#39 - Gus Triandos, C (1955-62)
You know the scene. It's not safe for work. Herc and Carv, the most juvenile of fictional Baltimore police officers, banter in the parking lot of the Western District station and Herc is presented with a scenario that leads to him revealing a certain fondness, and pity, for Gus Triandos, an old-time Baltimore Orioles player who had the misfortune of having to catch the knuckleball of Hoyt Wilhelm.
For Triandos, who played eight seasons in an Orioles uniform, this scene is all that most people know about him. He has a career worth remembering for his own merits. Coming to the Orioles in a massive seventeen-player trade with the Yankees after the 1954 season, Triandos went on to play in 953 games in an O's uniform. That still ranks 18th in the franchise's Baltimore history, which is more than even a Hall of Fame Oriole like Frank Robinson (827 games).
Herc's favorite Oriole did more than just take the field in so many games. He batted a respectable .249/.326/.424, with a league average OPS in seven of his eight Orioles seasons. Overall, he was 7% better than the average hitter (that is, a 107 OPS+) in his eight years with the O's. He made three All-Star teams and finished with Most Valuable Player votes in four years, with his highest finish being 11th in 1958.
Triandos hit 142 home runs in an Orioles uniform, topping out at 30 in a single season in '58. He hit six triples in his Orioles career and stole a single base without ever being caught. Catcher speed was catcher speed, even in the 1950s and 60s. Do you think that '58 Gus Triandos could beat Matt Wieters from home to first?
One thing Triandos has going for him is that he hit an inside-the-park in Memorial Stadium on August 31, 1957 against Boston. That would have been something to see. This does not appear to have involved the literal death on the field of a Red Sox outfielder because, according to the box score, none of them were replaced.
When it came to throwing out runners, he was no slouch, either. Triandos threw out 175 out of 353 would-be base-stealers over eight seasons, which is nearly half. That's a little less impressive than it sounds: the average catcher threw out 41% of runners during his career. By comparison, catchers only threw out 26% of runners in the 2013 season, probably a reflection of modern runners being better at the craft of stealing bases.
It's hard to forget about Triandos' experience catching Wilhelm's knuckler. Triandos had a bit of a problem with passed balls even before the '59 season, when Wilhelm spent the whole year in the rotation. In '58, Triandos allowed 12 passed balls. That spiked to 28 as he tried to get a grip on the knuckleball with limited success. Fortunately for Triandos, Wilhelm only made 43 starts as an Oriole, pitching mostly out of the bullpen.
Like a few others who have made their way into our Top 40, Triandos never had the good fortune to play on an Orioles team that made it into the playoffs. The closest that he came was in the 1961 season, when the Orioles won 93 games in the first 162-game season. That was only good for third place in the ten-team American League, behind New York and Detroit.
After the 1962 season, the Orioles shipped Triandos to the Tigers along with Whitey Herzog in exchange for another catcher, Dick Brown, who has a nice name but only had a .641 OPS in three years with the O's. Triandos went on to play three more seasons for the Tigers, Phillies, and Astros. While with the Phillies, he caught a perfect game pitched by Jim Bunning.
Triandos passed away on March 28, 2013 at the age of 82.
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