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Remembering some of the Orioles’ biggest All-Star moments

From Cal Ripken’s heroic performances to Cito Gaston’s heel turn, the All-Star Game has provided plenty of memories for Orioles fans.

Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles holds the
Cal Ripken Jr. put on a show in multiple All-Star Games.
Photo credit should read JOHN MABANGLO/AFP via Getty Images

The Orioles will be well represented at the 2023 MLB All-Star Game next Tuesday in Seattle. With the selections of first-time All-Stars Adley Rutschman, Félix Bautista, Yennier Cano, and Austin Hays to the 2023 AL team, the Orioles have had 81 different players receive 177 All-Star selections in their 70-year history.

Since the Orioles’ inception in 1954, the club’s All-Star representatives have batted a combined .219 with seven home runs, three triples, 10 doubles, 24 runs, and 26 RBIs. Their pitchers have made 34 appearances for a total of 46.1 innings, posting a 4.08 ERA, recording 35 strikeouts, and amassing a 1-3 record with four saves. Six Orioles have been named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game.

There’s been no shortage of significant All-Star moments for the Orioles. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

1958: Baltimore hosts its first All-Star Game

In the franchise’s fifth season in Baltimore, the Orioles played host to the 1958 All-Star Game at Memorial Stadium, the only one that would ever be held at that ballpark. According to Mike Gesker’s Orioles Encyclopedia, an announced crowd of 48,829 — more than 1,000 over the stadium’s capacity — packed the stands for the July 8 contest. Players traveled by motorcade from their hotel to the ballpark. Vice President Richard Nixon threw out the first pitch.

The Orioles’ Gus Triandos was voted the starting catcher, but AL manager Casey Stengel pinch-hit for him with Yogi Berra in the sixth, prompting a chorus of boos from the home crowd. As we’ll discuss later in this article, it would turn out to be only the second-most egregious managerial snub of an Orioles player at an All-Star Game in Baltimore.

The hero of the game was the other Orioles representative, left-hander Billy O’Dell, a 25-year-old swingman who finished the year with a 2.97 ERA in 25 starts and 16 relief appearances. Despite being one of the lesser known players on an AL roster full of superstars and future Hall of Famers, O’Dell pitched the final three innings of the game and mowed down the National League nine up, nine down, on 27 pitches to earn the save.

O’Dell was as surprised as anyone that Stengel brought him into the game instead of the higher profile hurlers. “I was shocked,” O’Dell said in Ted Patterson’s The Baltimore Orioles. “I thought for sure he’d pick (Whitey) Ford or (Billy) Pierce. Maybe he wanted to get back in the good graces of the crowd for taking out Gus.”

1971: Frank Robinson emphatically breaks a drought

There’s no understating the legendary legacy of Frank Robinson in Baltimore. The Hall of Famer instantly transformed the Orioles from the moment they acquired him from the Reds in December 1965, winning the Triple Crown and AL MVP honors in his debut season and showing tremendous clubhouse leadership in bringing the Orioles their first two World Series championships. There was seemingly nothing Frank couldn’t do.

Well, almost. When it came to All-Star Games, Robinson had his struggles. In his first three All-Star appearances with the Orioles — in 1966, 1969, and 1970 — he was a combined 0-for-9 with four strikeouts.

That changed in a big way in 1971, Robinson’s final year with the Birds. As the AL’s starting right fielder and cleanup hitter at Tiger Stadium, Frank crushed a go-ahead, two-run homer in the third inning off NL starter Dock Ellis, getting off the All-Star schneid and giving his team a lead they wouldn’t surrender. Robinson was named All-Star Game MVP.

1991: Cal hits the All-Star two-fer

By 1991, the All-Star festivities were old hat for Cal Ripken Jr., who had been selected for the game in nine consecutive years (and would continue to be for his 10 remaining seasons). What he hadn’t yet mastered, though, was the Home Run Derby, in which he had participated in the inaugural 1985 event and hit just one dinger.

Cal gave it another go in 1991 at Toronto’s SkyDome. This time he was more than ready, swatting 12 homers — seven more than any other competitor — to win the Home Run Derby crown. If that weren’t enough, Ripken went out the next day and smacked yet another home run in the All-Star Game, a three-run shot in the third off his former teammate Dennis Martinez, to lead the AL to a 4-2 win and earn MVP honors. Ripken became the first player to win both the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game MVP in the same year, a feat that has since been matched only by the Angels’ Garret Anderson in 2003.

