Only once in a career that spanned nine seasons and nine different organizations did Jeff Manto have four or more home runs in a single year. But as Orioles fans should well remember, the 1995 season was a special one for Manto, who completed a run of homers in four consecutive at-bats on this day 16 years ago. His power surge tied a record he shared at the time with 23 other players.
“When you look at me you don’t think I’ve got a chance to set any kind of record, but when you’re having success, everything’s fun,” Manto told reporters. “It’s just a wave right now.”
Manto’s second-inning drive off the Angels’ Mike Bielecki helped the Orioles to a 6-2 victory before more than 45,000 fans at Camden Yards. Manto almost single-handedly pushed the Orioles to a three-game winning streak with five homers in six official at-bats over the course of three games. He hit two home runs the night before against the Angels following a two-homer game June 8 against the Seattle Mariners.
Manto, who had “Mickey” as a nickname and is now a minor league hitting coordinator with the Chicago White Sox, originally signed with the Angels in 1985 after playing at Temple University. He finished the 1995 season with a career-high 17 home runs, which far eclipsed his next-highest single season total of three. He entered the year with four career home runs.
The 30-year-old third and first baseman came to the Orioles in May 1994 as part of a conditional deal with the New York Mets, who had signed him as a free agent the previous December. Manto earned time in the lineup at third base due to the struggles of Leo Gomez, who batted .236 in 53 games during his final season in an Orioles uniform. Gomez signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Cubs after the season and played one more year in the majors.
Though he played only one season in Baltimore, Manto’s 89 games in 1995 were the second-most he played for any team after the Cleveland Indians. Manto was part of the 1993 National League champion Philadelphia Phillies and the 1999 World Series Champion New York Yankees. He is one of three players to have his number retired by the Buffalo Bison. According to the team’s Web site, he was the first Bison player to hit three homers in a game at Dunn Tire Park.
“I came to the field with no baggage. I came to play baseball. I didn’t come to complain,” said Manto, according to a 2010 profile in the Bucks Local News. “I just enjoyed everything about the game, and I think people were looking for that. I had to work for everything I got in baseball, and people could relate to me because of that.”
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds will appear this week as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.