#11 - Brady Anderson, OF (1988-2001)
Let's just get this out in the open: I love Brady Anderson. I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't love Brady Anderson. He began playing for the Orioles when I was nine years old and didn't stop until I was 22. That's time to build a lot of history, and Brady certainly made the most of his playing days. Really, Brady is still an Oriole. He has spent years working around the organization and with the players, and for the last few years has worked in the O's front office, currently as the Vice President of Baseball Operations.
Brady Anderson was drafted in the 10th round of the 1985 amateur draft by the Boston Red Sox and came to the Orioles along with Curt Schilling in a trade for Mike Boddicker at the trade deadline in 1988. He was something of a late bloomer, and didn't become a regular player for the Orioles until 1991 when he was 27 years old. His first big season came the following year, 1992. That season he hit .271/.373/.449 an OPS+ of 130 and wOBA of .366 and 53 stolen bases. Oh, to have a guy like that leading off for the current Orioles.
Brady's OBP over his Orioles career was .364, which is very nice indeed. And while he always knew how to take a walk, with a career walk rate of 12.4%, he also had another way to supplement his on-base percentage. Simply put, he was very good at getting hit by pitches. Anyone who spent the 1990s as an Orioles fan surely has a mental picture tucked away in his or her brain of Brady crowding the plate and then simply turning and letting pitches hit him in the back or leg or butt. He didn't dive in front of pitches, but he never ducked away from them either. In his career he got hit by a pitch a total of 154 times, which is 14th best in baseball history. 148 of those HBP came when he was an Oriole, which easily gives him the highest mark in team history (#2 is Melvin Mora at 107, and Cal Ripken comes in third with 66). Three times in his career he led the league in HBP.
His best season was 1996, and it's also the season that causes people to look at his home run total and his muscles and speculate that he was doing something untoward to get those results. But as I once heard Brady say (when we were on the radio together, AKA best day of my life), if he was able to use steroids and be that good for just one season, why did he stop being so good after that? At any rate, 1996 was a crazy year for him. He posted the highest slugging % and second-highest OBP of his career as he mashed 50 home runs and 27 doubles.
If his power was a fluke, his ability to get on base certainly wasn't. In 1997 he dropped down to a home run total of 18, but his OBP was .393, just .003 less than in '96. His skills at the plate were a big part of what helped the O's get to the playoffs in both 1996 and 1997. Those were the only two years in Brady's career that he played in the postseason, but he made the most of them. In 92 postseason plate appearances, he hit .300/.380/.575 with 6 home runs.
I was lucky enough to go to one game of the 1996 ALDS against the Indians, and when the Orioles clinched in 1997 I knew I had to go back. Armed with my mother's credit card, I called the Ticketmaster phone number over and over and over again. By the time I got through the busy signal they only had single seats left for game one of the ALCS, also against the Indians. I had been planning on buying tickets for myself and my brother, but he didn't want to sit by himself at the game. So instead I just bought one single ticket for myself. My mom wasn't amused at the idea of her teenage daughter going into Baltimore by herself, but there was no stopping me. Brady rewarded me with a leadoff home run in a game that the O's ended up winning 3-0.
Speaking of leadoff home runs, Brady was kind of known for them. Of his 210 career home runs, 44 of them were in his first at-bat of the game. He even did it in four games in a row in April 1996.
Brady's final season with the Orioles was 2001, the same year that Cal Ripken called it quits. At 37 years old, he just couldn't hack it any more. His last Orioles at bat was a strikeout, and most people remember it as the strikeout that left Cal Ripken on deck to end the season. Oops. He tried to play one more year in 2002, signing on with the Cleveland Indians, but was released in May. Personally, I like to pretend that year never happened and that Brady finished his career with the O's.
Brady ranks high on the Orioles leaderboard in a number of categories. He is 6th in home runs and games played, second in walks, and first in stolen bases. He was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2004, and I may or may not have this poster in my laundry room.