Fans of plate discipline and on-base percentage, this blog post is for you. Today is the anniversary of Bobby Grich’s record-setting ability to get on base without hitting the ball. Grich established a team record for walks in a game with five on Aug. 9, 1975. Grich ended the day 0-for-0 and scored three times, the most of any Orioles player that day, in a 12-6 victory against the White Sox.
Grich finished the 1975 season with 107 walks. Meanwhile, Ken Singleton had 118 walks to establish a single-season team record that stands to this day.
Singleton spoke about the 1975 season with the blog River Ave. Blues back in June.
“I can still recall when Earl Weaver called me into his office during spring training and told me - and he was kind of ahead of his time as a manager - that I was going to lead off. I told him that I wasn’t a leadoff hitter, and he told me that season I would be. He told me to get on base,” Singleton said. “He had two guys who could take walks -- me and Bobby Grich, who was going to bat second. I walked 118 times, which was a team record and still is, and got on base about 40 percent of the time. Earl was ahead of his time because OBP wasn’t as important in those days to folks, but it was to him.”
There’s been only one other season when two Orioles batters have each drawn at least 100 walks. Don Buford (109) and Boog Powell (104) preceded Singleton and Grich in 1970. The 1970 Orioles had a franchise-best 717 walks.
Care to wager a guess at the most recent Orioles batter to draw 100 walks? That would be Albert Belle, who led the Orioles with 101 walks in 1999. Teammate Brady Anderson had 96 walks that season.
Overall, seven Orioles players have had 100 or more walks in a season: Grich (1973, 1975), Singleton (1975, 1977, 1979), Belle (1996), Randy Milligan (1992), Mickey Tettleton (1990), Eddie Murray (107), and Norm Siebern (1964).
For perspective, Mark Reynolds led the 2012 Orioles in walks with 73 followed by Matt Wieters with 60. Overall, the Orioles had 480 walks last season. Chris Davis currently leads the way with 44 of the team’s 273 walks in 2013.
With all this discussion of walks and a mention of the Earl of Baltimore, it only seems fitting to end with a classic Weaver anecdote. Here’s the New York Times’ telling of the legendary manager’s exchange with Pat Kelly:
“With a sandpaper voice, a taste for beer (he was twice charged with drunken driving) and a tense, competitive manner, Weaver was a crusty personality, though he had a sharp wit and a well-developed sense of mischief. Once, when outfielder Pat Kelly was irritated that Weaver was not giving him enough time for a pregame prayer meeting, he said, ‘Earl, don’t you want us to walk with the Lord?’ Weaver replied that he would rather have Kelly walk with the bases loaded.”
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear 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.