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Random Oriole: One-Hit Wonder Johnny Orsino

Some players have great careers, like Brooks Robinson. Some players have a good year every now and again. Some players have one good year. That's it. One good year. And then they are generally forgotten about for all times.

Take Rick Wilkins, named 99th best Cub in history by Bleed Cubbie Blue. Who could forget his 30-homer year in 1993, coming completely out of nowhere for an 84-win, no-pitching Cubs team? Wilkins was a monster on RBI Baseball '94. Wilkins was never again very good, though he had one other OK season, in '96 with the Astros and Giants, hitting 14 homers.

Johnny Orsino is one of those one-hit wonders. By simple, park-adjusted OPS+, the top ten offensive seasons by an Orioles (1954-present) catcher, with a minimum of 350 at-bats:

1. Chris Hoiles, 1993              162
2. Mickey Tettleton, 1989 150
3. Johnny Orsino, 1963 133
4. Javy Lopez, 2004 127
5. Gus Triandos, 1956 121
6. Gus Triandos, 1958 119
7. Mickey Tettleton, 1990 116
8. Earl Williams, 1973 114
8. Chris Hoiles, 1995 114
10. Gus Triandos, 1957 113

Hoiles was at 146 in 1992, 310 AB
Charles Johnson was at 137 in 2000 at the time of his trade

We know Hoiles, Mickey, Javy, and Triandos. Earl Williams had a couple of good years. But John Orsino?

Catcher has been an historical black hole for the Orioles. I love Chris Hoiles, as we pretty much all do, but when you're talking about a player like Hoiles having a great argument as the greatest in the history of a 53-year old franchise, there's a problem.

Orsino was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, on April 22, 1938, and drafted by the New York Giants in 1957. He was nicknamed "Horse," I assume because he was a really big guy for the time, especially for a catcher, at 6'3", 215. Even now, guys with that body (Jayson Werth, for example) get moved off the position.

By the time he made his major league debut on July 14, 1961, the Giants had moved to Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and went 0-for-3 batting seventh in a losing effort. Orsino, a good prospect, played in 25 games in '61 and just 18 more in '62. In his '61 audition, he hit quite well, batting .277/.310/.506 with four homers over 83 at-bats.

In the December following the 1962 season, Orsino was traded with Stu Miller and Mike McCormick in exchange for Billy Hoeft, Jack Fisher and Jimmie Coker. It was a good trade for the Orioles. Hoeft, Fisher and Coker each played just one season for the Giants, none of them any good. Orsino and Miller paid immediate dividends for the O's, and Miller wound up arguably the best reliever in franchise history.

As for Orsino, he wound up Baltimore's No. 1 catcher in '63. In 116 games, he hit .272/.349/.475 -- those aren't big raw numbers by today's standards, but this was 1963. His adjusted OPS+ was the best on the team, though Jim Gentile was again the team's best hitter, since he played more (it was also Gentile's final year as an Oriole).

He had 19 homers, which was third on the team (Boog had 25, Diamond Jim had 24), and 56 RBI. Given his former prospect status and the fact that he was still just 25 years old, it reasoned that Orsino was going to be a long-term fixture for the Orioles, an exciting young breakout star.

Didn't turn out that way. Injuries wrecked Orsino's blossoming career, having two rough years in part-time duty over the next two seasons in Baltimore. He was traded shortly after the '65 season to the Senators, playing in 15 games over the next two seasons. The Yankees bought him in January 1969, and then he was traded to the Indians in June, but he never played in the majors after his one at-bat in '67.

Besides just the one big season, Orsino was involved in a couple of notable games in his short career.

On August 23, 1961, the Giants led the Reds in Cincinnati, 2-0, going into the top of the ninth inning. Willie McCovey doubled to start the inning, and then scored on a Willie Mays pop-out when the throw to third was wild. Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou hit back-to-back homers.

Orsino flew out, and there were two down. Jose Pagan and Juan Marichal singled. Joe Amalifitano singled off the third baseman's glove, and Pagan scored, with Marichal to third. Jim Davenport hit an inside the park homer, making it 9-0. McCovey singled.

Mays homered, and it was 11-0. Cepeda singled. Alou reached on an error by the third baseman. Then, Orsino hit a three-run homer, the Giants' fifth of the inning, and it was 14-0, a 12-run inning for the Giants. The rally ended there, as Pagan struck out to retire the side.

On September 12, 1964, at Memorial Stadium, O's lefty Frank Bertaina and Kansas City lefty Bob Meyer threw dueling one-hitters. Baltimore's one hit came off of Orsino's bat, as he doubled to lead off the eighth inning. Lifted for a pinch-runner (Bob Saverine), Bertaina bunted him to third base. Saverine scored on a sacrifice fly by Jackie Brandt.

He also hit .323 (10-for-31) in his career against Whitey Ford and Senator Jim Bunning.

As for what John Orsino is up to these days, well, he's still in sports. Orsino briefly served as head coach of the men's golf team at Florida Atlantic University (Angelo Sands is now the head coach, if you're interested), and has been a golf pro at several courses in Florida and New Jersey.