The early-season success of the Baltimore Orioles has shocked and confused all but the most optimistic of Orioles faithful this summer. This inspired me to think of some of the greats to grace the confines of Camden Yards -- the following "dream team" is the product of said inspiration.
Some of these guys are "no brainers," while others demand a little bit of a closer look.
(Note: *Denotes Baseball Hall of Fame member)
C - Gus Triandos (1955-62) - Admittedly, this was a tossup. Gus narrowly edges such names as Chris Hoiles, Mickey Tettleton, Elrod Hendricks, and Rick Dempsey. His edge comes from his three-time All-Star status. Triandos is the only Baltimore backstop to manage a trio of appearances.
1B - Jim Gentile (1960-63) - Though Gentile's career could not be considered spectacular, his four seasons in Baltimore certainly were memorable. His only three All-Star berths came during this period. In 1961, "Diamond Jim" finished third in MVP voting (behind Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris) that unforgettable summer.
2B - Roberto Alomar* (1996-98) - Roberto Alomar played more games for San Diego, Toronto, and Cleveland than he did for Baltimore. This said, nearly 2 percent of his home runs (50 of 210) were hit in an Orioles uniform. Similarly, he was an All-Star in all three of his years in Baltimore (the final appearance garnering him the game MVP in 1998).
SS - Cal Ripken, Jr.* (1981-2001) - Baseball's "Iron Man" is the obvious and only selection at SS for a Baltimore Orioles dream team. His 2,632 consecutive games played streak is the stuff of legends. Even at his historically anemic position, Calvin Edwin Ripken, Jr. hit a robust .276 and averaged 23 HRs and 91 RBIs over his 21-year career. He even won two MLB Gold Glove Awards.
3B - Brooks Robinson* (1955-77) - Speaking of Gold Glove Awards, "The Human Vacuum Cleaner" managed 16 consecutive GG seasons (good for a tie for second all-time). One of the longest-tenured hot corner guardians, Brooks Robinson thrilled Orioles faithful with inspired play for 23 seasons. His best season was 1964, when he knocked 28 HRs, 118 RBIs, and hit .317, while winning the AL MVP Award.
LF - Boog Powell (1961-77) - Six years after Brooks' AL MVP Award, teammate John "Boog" Powell secured the same honor. The summer of '70 saw Boog slam 35 HRs, 114 RBIs, and have a superb .412 OBP (he hit .297). Like Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell was a two-time World Series champion ('66, '70). Although he was shilling beer in 1981, you're more likely to find Powell at Camden Yards serving Boog's Barbecue these days.
CF - Brady Anderson (1988-2001) - Except for 34 games played for the Indians, Brady was a career Baltimore Oriole. A steady, if not spectacular, player, the three-time All Star was a fixture in center field for 14 seasons.
RF - Frank Robinson* (1966-71) - SayingFrank Robinson made an impact upon his trade from the NL Cincinnati Reds to the Orioles in 1966 is an understatement. The 30-year-old only led the league in average (.316), runs scored (122), HRs (49), RBIs (122), as well as OBP, slugging, and OPS -- en route to the AL Triple Crown. "The Judge" would also become MLB's first black manager when he took the reigns as player/manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. He would go on to manage the Orioles from 1988 to 1991.
DH - Eddie Murray (1977-88) - "What have you done for me lately, Eddie!" is attributed to Eddie Murphy and his comedy bits, but the denizens of Baltimore would reply "plenty" if referencing "Steady Eddie" Murray. After securing Rookie of the Year honors in 1977, Eddie would go on to play seven of his eight All-Star games as a Baltimore Oriole. He certainly lived up to his "Steady" nickname, averaging 27 HRs, 103 RBIs, while hitting .287 -- though his Baltimore numbers were usually significantly higher than his already-impressive career averages reflect.
OF/2B/3B - Don Buford (1968-72) - A versatile INF/OF, Don Buford is a perfect fit as handyman of an all-time Oriole squad. Though he never really hit for power (his career high was 19 HRs in 1971, his second to last year in Baltimore), he did have a sneaky mix of swat and speed.
SS/3B - Miguel Tejada (2004-07, 2010) - During his first tenure in Baltimore, Miggy failed to hit .300 and 20 HRs only once (in 2007, which saw him hit .296 with 18 HRs). His 97-game swansong in Baltimore in 2010 was much less memorable, but he'll be playing behind Cal Ripken, Jr. on this O's fantasy squad -- and even in fantasy, Ripken tends to play them all.
OF/C/3B - BJ Surhoff (1996-2000, 2003-05) - Surhoff would make the team for his utility alone -- as any INF/OF/catcher might. BJ, however, also consistently hit around .300 with moderate power (his career average for HRs is 13).
SP1 - Jim Palmer* (1965-84) - The three-time Cy Young winner ('73, '75, '76 -- finishing in the top-5 five other times), three-time AL wins leader ('75-77), and two-time ERA champ ('73, '75) is the perfect anchor of this Baltimore all-time team. Jim Palmer averaged 33 starts per year over his career and #22 is far and away the opening-day pitcher for this fantasy squad.
SP2 - Dave McNally (1962-74) - Before Jim Palmer, there was Dave McNally. After a couple of sub-par early career seasons, McNally settled in as the "ace" of the Baltimore Orioles for most of the 1960s.The addition of Palmer seemed to make McNally only better, as his three All-Star seasons came only after the addition of "Cakes."
SP3 - Mike Cuellar (1969-76) - After being mired in Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Houston, Cuellar blossomed upon his trade to the Orioles, winning the AL CY Young in 1969. He would go on to play brilliantly in the 1970 World Series (we'll give him a pass for the ALCS) and play on two All-Star teams during his O's career. Although the choice of music might be suspect, here's a nice tribute to Cuellar.
SP4 - Mike Mussina (1991-2000) - Before Mussina was the ace of the N.Y. Yankees, he was the ace of the Baltimore Orioles and best O's pitcher during the decade of the '90s. He would pitch 288 games, 2,009.2 innings, and win 147 games for the Orioles.
SP5 - Mike Flanagan (1975-87, 1991-92) - Flanagan was the flagship of some pretty mediocre Baltimore teams in the '70s and '80s -- nonetheless, he secured himself a winning record (.539) over the course of his 18-year career. His best year was 1979, when he led the league with 23 wins (5 SOs), while winning the AL Cy Young Award. Gone too soon, Mike died Aug. 24, 2011, at the age of 59.
Southpaw Specialist - Grant Jackson (1971-76) - "Buck" narrowly edges Jesse Orosco as the crafty lefty of the bullpen, mainly due to his better ERA (2.81 to 3.35) and WHIP (1.119 to 1.252).
Setup - Dick Hall (1961-66, 1969-71) - Dick Hall could do it all -- starter, reliever, closer, outfielder. Just the kind of guy you'd like to have in the pen.
Closer - Hoyt Wilhelm* (1958-62) - Hoyt Wilhelm made it sexy to be a reliever. Well, sexy might be a stretch, but he did prove the late innings were not necessarily the place where washed-up starters went to die. Multi-million dollar closers today should be thankful Wilhelm's knuckler baffled so many late inning bats; he really was baseball's first closer.
All stats courtesy of www.baseball-reference.com.
The author is a lifelong baseball fan living in the heart of Detroit Tigers country -- his obsessive fascination with the perennial cellar-dwelling St. Louis Browns led to a natural interest in the Baltimore Orioles.