Editor’s note: The text of this article first appeared on Camden Chat on January 31, 2014, when Mike Boddicker was the #26 Oriole on our then-top 40 list. It is being reposted today with small edits to reflect his place on our new top 50 countdown.
#29 - Mike Boddicker (1980-1988)
Did you know that there is a pitcher in Orioles history who never gave up a grand slam? It’s true! And his name is Mike Boddicker. What, you were thinking of Hall of Famer Jim Palmer? Yeah, I guess he also can say that. But today we are here to praise Mike Boddicker.
Boddicker was drafted by the Orioles in 1978 and made his major-league debut in 1980 at the age of 23. He made a handful of appearances, mostly out of the bullpen from 1980-1982, but was still considered a rookie in 1983, his first full season.
In 27 starts in 1983, Boddicker led the league with five shutouts, and he pitched to a pristine 2.77 ERA, which was second in the American League for starting pitchers. By all accounts he shouldn’t have been a very good pitcher. His fastball didn’t approach 90 mph, he didn’t strike out many batters, and by his own admission his pitching repertoire was “mediocre crap.” But he didn’t walk many and he didn’t give up a lot of home runs, and in his good years batters just didn’t know what to do with him.
In a rotation that included Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor, Storm Davis, Dennis Martinez, and at times, Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, Boddicker was the best of the lot in ‘83. He threw 10 complete games that year, then for good measure he threw two more in the playoffs.
The Orioles faced the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS that year and lost game one by a score of 2-1. They needed to win game two to avoid going on the road to Chicago in an 0-2 hole, and Boddicker pitched an absolute gem. He went the distance and struck out 14 batters. He didn’t give up a run, and the Orioles won the game 4-0. The Orioles won the next three games to take the series 3-1 and Boddicker was named the MVP of the ALCS.
In the World Series against the Phillies, the O’s found themselves in the same situation. They lost game one and needed to get a win before going on the road to Philadelphia. Boddicker didn’t pitch a shutout this time, but it could be argued he pitched just as well as he did in the ALCS. He gave up just one run on three hits with six strikeouts and zero walks. Again he set the O’s on a winning streak and they rolled to a 4-1 World Series win.
Boddicker followed his fantastic rookie year with an even better 1984 season. He made 34 starts and again was the ace of the staff. His 2.79 ERA led the league and he racked up 20 wins, the last Oriole to do so. He pitched just over 260 innings and came in fourth in the Cy Young voting. He also appeared in his only career All-Star Game in 1984.
He was never really the same after 1984. Maybe his mediocre stuff just didn’t have what it took to stay dominant in the majors. If not for his postseason heroics with the Orioles, he would probably be quite a bit lower on this list. Boddicker pitched three and a half more seasons for the Orioles and was basically league average. After watching some recent Orioles rotations, league average doesn’t sound so bad.
At the trade deadline in 1988, Boddicker was traded to the Boston Red Sox for two youngsters, Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling. The Glenn Davis trade sent Schilling elsewhere for his close-to-Hall of Fame career. If Schilling had that career mostly in Baltimore, the Boddicker trade would be remembered as one of the finest in team history.
Even so, if the trade had just been Boddicker for Anderson, the O’s still would have come out on top despite the success Boddicker had found in Baltimore. Anderson has a place on this list to be revealed closer to the top.
Boddicker said of the trade, “Saddest day of my life. Driving away from the ballpark, I cried. I’d been with the Orioles my whole career. I was comfortable there, and the fans were great. So many times, walking off that mound, I deserved to be booed, and they didn’t do it.”
After leaving the Orioles, Boddicker went on to pitch for five more years, pitching solidly but not spectacularly for the Red Sox, Royals, and Brewers before retiring after the 1993 season. He was elected into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2001.
Boddicker quotes in this article courtesy of The Baltimore Sun.