This week, Camden Chat is kicking off its Top 50 Greatest Orioles of All Time series. Tomorrow, we’ll start our countdown with No. 50, but today, we want to give some recognition to a few of the notable Orioles who didn’t make it onto the list.
I’ll kick things off by lamenting that we couldn’t find room for Tippy Martinez in our top 50. The left-hander was a mainstay in the Orioles’ bullpen for over a decade, and he pitched in more games as an Oriole (499) than anyone except Jim Palmer. Acquired from the Yankees in a 10-player trade in 1976 (along with Rick Dempsey and Scott McGregor, who will appear in our top 50), Martinez’s workload steadily grew year after year, culminating in a sensational All-Star campaign in 1983 in which he worked 103.1 innings out of the bullpen and converted 21 saves. While Tippy wasn’t always a guy who would dominate the competition — unless you were a Toronto Blue Jays baserunner on Aug. 24, 1983 — he was good enough to rack up 105 saves, fourth-most in O’s history, and 585 strikeouts, most of any full-time reliever.
Speaking of pitchers named Martinez who played for the Orioles from 1976-1986, right-hander Dennis Martinez also fell short of inclusion on our list. The Nicaragua native, delightfully nicknamed “El Presidente,” signed as an amateur free agent in 1973, debuted with the Birds three years later and became a workhorse starter, throwing an MLB-leading 292.1 innings in 1979. In the strike-shortened 1981 season, Martinez led the majors with 14 wins and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting, but his O’s career was all downhill from there. After three straight seasons of 5.00+ ERAs, the Birds traded a then-32-year-old Martinez to the Expos in 1986. Little could they have expected his dramatic second act, as Martinez stuck around the majors for another 12 years — making four All-Star teams at age 36 or older — and became the winningest Latin-born pitcher in MLB history (245) until Bartolo Colon broke his record in 2018.
Now let’s hear from other Camden Chat writers about some of their personal picks who didn’t make the final cut:
Anybody who’s been watching Orioles games on MASN for the past several years has been treated to Mike Bordick’s broadcast stylings, which include a number of inexplicable tics like referring to strikeouts exclusively as “punchouts,” RBIs frequently as “steaks,” and Chris Davis, no matter how poorly he’s done, as “the Crusher.” He may not be your favorite broadcaster in the rotation. One big reason why we get our dose of him on MASN is that he had a fine six-year career as an Oriole, worthy (if you ask me) of inclusion on our top 50 list if only for being the guy who replaced Cal Ripken Jr. at shortstop.
Bad luck for Bordick’s place in O’s history is that his two best full seasons here were 1998 and 1999, when the rest of the team was no good, and then in 2000, when he was on the way to a career year, he got traded in that infamous fire sale. The trade of Bordick was really the only one that netted anything positive for the O’s, almost an accident as then-28-year-old Melvin Mora turned into the kind of Oriole who will end up much, much higher on the list.
The first #1 overall pick in franchise history, and until just last year the only one, Ben McDonald was in some ways a prototype for the Orioles pitching prospect who was supposed to be the next big thing and never quite was. In his age 22 season in 1990, McDonald pitched in 21 games, 15 starts, and had a 2.43 ERA and 1.037 WHIP. That would excite fans in just about any era of baseball.
He mustered 13.7 bWAR over his years here, which should be enough to get him on a top 50, though my fellow writers largely did not agree. I also give McDonald bonus points because his addition to the broadcast crew has been a delight. One night a couple of years ago, I was driving around listening to the Orioles and McDonald, after jokingly being prompted by Jim Hunter, started giving advice about alligator wrestling. The first tip, he said, is pick a small one. I’ll never forget it.
A relief specialist in the days when conventional wisdom still considered the bullpen a place for second-rate pitchers, Stu Miller helped make the game safe for closers, especially of the offspeed variety. Although the diminutive righty never exactly wowed the press—his nicknames included “Little Stu Miller,” “The Junk Dealer” and “The Butterfly Man” for the way his change-up and curveballs darted around, one journalist even quipping, “It’s doubtful that Miller could throw a baseball through a wet paper sack”— Miller absolutely flummoxed AL hitters when he was traded from San Francisco in 1963.
In five seasons with Baltimore, Miller put up a measly 2.37 ERA in 502 innings, the lowest career ERA of any Orioles pitcher, period. (To put that number in perspective, had Miller sustained a 2.37 ERA over his sixteen seasons, it would have been the twenty-fourth lowest ever, and second-lowest in the modern baseball age after Mariano Rivera.) Miller also leads Orioles pitchers with an average of just 6.9 hits allowed per nine innings. That makes for five very dominant seasons. One other thing it seems Miller pioneered was pitch tunneling: he described the secret to his success as throwing softly with the same arm speed as his fastball. Miller was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1989.
