Matthew Taylor: Rewritten history shouldn’t be forgotten

Chris Davis has tied Jim Gentile for third on the Orioles’ all-time single-season home run list. Barring injury or an unimaginable power outage, Davis will hit his 47th homer and push Gentile further down the list he once topped. This is familiar territory for Gentile, who established at least a half-dozen team records in 1961.

The past half-century has been an extended exercise in removing pieces of that magical 1961 season from the record books, one by one. Rather than diminishing the man’s efforts, however, the process should serve to provide subsequent generations of O’s fans with a greater appreciation for the player Roy Campanella described as “a diamond in the rough.”

Gentile’s 141 RBIs were a team record until Rafael Palmeiro drove in 142 runs in 1996. Miguel Tejada pushed Gentile to third overall when he totaled 150 RBIs in 2004.

His nine RBIs in a game stood alone among Orioles batters until Eddie Murray matched the mark in 1985.

Gentile’s five grand slams in 1961 were a major league record until Don Mattingly cleared the bases six times in 1987. Travis Hafner matched Mattingly in 2006, and Gentile now sits in a three-way tie for most grand slams in a season with Ernie Banks, Albert Pujols and Richie Sexson.

His two grand slams in one game on May 9, 1961 stood alone in team lore until Frank Robinson matched the effort in 1970. Then Chris Hoiles joined the group in 1998.

Gentile’s .646 slugging percentage is a team record; however, Davis’ current .689 slugging percentage would top that mark, too.

“Man of Steel,” a Superman remake, premiered earlier this summer. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s current man of steel is putting together an effort reminiscent of an earlier version of the same story.

Gentile was 27 in 1961; Davis is 27 in 2013. Gentile had 46 home runs; Davis has 46 home runs. Gentile scored 96 runs; Davis has 91 runs. Gentile batted .302; Davis is batting .306. Gentile had an OPS of 1.069; Davis has an OPS of 1.076. Gentile had 314 total bases; Davis has 313 total bases. Gentile’s WAR was 6.3; Davis’ WAR is 6.1.

If you are wowed by Davis, you would have been wowed by Gentile.

I suppose it’s fitting for a guy whose career year occurred during the venerated 1961 home run chase to be overshadowed. Asked recently if he would have done anything differently during that 1961 season, the one in which he finished third in the MVP voting behind Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, Gentile had an answer at the ready.

“I would have liked to have done it in ‘62,” he said.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of’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 but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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