peace, Mark.

by Malcolm Allen
malallen@live.com

Apr
10
Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins heads home (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria)

Emilio Bonifacio of the Marlins heads home (Reuters photo by Carlos Barria)

 

On Monday afternoon, Florida Marlins third-baseman Emilio Bonifacio made headlines by recording the first inside-the-park homer on Opening Day in over four decades.  For Bonifacio, a switch-hitting 23-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, it was the first “long ball” of his major league career, and he did it in his Marlins debut against the same Washington Nationals squad that traded him over the winter.  For all that, the Florida fans demanded a curtain call.

As a footnote, the pitcher that served up the “blast” –right-hander Julian Tavarez– is also Dominican, which prompted me to examine all the inside-the-park homers hit by players from the D.R.  Starting with Cardinals second baseman Julian Javier’s accelerated tour of the bases on 7/8/1967 in Philadelphia, a total of 41 inside-the-parkers have been hit by 34 different Dominicans.  Prior to Bonifacio’s earier this week, only Carlos Febles of the Royals had managed to hit one off one of his countrymen.  For Febles, it was also the first homer of his career, coming on 4/14/1999 in Cleveland against the Indians Bartolo Colon.

Alfredo Griffin, Angelo Encarnacion & Timo Perez also hit their first major league homers without clearing the wall.  Other players who’ve done it include Javier’s son Stan, and the Bell brothers –George & Juan– who did it within six days of each other. 

Roberto Pena, Frank Taveras & Luis Polonia all stroked inside-the-park grand slams.  Joaquin Andujar remains the only Dominican pitcher to hit an inside-the-parker.  The following players from the D.R. have achieved the feat twice:  Manny Mota, Cesar Geronimo, Juan Samuel, Luis Polonia, George Bell, Sammy Sosa & Angel Berroa.

The only pitcher to allow more than one inside-the-parker to a Dominican player is former Cy Young winner Barry Zito, who surrendered a pair of them when he was with Oakland.

Here is the complete list of Dominican Inside-the-Park Home Runs in the major leagues:

7/8/1967 – JULIAN JAVIER (Cardinals @ Phillies) off Dick Hall

7/1/1969 – MANNY MOTA (@ Dodgers v. Astros) off Denny Lemaster

5/30/1970 – ROBERTO PENA (@ Brewers v. Tigers) off Les Cain    ***Grand Slam!***

6/29/1971 – CESAR CEDENO (@ Astros v. Braves) off Phil Niekro

6/11/1972 – MANNY MOTA (@ Dodgers v. Pirates) off Bruce Kison

7/2/1972 – CESAR GERONIMO (Reds @ Padres) off Mike Corkins

6/10/1975 – CESAR GERONIMO (@ Reds v. Pirates) off Bob Moose

8/5/1977 – FRANK TAVERAS (Pirates @ Reds) off Doug Capilla   ***Grand Slam!*** (1st career HR)

8/14/1979 – JOAQUIN ANDUJAR (@Astros v. Expos) off Bill Lee

8/28/1979 – ALFREDO GRIFFIN (@ Blue Jays v. A’s) off Rick Langford (1st career HR)

4/30/1983 – JULIO FRANCO (Indians @ Royals) off Steve Renko

6/6/1984 – GEORGE BELL (Blue Jays @ Tigers) off Aurelio Lopez

8/7/1984 – JUAN SAMUEL (Phillies @ Expos) off Bryn Smith

8/10/1984 – TONY FERNANDEZ (@ Blue Jays v. Orioles) off Dennis Martinez

8/25/1985 – JUAN SAMUEL (@ Phillies v. Giants) off Jim Gott

6/9/1986 – MARIANO DUNCAN (@ Dodgers v. Reds) off Tom Browning

6/15/1987 – DOMINGO RAMOS (@ Mariners v. White Sox) off Jim Winn

7/29/1990 – FELIX JOSE (Athletics @ Twins) off David West

8/14/1990 – LUIS POLONIA (@ Angels v. Yankees) off Tim Leary    ***Grand Slam!***

8/9/1991 – LUIS POLONIA (@ Angels v. Athletics) off Dave Stewart

5/22/1992 – STAN JAVIER (@ Dodgers v. Pirates) off Stan Belinda

9/18/1992 – GEORGE BELL (White Sox @ Indians) off Dave Mlicki

9/24/1992 – JUAN BELL (@ Phillies v. Cubs) off Frank Castillo

8/19/1995 – ANGELO ENCARNACION (@ Pirates v. Marlins) off Chris Hammond (1st career HR)

9/3/1995 – GERONIMO BERROA (Athletics @ Yankees) off David Cone

5/26/1997 – SAMMY SOSA (Cubs @ Pirates) off Francisco Cordova

4/14/1999 – CARLOS FEBLES (Royals @ Indians) off Bartolo Colon (1st career HR)

5/21/2000 – ENRIQUE WILSON (@ Indians v. Yankees) off Orlando Hernandez

9/24/2000 – TIMO PEREZ (Mets @ Phillies) off Bruce Chen  (1st career HR)

10/6/2001 – SAMMY SOSA (@ Cubs v. Pirates) off Tony McKnight

5/11/2002 – RAUL MONDESI (Blue Jays @ Athletics) off Barry Zito

8/1/2003 – ANGEL BERROA (@ Royals v. Devil Rays) off Joe Kennedy

9/17/2004 – ABRAHAM NUNEZ (Royals @ Indians) off Rick White

5/15/2005 – ANGEL BERROA (@ Royals v. Devil Rays) off Mark Hendrickson

5/26/2006 – VLADIMIR GUERRERO (@ Angels v. Orioles) off Todd Williams

7/23/2006 – ADRIAN BELTRE (@ Mariners v. Red Sox) off Mike Timlin

9/4/2006 – NELSON CRUZ (Rangers @ Athletics) off Barry Zito (Cruz hit one over the fence later that game)

9/7/2006 – JOSE REYES (@ Mets v. Dodgers) off Brad Penny

9/27/2006 – HANLEY RAMIREZ (@ Marlins v. Reds) off Todd Coffey  (He also hit one over the fence earlier)

8/31/2007 – EDWIN ENCARNACION (Reds @ Cardinals) off Anthony Reyes

4/6/2009 – EMILIO BONIFACIO (@ Marlins v. Nationals) off Julian Tavarez (1st career HR)

 

by Mal Allen

malallen@live.com