#18 - Al Bumbry, OF (1972-1984)
Al Bumbry is unique among our list of greatest Orioles because he is the only war veteran on the list. This is from a world so different than what we have now that it's hard to even imagine. Bumbry's professional baseball career was interrupted when he was called up to serve in the Vietnam War. He was there for eleven months and was awarded a Bronze Star.
Even without the backstory, Bumbry is one of the best players to wear the uniform. All that the military service meant is he lost a couple of years where he might have been playing. Bumbry didn't get to play his first full season at the major league level until he was 26. He won the Rookie of the Year for 1973, batting .337/.398/.500 over 110 games. He hit 11 triples, a number that has only been equaled by an Oriole one time in the 40 years since, when Mike Devereaux did so in 1992.
For results at the plate, Bumbry's rookie year turned out to be his career year. He never again came close to the 154 OPS+ he put up in '73 and had the misfortune to arrive on the Orioles immediately after the three consecutive years in the World Series. By the time they made it back, Bumbry was past 30, a solid member of the '79 and '83 teams, but not a star in his prime. That's not to take away from his accomplishments. That's just the way things worked out.
Bumbry spent 13 years in an Orioles uniform. He played more than 100 games in 10 of those seasons and had an OPS+ of 100 or better in six of those seasons. He was consistently better than average at the plate in his younger years, though; three of the ones where he did not do as well were his age 35-37 seasons. For many years, he was the kind of player you want on your team, but not the kind of player you want to be the best player on the team. The Orioles of those days did not lack for stars.
In 1980, Bumbry played in 160 games, a career high for him. Along with this, he put together a good season at the plate, the second-best of his career. Over the full season, he batted .318/.392/.433. At midseason, it was enough for him to get the only All-Star selection of his career. At season's end, he received some votes for Most Valuable Player, coming in 13th plate, the third of four Orioles to place that year. The team won 100 games and still finished three games out of first in the American League East. This, too, is hard to fathom now.
The Orioles won the World Series towards the tail end of Bumbry's career, a nice achievement to send him off, though he would play another couple of years in MLB. As we well know, this is a better send-off than the Orioles were able to give some of the stalwart long-time Orioles of the 00s.
One big difference between Bumbry and the Orioles of the 00s: a guy like Melvin Mora never played on a winning Orioles team. Al Bumbry never played on a losing one.
The fewest games the Orioles won in a 162-game season during Bumbry's career was 85. He was part of that golden age for the franchise and he was there for a long time.
You don't have to look far down the franchise leaderboard to find him. His 1,428 games played for the O's rank ninth. His 1,403 hits also rank ninth. The 52 triples he hit for the Orioles rank third behind only Brooks Robinson and Brady Anderson. His 252 stolen bases leave him in third in Orioles history as well.
Bumbry was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1987. We will probably never see his like again. For a long and productive, if mostly unremarkable, career in an Orioles uniform, we salute him as our #18 greatest Oriole of all time.
- With first round draft pick gone, Orioles should sign Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales
- Transaction Scorecard: Orioles agree to terms with SP Ubaldo Jimenez
- Ubaldo Jimenez signs with Orioles: Giving up #17 pick is a price that should be worth paying
- Monday Orioles spring training roundup: Paredes comes and goes, Yoon unofficially official