Over the past month, we’ve been taking a look at the all-time Orioles lineup. Each day on the MASN Orioles page on Facebook, we went through each position and had readers and followers vote and debate on the greatest Oriole to ever step foot on the diamond.
It was a process that was well-received, with more than 1,000 comments from fans and players’ names stretching from 1960 to 2011. Some spots were easier to fill than others, but now that the polls have closed, let’s take a look at who you selected to suit up on the all-time Orioles lineup.
First base: Eddie Murray (1977-88, 1996). We started the countdown at first base, where Murray was an overwhelming choice. Murray was a mainstay during the 1980s, helping the Orioles to their most recent World Championship in 1983, all the while sporting some memorable facial hair. After stints with the Dodgers, Mets and Indians, Murray returned to Baltimore, just in time to hit his 500th home run. Arguably the greatest switch-hitter of all time, Murray finished his career with 504 home runs and 3,255 hits, one of just four players to surpass 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.
Honorable mention: Boog Powell
Second base: Roberto Alomar (1996-98). Sometimes, it’s hard to believe Alomar played just three years with the Orioles, but it was a stretch of time that encompassed some of the 2011 Hall of Fame inductee’s greatest moments. With Alomar at second, the Orioles’ defense was among the best in the league, combining with shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. to form one of the most lethal double play combinations. Alomar won Gold Gloves twice in Baltimore and finished with 10 during his 17-year career. His legacy took a hit on Sept. 27, 1996, when Alomar spat in the face of home plate umpire John Hirschbeck during a game in Toronto. It was a dark moment for the game, but doesn’t overshadow Alomar’s time helping the Orioles to back-to-back American League Championship Series appearances.
Honorable mention: Davey Johnson, Brian Roberts
Shortstop: Cal Ripken Jr. (1981-2001). Baseball is known as a game of numbers, and Ripken certainly has his share of impressive stats to boast. For two decades, Ripken was a mainstay in the Orioles’ lineup, spending most of his career at shortstop before moving to third base. We all remember him for his unbelievable consecutive game streak, which began May 30, 1982 and finished 2,632 games later Sept. 20, 1998, most notably surpassing Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive game streak on Sept. 6, 1995. But those who watched Ripken know he was much more than that. He hit 431 home runs, collected more than 3,000 hits and helped the Orioles to a World Series title. He’ll be regarded forever as one of, not only all-time Oriole greats, but one of the greatest athletes to put on a uniform.
Honorable mention: Mark Belanger
Third base: Brooks Robinson (1955-1977). A brief shoutout here to my father here, who grew up watching Robinson and maintains the third baseman is easily his favorite player in history. I think it’s safe to assume most fans voting on Facebook weren’t alive to watch Robinson defend the hot corner, but that only speaks to his legacy and how even the youngest Orioles fans know the all-time greats. In 23 seasons, Robinson racked up more than 2,800 hits and 1,300 RBIs. He was part of two World Championship teams during the late 1960s and early 1970s and was selected to 15 consecutive All-Star games. His real claim to fame, however, was his work with a glove. Through grainy footage, us younger folk have been able to see a handful of stops Robinson made on the diamond, a good reason he finished with the most Gold Gloves by any infielder in history (16), and tied for second of any player trailing only pitcher Greg Maddux (18). This one was barely up for debate. Robinson easily scooped up this spot in our lineup and would be a safe bet as the Orioles’ all-time greatest player.
Honorable mention: Doug DeCinces
Left field: B.J. Surhoff (1996-2000, 2003-05). If there was ever an unsung hero award, Surhoff would certainly be in contention. For part of his eight years in an O’s uniform, Surhoff patrolled left field at Camden Yards, quietly going about his business and racking up plenty of honors along the way. Surhoff was never one of the flashier names, but everyone simply referred to him as “B.J.” His quiet resolve and work ethic translated to 2,326 hits and an All-Star appearance as an Oriole in 1999. He was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2007, but received only two votes in his first year of eligibility into Cooperstown. He may not be on the ballot in New York, but as far as Baltimore goes, he’s an all-time great.
Honorable mention: Don Buford
Center field: Paul Blair (1964-1976). The numbers may not be overwhelming, but Blair’s presence at the eight-spot certainly was. As a member of the Orioles’ 1966 and 1970 championship teams, Blair was the outfield glove to mirror Robinson’s glove at third. In 1973, Blair finished tops in the American League with 14 outfield assists, and he finished in the top three in the league among center fielders in fielding percentage six times. His eight Gold Gloves along with two championships make Blair one of the most decorated Orioles to ever come through the organization. Despite not being known too strongly for his bat, Blair finished with a career .260 batting average in the playoffs, including an impressive .288 in six World Series.
Honorable mention: Brady Anderson, Adam Jones
Right field: Frank Robinson (1966-1971). Coincidentally, the man who could possibly challenge Brooks Robinson for the greatest Oriole of all time shares his former teammate’s last name. Though he was in Baltimore for just six seasons, Frank Robinson left his mark, smacking 179 home runs and nearly 1,000 hits. His bat was one of the most feared in history, highlighted by the Birds’ first championship team in 1966, when Robinson hit .316 and hit 49 home runs with 122 RBIs. Robinson finished as the Orioles’ all-time leader in home runs with 583 and won Most Valuable Player Awards in 1961 (for the Reds) and 1966. Like Blair, Robinson played way before my time, but along with Ripken and the other Robinson, Frank’s spot on this list was one of the most lopsided.
