This is the first of my All-Time All-Star team selections, and it involves the team I have followed for the last 38 years, the Baltimore Orioles. When the American League became a major league circuit in 1901, this franchise was the Milwaukee Brewers. But after one awful season there, the team moved to St. Louis in 1902 and became the Browns. Eventually, the franchise moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season, where it has been ever since. Here are my choices for the greatest players at each position in team history.
Catcher: Chris Hoiles. No, he couldn't throw, and he wasn't much of a catcher, but he could hit the ball. He had 151 home runs as an Orioles, and had 29 in 1993. He also had two other 20 home run seasons in his career, and was always a threat to go deep.
Other notables: Gus Triandos, Rick Dempsey, Hank Severeid, Rick Ferrell.
First Base: George Sisler. Yes, he last played for the Brownies in 1927, but had modern medicine been around in 1923, he may have held the career hits record before Pete Rose.
In 1922, Sisler had a great season which unfortunately ended prematurely with a shoulder injury, reducing him to pinch-hitter status in the last four weeks, as the Brownies were fighting it out with the Yankees for the American League pennant. With Sisler incapacitated, the Yanks won it, but Sisler had his second .400 season, batting .420. That's not a misprint. He led the league in steals, runs, and base hits despite his injury and won the American League MVP award.
In 1923, he had a sinus infection that left him with double vision, and missed the entire season. Neither the Brownies nor his hitting every recovered. The sad part about it was that a simple antibiotic would've cured him, but penicillin wasn't available back then. So Sisler went from one of the best players in baseball to just a good hitter after that. Before his injury, (1917-1922) he had averages of .353, .341, .352, .407 (with 257 hits, the single season record before Ichiro), .371, and .420. After that, his best average was a .345 posted in 1925.
I rate him over Eddie Murray because it was clear that Sisler was one the best three players at the time, and put together more impressive seasons. He also didn't have a lot of help. Sisler was also a Gold-Glove quality first baseman, and a great baserunner. That's why he's the best in franchise history.
Other Notables: Eddie Murray, Boog Powell, Rafael Palmeiro, George McQuinn of the old Brownies.
Second Base: Brian Roberts. It's a shame that injuries have limited him in the past two seasons, but before that, he was a doubles machine, from 2004-2009, blasting 50, 45, 34, 42, 51, and an Oriole record 56 doubles in those years. He also is third in franchise history in career steals, and fifth in doubles. He is the best hitter the Baltimore version of the franchise has ever had.
Other Notables: Bobby Grich, Davey Johnson, Del Pratt, Marty McManus.
Shortstop: Oh, gee, who am I gonna pick here? Hmm,....any other answer than Cal Ripken Jr is a joke. 2652 consecutive games, 3184 base hits, 431 homers, 1647 runs scored, two MVP awards, Hall of Fame, need I go on?
Other Notables: Bobby Wallace, Vern Stephens, Miguel Tejada.
Third Base: Closer than you might think. Harlond Clift was a great baseball player, the first third baseman to hit 30 home runs in a season. Up until 1930, third base was a defensive position first. Second base was considered more of an offensive position because double plays weren't a big part of the game until then. Clift was an outstanding defensive third baseman, setting a record for starting 50 double plays in 1937. He was a prototype for Mike Schmidt, a guy who drew a lot of walks, hit homers, fielded his position well, and hit for a decent average. But he was done at 30. And Brooks Robinson was still rolling on in is 30s.
Brooks wasn't an outstanding hitter by any means. He was stretched as a clean-up or #3 hitter, but fit in perfectly in the #5 hole once Frank Robinson and Boog Powell took over those spots. He did hit 268 home runs, 482 doubles, and won the American League MVP award in 1964.
And then there's all those Gold Gloves. 16 of them to be exact. And that magic glove made him a superstar in the 1970 World Series, where he frustrated the Big Red Machine by snagging almost everything they hit at him. Despite Cal's success, Brooks is still Mr. Oriole to most fans in Baltimore.
Other Notables: Melvin Mora, Doug DeCinces.
Outfield: My teams will not consist of just three outfielders. They will consist of a left fielder, a center fielder, and a right fielder. If Henry Chadwick had any sense in 1876, he would have separated outfield statistics in that matter rather than lumping them all together. That is my rant for the day,...carrying on,...
Left Fielder: Brady Anderson. If you leave 1996 out of it, Anderson was a great leadoff hitter who had consistent stats from 1992 on. High on-base percentage, double-digit home runs, Gold Glove-quality left or center fielder, 20-25 steals a season, a fine ballplayer.
Yeah, okay, let's talk about 1996, when he hit 50 home runs. I leave it to speculations how he got that total, but it was the '90's, and he never did it again, or got anywhere close.
He's third all-time in franchise history in walks, second in steals, and the all-time O's hit by pitch leader. And fifth in runs scored. The O's have tried to replace him, but have never found the magic formula.
Other Notables: Ken Williams (the first 30-30 guy), Don Buford.