The closer for the great Orioles teams of the 1966-1971 era, Dick Hall was known for a couple of things. One was his lanky, awkward build: the 6’6 righty, who played college ball for Swarthmore in 1949-51, had a unique, herky-jerky sidearm delivery, and announcer Joe Garagiola once described Hall coming off the mound as “like a drunk kangaroo on roller skates.” Playing in the pre-DH era, Hall was also among the better-hitting Orioles pitchers in history, probably because, like current reliever Mychal Givens, he started his professional career a position player when Pirates’ GM Branch Rickey decided to convert him into a third baseman! (Fortunately for Hall, a scout saw him toss six innings of one-hit ball in the minors and convinced the Pirates to move him to the bullpen.)
Hall’s biggest calling card, though, was his control. Hall has the lowest career WHIP and BB/9 average in Orioles history, and also pulled off two very rare feats: he threw just one wild pitch in his entire career, and he finished the 1970 season with more wins (10) than walks (six in 61 innings), an accomplishment so unusual that, since 1919, only four pitchers have done it. Hall didn’t get to pitch in his first World Series in 1966 (because so many O’s starters went the full nine innings), but in 1970 he won the first game of the playoffs and saved Game 2 of the World Series. Hall was above all a guy manager Earl Weaver would turn to with the game on the line, racking up 60 career saves for the Orioles in a time before the specialist closer was a thing, good for ninth on the Orioles’ all-time list.
Jonathan Schoop spent parts of six seasons with the Orioles and was the club’s starting second baseman during their 2014 and 2016 playoff runs. He was a rare successful international free agent acquisition by the Orioles. His 106 home runs rank him 30th in franchise history, a total made even more impressive given his position. During his time in Baltimore he accumulated 14.6 WAR, slashed .261/.296/.450, and used his rocket arm to turn beautiful double plays. After being a solid contributor for the 2016 Wild Card club, Schoop took his game to another level in 2017. His 32 home runs, 105 RBI, and .841 OPS led to a 12th place finish in MVP voting and an All Star appearance.
My favorite memory of Schoop is his strong friendship with Manny Machado. The two formed a bond while coming up through the minor leagues together; their friendship continued in Baltimore and you could see the genuine joy the two exuded when playing together. It would have been fun to see those two hold down Baltimore’s middle infield for many years.
Maybe Chris Tillman was never an ace, but he was the ace of an Orioles club that led the American League in wins from 2012-2016. Acquired along with Adam Jones in the Erik Bedard trade, Tillman made unsuccessful major league stints in 2009, 2010, and 2011. But in 15 starts down the stretch for a team vying for its first postseason berth since 1997, he went 9-3 and pitched to a 2.93 ERA. He topped 172 innings in each of the next 4 seasons and posted an ERA under 3.77 in 2013, 2014, and 2016. Tillman was given the ball by Buck Showalter in Games 1 of the 2014 ALDS and ALCS and the 2016 Wild Card Game in Toronto.
His 4.72 career ERA with the Orioles is inflated by being promoted when he wasn’t ready and hurt in 2017 and 2018. Between 2012 and 2016, he went 65-33 with a 3.81 and 1.25 WHIP. His Orioles career has ended with him ranked 20th in franchise history in wins, 26th in innings pitched, 11th in strikeouts, and 15th in games started. While lacking electric stuff or great peripheral statistics, Chris Tillman is the starting pitcher we will remember from the era when the Orioles made the playoffs three times in five seasons.
Ranking relief pitchers can be one of the more difficult tasks when compiling a list like this. The save did not become an official stat until 1969, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jim Johnson notched 50 or more in 2012 and 2013. Johnson had two cups of coffee with the Orioles, including a three-inning start in 2007, before taking the ball 54 times in 2008. That year he posted an ERA of 2.23 and a WHIP of 1.194. Johnson continued to excel as a relief pitcher that occasionally finished games prior to locking up the closer role in 2012.
Johnson finished 2012 with a 2-1 record, 2.49 ERA and 1.019 WHIP. He led the league with 51 saves, and was named an American League All Star. The New York native followed his breakout season with another dominant year. He led the AL in saves once again with 50, while posting a 2.94 ERA and 1.280 WHIP. But it’s not just the numbers that deem Johnson worthy of consideration— it’s the timing. Johnson steadied the bullpen as the Orioles brought winning baseball back to Baltimore in 2012. He closed out the 2012 Wild Card game that sent the O’s to the ALDS, and navigated through some of the first high-leverage games Baltimore had played in a decade. The Orioles traded Johnson after the 2013 season to avoid shelling out a large number in arbitration. He went on to pitch for the Athletics, Tigers, Braves, Dodgers and Angels. He finished his career with 178 saves, with 122 coming in an Orioles uniform.
