Think about the core group of players that helped the Orioles to four World Series between 1966-71, and you’ll likely focus on the powerful bats and slick fielders that made the offense/defense combination of winning baseball in Baltimore - names like Andy Etchebarren, Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Paul Blair.
However, there were Orioles pitchers who appeared in the 1966, 1969, 1970 and 1971 Fall Classics, too. Left-hander Dave McNally and right-hander Jim Palmer started games during the team’s first four World Series appearances. Versatile Dick Hall was a staple of those October postseasons as well, though the 6-foot-6 right-hander - one of six alums of Division III Swarthmore (Pa.) College to play in the majors and the last member of The Garnet to reach the bigs - isn’t always remembered as quickly as some of his teammates.
“Four World Series,” says Hall, now 81, with a smile when asked about his fondest memory as an Oriole. “That’s pretty good.”
Not bad for a guy who started out as a second baseman in the Pirates organization before being converted to the mound in 1955. He reached the majors with Pittsburgh, where he spent four seasons from 1955-57 and 1959, but was traded to the Kansas City A’s in December 1959 and then to the Orioles in April 1961 with infielder/outfielder Dick Williams for outfielder Chuck Essegian and right-hander Gary Walker.
For nine of the next 11 seasons (save for the 1967-68 campaigns spent with the Phillies), Hall was an Oriole. Though he started 22 games from 1961-63, Hall made his mark in the bullpen as a rubber-armed righty capable of filling multiple roles. He could throw long relief, work an inning or shut down the opposition in the ninth inning. During his career, pitchers weren’t specialists.
“You just pitched when they needed you,” Hall said recently before participating in the Orioles Alumni Autograph Series at Camden Yards.
Each Monday and Thursday home game during the 2012 season, former O’s from all eras will sign free autographs and interact with fans on Eutaw Street outside Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant. Participants are not announced in advance, but sign for an hour beginning 90 minutes before games.
Hall doesn’t sound sold on specialization, though it’s become an accepted part of present-day baseball strategy.
“It’s developed,” said Hall, who was 65-40 with a 2.89 ERA in 342 games as an Oriole. “(Former major league manager Tony) LaRussa started it by bringing in a reliever in the ninth inning. In all my time here in Baltimore, they never took a pitcher out unless he got in trouble. Gradually, LaRussa started it with (Dennis) Eckersley, bringing him in to start the ninth inning, and it’s just progressed from there to where there are now seventh-inning men, eighth-inning men and everything else.”
Hall collected 58 saves in his Orioles career, during an era where the stat meant something entirely different and the rules regarding what constituted a save changed a couple of times.
“They kept track of (saves) ... when I was playing, but you just worried more about getting the outs,” Hall remembered. “And they kept changing the rules. In ‘71, all you had to do was finish the game and you got a save. It didn’t matter what the score was. So I got a save in a World Series game (in an 11-3 win over Pittsburgh).”
One of the highlights of his Orioles career came in 1961, when Hall and the Birds were matched up against the Yankees at Memorial Stadium when slugger Roger Maris was trying to break Babe Ruth’s then-record of 60 home runs in a single season. Because the regular season was then 162 games, commissioner Ford Frick decreed that Maris needed to hit 61 homers in the same 154 games that Ruth had needed to set the mark in 1927.
Maris was stuck on 58 homers on Sept. 19, 1961, when O’s pitchers Hal Brown and Hoyt Wilhelm limited the Yankees center fielder to a single in five at-bats in the second game of a doubleheader and kept him from breaking Ruth’s record in the proscribed time. The next day, during a 5 2/3-inning stint in relief of Milt Pappas in a 4-2 loss, Hall twice retired Maris.
“I struck him out and then he hit one good to the right fielder,” Hall said. “Every at-bat he had was either close enough he swung at it or it was a strike. Gave him a chance.”
The thought of not pitching to Maris with the record possibly on the line never crossed the Hall’s mind.
“We dicussed that ahead of time, among the pitchers, and someone said, ‘If I get in that position, where I’m going to give up a home run that’ll go in the record books, I’ll walk him.’ ” Hall recalled. “I said, ‘No, no, no. I’ll face him.’ “
Whenever Hall pitched, former radio and television broadcaster Chuck Thompson would inevitably bring up the tall right-hander’s nickname - “Turkey,” a reference to his gangly stature and unorthodox delivery. But Hall’s height served him well during and after his career when he played winters on the Orioles’ basketball team, which took part in charity games, often against school faculties.
“It was fun,” Hall said. “The kids liked it because it was usually against the faculty. The kids got to see the Orioles up close and they got to see their faculty in action. We usually won. Lost a couple of times, though.”
During his playing days, Hall made his home in Timonium. Nowadays, he’s retired and lives in Mays Chapel. But he marvels at the fact that he’s still so well-remembered, even though he pitched his final game in an Orioles uniform in 1971.
“The commonest comment is, ‘They need you back to pitch some more,’ ” said Hall, who was enshrined in the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1989.