1993: The “Cito Sucks” meme is born

This might come as a surprise to you young Orioles fans, but there actually was a time when Oriole Park was allowed to host an All-Star Game. It happened in 1993, the ballpark’s second year of existence, and brought a sellout crowd of 48,147 to Camden Yards. CC’s Tyler Young will offer a more in-depth look next week at the ‘93 festivities, so we’ll just focus on the one moment that spurred an unforgettable motto in Birdland.

In the top of the ninth, the American League carried a commanding 9-3 lead, and all of Baltimore anticipated that AL manager Cito Gaston would hand the final inning to hometown hero Mike Mussina, the Orioles’ burgeoning ace. Instead, Gaston turned to his own Blue Jays closer, Duane Ward, who retired one batter and then a second as the fans grew increasingly restless.

Meanwhile, Mussina — on his own accord, not Gaston’s — began warming up in the bullpen, further firing up a crowd anxious to see him pitch. When Ward remained on the mound and Gaston remained stationed in the dugout for the final batter, Orioles fans erupted into angry chants, including one particularly pointed taunt of Gaston that can still be found on T-shirts 30 years later.

The entire game is available to watch on YouTube. The top of the ninth inning and all the assorted shenanigans begin around the 3:28 mark, including Gaston’s slow, resigned head shake once he realizes he’s about to become a villain in Baltimore sports history.

2001: Cal goes out with a bang

Cal Ripken, during the entirety of his 2,632 consecutive games streak, also took the field for every All-Star Game to which he was selected, participating in every Midsummer Classic from 1983-1999. That streak ended in 2000 when he was sidelined with a back injury. But he returned in 2001, which he’d already announced as his last season, and made his final All-Star appearance the perfect conclusion to his glorious, Hall of Fame career.

At Seattle’s Safeco Field, Ripken led off the bottom of the third in a scoreless game to a standing ovation from the crowd of 47,634. The thunderous applause only grew when Cal jumped on Chan Ho Park’s first pitch and cranked it into the left-field seats. A home run in his final All-Star Game! You couldn’t script a more storybook ending, which led some cynics to surmise that Park had grooved the pitch. Don’t be that person. Sometimes pitchers just make bad pitches, people. It happens. Cal earned every bit of that blast.

Ripken, named All-Star Game MVP for the second time, finished his All-Star career with a .265 average (13-for-49), two home runs, and eight RBIs.

2005: The Orioles’ infield shows out

When the Orioles slogged through their 14-year stretch of losing seasons, they understandably did not get much representation in the All-Star Game. From 2001-2011, the O’s had only one All-Star in 10 of those 11 seasons. And in many cases even that player was just a token representative required by rule, leading to the selections of such luminaries as Tony Batista and Ty Wigginton.

The exception was 2005, when the Orioles got off to a hot start that attracted national acclaim, rolling into the break with a 47-40 record (just don’t look up what happened in the second half, please). They were rewarded with four All-Stars for the game at Detroit’s Comerica Park, including two fan-voted starters — shortstop Miguel Tejada and second baseman Brian Roberts — and reserves Melvin Mora and B.J. Ryan.

Tejada crushed a second-inning solo homer off John Smoltz to kick off the scoring and was named the game’s MVP. At one point in the game, Tejada, Roberts, and Mora manned three-fourths of the AL’s infield, with first base covered by Maryland native Mark Teixeira, who some O’s fans hoped would one day sign with the Orioles (don’t look up how that turned out, either).

2016: Britton continues perfect season with All-Star save

Zack Britton’s epic 2016 season, one of the best for a closer in MLB history, saw him post a 0.54 ERA, 0.836 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, and go a perfect 47-for-47 in save opportunities — and make it 48 if you include the All-Star Game in that count.

With the AL leading in the ninth, 4-2, at San Diego’s Petco Park, manager Ned Yost turned to Britton to slam the door. The southpaw sinker specialist did what he does best — get hitters to beat the ball into the ground. After Daniel Murphy poked a single up the middle, Britton fielded a Paul Goldschmidt comebacker for a force at second, then wrapped up the game on a Nolan Arenado grounder to third for a double play. Just another easy save in a season full of them for Britton, this time on a national stage.

Honorable mentions:

  • 1966: Brooks Robinson goes 3-for-4, wins All-Star Game MVP despite AL’s loss
  • 1970: A team-record seven Orioles are selected as All-Stars, with Earl Weaver as the AL manager
  • 1986: O’s closer Don Aase induces a game-ending double play to strand the tying run at third
  • 1998: Three Orioles hitters — Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar, and Rafael Palmeiro — combine for six hits and four RBIs, and Alomar wins MVP
  • 2009: Adam Jones drives in the winning run with a sac fly in his first career All-Star Game

What are your most memorable Orioles All-Star moments, Camden Chatters? Let us know in the comments.