Whether you remember him for his sideburns or his 50-home run season, Brady Anderson has a prominent spot in Orioles history. Let’s not forget his propensity to crash into the outfield wall too.
It’s funny how the little things stick out about such a popular player all these years after he’s stopped playing. He played center field in a somewhat unconventional way, where he would catch the ball glove side at shoulder level — sometimes lower! — instead of over the head with two hands, like they teach in little league.
How about Anderson’s batting stance? There were few players who stood up as straight and tall at the plate as he did, with an over-pronounced front leg lift every time the pitcher delivered to the dish.
Speaking of the dish, he had no hesitation to take one for the team, as evidenced by his high yearly hit-by-pitch totals and spot atop the Orioles all-time leaderboards in that category with 148.
A native of Silver Spring, MD, Anderson went to high school and college in southern California before getting drafted in the 10th round of the 1985 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox. Anderson went on to have a 15-year MLB career — bookended by 41 games with Boston at beginning and 34 games with Indians at the very end — and 14 of those years came as a Baltimore Oriole.
Brady Anderson was a staple in the outfield and the leadoff spot during the O’s competitive run in the mid-to-late ’90s.
He was a walk machine, ending his career with a 162-game average of 85 walks and a .362 OBP. A leadoff hitter with those types of skills can be undervalued, and the current club could surely use someone like that now. But back to Anderson. He finished his career with the second most walks in Orioles history with 927.
The left-handed hitting outfielder came to Baltimore with only 172 major league plate appearances under his belt at the young age of 24. The Red Sox sent him — along with Curt Schilling — to the Orioles on July 29, 1988 in exchange for Mike Boddicker. And although Schilling wouldn’t stay around for long, Anderson went on to establish himself as one of the better center fielders and leadoff hitters of the ’90s.
But it did take him a few years to find himself in Baltimore. After coming over from Boston, Anderson played in 53 games with the O’s in the second half of the 1988 season while hitting a mere .198 with a .504 OPS.
Only a part-time player in his first three seasons in the orange and black from 1989-1991, the most plate appearances Anderson managed in a season over that stretch was 317. His batting average those three years were .207, .231, and .230 and while he wasn’t hitting for power at the time, he did flash his speed potential by stealing double-digit bases each season from ‘89-’91.
Then he graduated to full-time player status at age 28 and never looked back. He received an astounding 749 at-bats that season in 1992, hitting .271/.373/.449 with 21 HR, 80 RBI and 53 SB, along with a 130 OPS+. That season was also the first of three career All-Star game appearances for Anderson.
His second invitation to the midsummer classic came in 1996, when he finished the season with 50 home runs, 110 RBI, 21 steals, a .297/.397/.637 batting line and a 156 OPS+. In 1997 he made his third and final All-Star team and finished the year with 18 HR, 73 RBI, 18 SB, and a .288/.393/.469 batting line with a 128 OPS+.
His only playoff experience came in 1996 and 1997 as well. In 92 plate appearances between those two years, Anderson did quite well in the postseason, hitting .300/.380/.575 with six home runs, 12 RBI and three stolen bases.
But as Anderson’s age crept into the mid-thirties his performance waned, just around the time that the Orioles fell out of competitiveness and into obscurity. He played his final season in Baltimore in 2001 at the age of 37.
As one can imagine, if you play for one team as long as Anderson and perform as well as he did, you’re bound to climb up that club’s all-time leaderboards. Here are just a few of Anderson’s rankings on the Orioles all-time batting leaderboards: fifth in offensive WAR (37.7), fourth in runs (1,044), fifth in hits (1,614), eighth in home runs (209), seventh in RBI (744), and first in SB (307).
To put a finer point on it, all but one of his home runs, 17 of his RBI and eight of his stolen bases (among other stats) came in an Orioles uniform. What’s even more remarkable is the fact that 96% of his plate appearances came with the O’s. Could you possibly get any closer to spending your whole career with one team, without actually having done so?
In addition to being a good local leadoff hitter, Anderson also registers in the major league history books. He has the seventh most leadoff home runs in MLB history with 44 and is tied for the second most leadoff home runs in a season with 12 (in 1996).
Leadoff hitters like him don’t come along often, and Oriole fans are lucky to have been graced by his play on the diamond for all those years.