23. Chris Hoiles, C (1989-1998)
Chris Hoiles was never an All-Star. He never even got close to a Gold Glove. Chris Hoiles only had 400 at-bats two times in his career. So why do I have him this high? Because the man could hit the hell out of the ball, spent his entire major league career with the Orioles, was a hell of a good guy, and he was simply put, the type of guy that fanatics like me are going to overrate a little bit. I do it without shame. Chris Hoiles is one of my very favorite players and he was the man.
I wrote a Random Oriole feature on Chris Hoiles last May, so I'm not going to recap his career again. The comments for that entry were good, so I'm going to reprint some of those.
howie14: "I'm going to add something that will probably raise some hackles. Chris was actually a very good defensive catcher in areas other than throwing. Obviously, Chris threw like Piazza and Dempsey had a cannon in his prime. In other catching areas, however, I'd take Hoiles. He was big enough to block the plate effectively, blocked balls expertly with sound fundamentals and seemed to control his pitching staffs. ... Chris was a poor throwing catcher, not a poor defensive catcher."
helimech24: "I grew up with Hoiles being the catcher, and he was always one of my favorite players for the O's. What I used to love so much about his game was his clutch hitting. I remember watching the game on TV and hearing the commentators talk about whatever slump he was in. Right then, he would come up with a big single, double, or home run. One in particular, I remember the best, but I don't remember when it was or who it was against. He was up at the plate with the bases full, and the commentators were saying that he wouldn't be able to hit one out of the park. Right after the commentators were finished bashing Hoiles, he hit a grand slam. Then they started praising him."
GrimReefa: "He owned Randy Johnson. I mean he OWNED him. Randy feared Chris Hoiles. We should sign Chris Hoiles to 1 day contracts when we have to face him. ... One time, against Seattle, he came up in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded, 2 outs, and the Birds down by three. He ran the count full, then hit the grand slam that we all imagined ourselves hitting in that situation when we were kids. It was so unbelievably cheesy I couldn't believe it actually happened. "No Fear" shirts were popular around that time, and I remember the baseball one which had that exact situation written on it. I called that the Chris Hoiles shirt after that. Probably the coolest home run ever hit to win a regular season game."
Hoiles also had the greatest offensive season by an Oriole catcher ever in 1993, when he hit .310/.416/.585 with 29 homers and 82 RBI.
Two Hoiles Highlights, courtesy of Baseball Library:
May 8, 1997: In Baltimore, the O's stop Randy Johnson's 16-game win streak with a decisive 13-3 pasting of the Mariners. Baltimore is led by Chris Hoiles, who collects six RBIs on two homers and a double. Johnson strikes out 10 in six innings, but gives up five runs on six hits and two walks as he attempted to become the first American League pitcher since Dave McNally (1968-69) to win 17 straight.
August 14, 1998: Baltimore C Chris Hoiles becomes the 9th player--and 1st catcher--to hit two grand slams in a single game, doing so in a 15-3 win over the Indians. Hoiles connects in the 3rd and 8th innings.
Chris Hoiles was the man.