Center Field: Tough postion here, lots of candidates. My choice is Paul Blair, who became my favoirte player when I was a kid. An 8-time Gold Glove winner, he was the best defensive center fielder I have ever seen. He played shallow, and could go back and get a ball better than anyone I can remember. Even late in his career, he was a defensive asset.
And he wasn't bad at the plate. His 1969 season was his best, with 102 runs scored, and 26 home runs out of the #2 hole. But a beaning by Ken Tatum in the 1970 season seriously affected the rest of his career, but he was still a decent hitter until 1972, when he put the blame on the front office for trading Frank Robinson, thus not giving him as many good pitches to hit. There may be some truth to that.
Other Notables: Burt Shotton, Baby Doll Jacobson, Sammy West, Al Bumbry. (Adam Jones needs one more year to qualify. I only take players who have played five years with one of the old franchises.)
Right Field: Frank Robinson made the Orioles a winner from the moment he came to Baltimore in the Milt Pappas trade in December of 1965. The O's before that had been a contender, but lacked both the big bat and the leader to get them over the hump. Frank was both. He brought the more aggressive National League attitude to the American League and what did he do in 1966? Simply won the A.L. Triple Crown with a .316 average, 49 homers and 122 RBi. Won the World Series MVP award with decisive homers in games one and four. Won the Hickcock Belt as the outstanding athlete of 1966. And brought Baltimore it's first World Series crown.
An injury sliding in 1967 ruined his vision for over a year, but he came back to lead the O's to three more pennants in 1969, 1970, and 1971, after which he was traded, and the team briefly nose-dived. Suffice it to say that no Oriole player meant as much to make the team a winner than Frank Robinson.
Other Notables: Ken Singleton, Johnny Tobin, George Stone.
Designated Hitter: Harold Baines. He is the only long-term Oriole DH, and was fantastic in that role in his three trips of duty in his home state. He made the American League All-Star team in 1999 as an Oriole, and had a .301 career average with the team.
Pitching: I will now pick four starters and a reliever to fill out the pitching>
#1 Starter: Jim Palmer. 268 wins is still the franchise record, and nobody will ever get close to that in this age of pitch-count crazies who run baseball teams. He won three Cy Young Awards, 4 Gold Gloves, and won 20 or more games in a season 8 times. His most impressive statistic to me is that in 3948 innings, he never allowed a grand slam homer. A no-questions asked, first-ballot Hall of Famer.
#2 Starter: Urban Shocker. A great pitcher who won 20 or more game four times for the Brownies in the 1920s, he was a 27-game winner in 1921. He had a short life, as he died of a heart attack in 1928 at the age of 37, but had a fine career for both the Browns and the Yankees.
#3 Starter: Dave McNally. One of the mainstays of Earl Weaver's Orioles, he won 20 or more games each season from 1968-1971. He's second on the O's career win list with 181, and is in the top three in most pitching categories. Also hit a grand slam home run in game three of the 1970 World Series.
#4 Starter: Mike Cuellar. The Cuban left-hander threw pitches from all variety of angles, and was a four-time 20 game winner in Baltimore. He also shared the 1969 Cy Young Award with Denny McLain, and hit a windblown grand slam in the 1969 American League Championship Series. He was 143-88 in his Orioles' career.
Other Notables: Jack Powell, Ned Garver, Mike Mussina.
Relief Ace: Tough call here. Lots of great candidates. Gregg Olson was great for a short period of time, and I'll go with him, with some reservations. He was the 1989 American League Rookie of the Year, and honestly, that was probably his best season. He followed it up with a 37-save season in 1990, but was never as good as we was in those two seasons. Still, he holds the franchise career record with 160 saves, and was fine until arm injuries limited his usefulness.
Other Notables: Stu Miller, Hoyt Wilhelm, Tippy Martinez, Dick Hall, George Caster with the Brownies.
Manager: Earl Sidney Weaver. Won four American League pennants, six American League East titles, and one World Championship which is the major blotch on his record. But he was the winningest manager in baseball during his 1968-1982 run, and wound up in the Hall of Fame, to the chagrin of former major league umpires everywhere. Nobody else in franchise history was ever as successful as a manager, and nobody got more out of a major league roster than he did.
Other Notables: Paul Richards, I guess.
Those are my choices. What are yours?
Robert Levine from Brookline, Massachusetts on October 14, 2020:
No Mark Belanger in "Other Notable Mentions" for shortstop?
I remember as a kid listening on the radio to the game in which Earl Weaver came back from retirement; the crowd gave him a long standing ovation when he came out to give the lineup to the umpire. It was like the return of King Arthur from Avalon or something.
Brian Lokker from Bethesda, Maryland on November 03, 2011:
Very interesting and informative hub. I'm mostly a National League fan, so I don't know enough about the Orioles to suggest alternatives to your choices. They seem right to me. George Sisler and Frank Robinson were great players, two of the best ever, and I agree with your choice of Sisler over Murray. The pitching choices are good too -- I didn't know that Jim Palmer gave up no grand slams. Amazing!