Honorable mention: Nick Markakis
Catcher: Rick Dempsey (1976-86, 1992). Some know him as Jim Hunter’s counterpart on “O’s Xtra.” Others remember him as the man who entertained the masses with his crazy rain-delay antics. But for most, Dempsey was an icon for the Orioles in the early 1980s. At first glance, Dempsey’s numbers aren’t anything flashy. He never hit more than 13 home runs and finished with more than 100 hits only once in his career, but it was his poise and intelligence, as well as being named the 1983 World Series MVP, that makes him an easy choice here. In that series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Dempsey hit an astounding .385 including five extra-base hits in 13 at-bats. Today, we see him behind the desk, but it was his role behind the plate that has him on this list.
Honorable mention: Andy Etchebarren
Designated hitter: Harold Baines (1993-95, 1997-2000). In this past year’s Hall of Fame voting, Baines missed the 5 percent mark needed to remain on future ballots by .2 percent. Folks, that’s a travesty. Between his time with the Orioles and Chicago White Sox, Baines earned six trips to the All-Star game, and finished less than 200 hits shy of the illustrious 3,000-hit club. Never one to be too flashy, Baines, much like Surhoff, was simply a guy who showed up to the ballpark every day and gave his best. Over the years, that mounted into a great career, one worthy of the Orioles’ all-time designated hitter.
Honorable mention: Murray
Starting rotation: Jim Palmer (1965-84); Mike Mussina (1991-2000); Mike Cuellar (1969-76); Mike Flanagan (1975-87, 1991-92). Apparently pitchers named Mike have a chance for greatness in this town. Deciding on an all-time four-man rotation was difficult, as most people had at least one variation in their dream staff. But after tallying everyone’s submission, it was these four arms who fit the mold of the all-time starting rotation. Everyone had Palmer as the ace of the staff, and why not? With three Cy Youngs to his credit and eight 20-win seasons, Palmer was easily the greatest arm in Orioles history and one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Mussina follows behind him, yet another workhorse who skirts the fence when it comes to most Hall of Fame discussions. In fact, I’ve heard from more than one person over the years that Mussina doesn’t quite belong in Cooperstown, but would be the cornerstone of baseball’s “Hall of Very Very Good.” In 10 years with the Orioles, Mussina posted a 3.53 ERA, accumulated 147 wins and finished in the top five of Cy Young voting six times. The third man in the rotation is Cuellar, who pitched alongside Palmer in the late 1960s and 1970s. He captured the American League Cy Young Award in 1969, but had arguably his best statistical season a year later, where he posted a 24-8 record and 190 strikeouts. Finally, another Cy Young Award-winner in Flanagan takes the mound. Flanagan picked up right where Cuellar left off, winning 167 games including the Cy Young in 1979. As a member of the 1983 championship team, Flanagan went 12-4, highlighted by a 1.80 ERA in the ALCS against the White Sox.
Honorable mention: Dave McNally
Bullpen: Tippy Martinez (1976-86); Jesse Orosco (1995-99); Gregg Olson (1988-93). Deciding on an all-time bullpen might have been the most difficult part of the team to decide. Statistically speaking, relievers don’t post too many flashy numbers, and for most people, you simply remember them coming in from the bullpen and shutting opponents down. All three of these guys certainly did that during their years with the Orioles, starting with Martinez, mainstay in the bullpen for a decade. Fans and players knew what to expect from the left-hander every year, as Martinez kept his ERA down and opposing hitters from doing too much damage. He allowed 10 or more home runs in just one season, ironically in his only All-Star campaign in 1983. Orosco is undoubtedly known for launching his glove into the air following the final out of the 1986 World Series as a member of the Mets, but with the Orioles, Orosco gave fans just as many celebratory moments. Here was another man who went out game after game and did his job. He kept hitters’ bats quiet and helped the Orioles to back-to-back playoff appearances in 1996-97. For the closer, the nod went to Olson, who after winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1989, posted 160 saves in his six years with the Birds. Olson was selected to the All-Star game in 1990 and had a 2.26 career ERA in Baltimore.
Honorable mention: Randy Myers, Eddie Watt
Manager: Earl Weaver (1968-82, 1985-86). This one was a runaway, folks. And why shouldn’t it have been? Weaver is the benchmark to against whom all other Orioles managers will forever be measured. It’s hard to determine whether Weaver is known more for his success on the field, or his temper tantrums. In between kicking dirt on home plate and his infamous profanity-filled rant with first base umpire Bill Haller in 1980, Weaver put together some of the finest ballclubs in this city’s history. He helped the Orioles win World Series titles in 1970 and 1983, and won more than 1,400 games at the helm. His best years came from 1969-71, where the Birds won three straight pennants and won at least 100 games in all three seasons. Current manager Buck Showalter is well-loved in the Charm City already, but he’s got a long way to go to unseat Weaver as the man you all picked to lead the Orioles’ all-time lineup.
Honorable mention: Showalter, Davey Johnson