#35 - Luis Aparicio, SS (1963-1967)
Aparicio spent five years of a Hall of Fame career in an Orioles uniform. He came to Baltimore in a trade in January 1963 that sent another member of our Top 40 list, #38 Hoyt Wilhelm, to Chicago, and was traded back to the White Sox in a November 1967 trade that brought still another member of the list - Don Buford, still to come - to the Orioles.
He has the distinction of being the one of two Hall of Famers on our list - the aforementioned Wilhelm is the other - who is not in the Hall of Fame as an Orioles player.
Over his five years as an Oriole, he batted only .251/.297/.343. He had more triples (34) than home runs (33). Though this sounds hideous, in the pre-Cal Ripken Jr. era, that kind of offense was the norm for the shortstop position. They weren't there to hit. They were there to field.
Baseball Reference says he was worth +41 runs on defense over his five-year Orioles career. Of the nine Gold Gloves he won in his career, two came from his time in Baltimore, including one during the 1966 World Series championship season. That is a good way to make up for deficiencies at the plate. It was on the strength of his glove that he made the All-Star team in 1963 and 1964. Given that he was paired on the right side of the infield with Brooks Robinson for his whole O's career, that was a formidable defensive arrangement.
Another way in which Aparicio contributed to his Orioles teams was with his speed. Though he lacked a good on-base percentage, he nonetheless batted either leadoff or second in the lineup for the majority of his Orioles tenure. He rewarded the O's by stealing 166 bases, with his best single season coming in 1964, when he stole 57 bases while being caught 17 times. That still stands as the record for the franchise in a single season. Even having only spent five years here, the shortstop ranks fifth in total stolen bases in O's history. He had over 2,000 fewer plate appearances than everyone above him on the list.
Beyond just stealing large numbers of bases, he was also one of the more successful ones in Orioles history. His 78.3% stolen base success rate stands third behind Corey Patterson and Brian Roberts.
This also helped to overcome his lack of skill at the plate, with Baseball Reference giving him +31 runs for baserunning in the five years he was an Oriole. It might even still let him make it in the big leagues today. Shortstop has slipped back into one of the weaker offensive positions. Across all of Major League Baseball in 2013, shortstops batted .254/.308/.372. Aparicio would come in below that, but not embarrassingly so.
During the four-game sweep of the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series, Aparicio led off all four games. He managed four hits in 16 at-bats and drove in two runs. Though he made it on base a few times, he never scored a run in the series and was caught stealing once. It's not exactly a series full of glory. He didn't need to have one. Aparicio did more than his share to get the Orioles to that point. He was worth 4.2 Wins Above Replacement on the season. That is a guy you want on your team no matter what year it is.
Owing to him playing out his years for the Orioles before most of us were born and earning the majority of his accolades elsewhere, Aparicio is an oft-overlooked player when thinking back on the great Orioles of the past. He is one of baseball's all-time greats and the Orioles were lucky that he spent some of that great career here.