I understand why Reggie Jackson did not make this list. He probably shouldn’t make this list. But without a doubt, Mr. October is one of the top 50 players to ever wear an Orioles uniform. Before he was the straw that stirred the drink in New York, Jackson spent the summer of ’76 in an Orioles uniform. Don’t believe me? Check the cover of Sports Illustrated from August 30, 1976.
Jackson was a six-time All Star by the time 1976 rolled around. However, the Abington, Pa., native could not work out a new contract with Oakland. Just one week before Opening Day, the A’s sent Jackson to Baltimore in exchange for Don Baylor and a pair of pitchers. Jackson wasn’t exactly thrilled to be shipped across the country, and held out for four weeks before eventually agreeing to a one-year, $200,00 deal. He went on to hit .277/.354/.502. That .502 slugging percentage was good enough to lead the league, while his 27 home runs and 28 stolen bases led the team. Jackson eventually signed a historic five year, $2.96 million deal with the Yankees. Jackson finished his career as a 14-time All Star, five time World Series Champion and the AL MVP of 1973. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.
In June 1999, 20-year-old Ontario native Erik Bedard was the sixth round pick of the Orioles out of Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. He cracked the major league roster in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he earned a full-time spot in the starting rotation. His run with Baltimore lasted until February 2008, when he was sent to Seattle in the Adam Jones trade. Over the course of 111 career starts with the O’s, Bedard’s 3.59 FIP was actually lower than his 3.83 ERA. His bWAR over that same timespan was 12.8. He averaged 8.7 SO/9 (2nd best in Oriole history) during his time with Baltimore and really became a strikeout machine in 2007 when he finished with the fourth most K’s in baseball (221 in 182 innings) despite missing the final month of the season. The Orioles’ top 50 career pitching leader rankings are littered with Bedard’s name, as he possesses the eighth best SO/BB ratio (2.516), ranks 45th in WHIP (1.339), 31st in win/loss percentage (.541), and 20th in strikeouts (639), among others.
Don Baylor brought a rare blend of power and speed to the baseball field. Baylor played 511 games with the O’s from 1970-75, registering 57 home runs, 118 stolen bases with a .779 OPS and 125 OPS+. In 1975, which was Baylor’s last season with the O’s before his inclusion in the Reggie Jackson trade, he was five homers shy of the 30-30 club, logging 25 home runs and 32 stolen bases. For a four-year stretch from 1972-1975, he put up a bWAR of 10.3 while averaging 14 home runs and 29 stolen bases per season. You can also find Baylor’s name all over the Orioles’ top 50 career batting leaderboards. He’s sixth in SB% (74%), 14th in stolen bases (118), 21st in Adj. OPS+ (125), 50th in OBP (.349), eighth in HBP (46), and 44th in AB per HR (30.8), to name a few.
Gene Woodling came to Baltimore in 1955 and again in 1958 and provided a fledgling Orioles franchise with one of its first standouts. Woodling batted .276 with 15 home runs and 65 RBI in his first full season in Baltimore, and then made the All-Star team in 1959 while hitting .300 with 14 home runs, 57 RBI and a .402 on-base percentage. He finished 16th in the MVP race that season, and earned votes again in 1960 while batting .283 with 11 home runs and 62 RBI, while again topping a .400 OBP.
Jeff Conine provided the Orioles with a reliable plate presence during some lean years. He slashed an average of .290/14/70 over four full seasons from 1999 to 2002, and in 2001 finished 10th in the AL with a .311 batting average while also totaling 14 home runs and 97 RBI. He was on his way to another strong season in 2003 (.290/15/80) when he was shipped to the eventual World Series champion Florida Marlins. He was known as Mr. Marlin, but he gave the O’s plenty as well.
And let’s add a few more honorable mentions from our readers:
Miguel Gonzalez is certainly not an Oriole great, but he was a key part of the 2012 team that ended the drought. His start against the Yankees in the ALDS is one of the best I’ve ever seen, and I still get upset that we lost that game because he really deserved a win. (Camden Chat commenter SchneiderWriter)
Russ Snyder, good defensive player, also had an OK bat. (Twitter user Mike Davis)
Nate McLouth and Nelson Cruz. Although short O’s careers they were clutch and essential to our latest real playoff teams in ‘12 & ‘14. (Twitter user Tim Martin)
Got any more honorable mentions you want to give a shout-out to? Let us know in the comments.