In the world of improbable World Series Most Valuable Players, there’s always going to be a seat at the table for former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey. And you can be certain that he’s going to block the plate.
You know what they say about old habits.
Dempsey went 5-for-13 with four doubles and a home run in 1983 and did his usual outstanding work defensively and handling the pitching staff. And the Orioles disposed of the Phillies in five games, with Dempsey embracing Scott McGregor after the final out.
Besides the unlikely heroes are long forgotten players who made brief appearances during the regular season. Names that really test a fan’s memory.
Joe Nolan served as Dempsey’s backup in ‘83, playing on his fourth and final major league team, but two other catchers made it onto the roster.
John Stefero, who attended Mount Saint Joseph High School, went 5-for-11 in nine games as a rookie. He started only once, in his major league debut on June 24 against the Tigers, but had a walk-off single against the Brewers on Sept. 18 to cap a comeback from a 7-0 deficit.
It took three years for Stefero to make it back to the majors, when he slashed .233/.321/.300 with two home runs in 52 games.
The Orioles sent Stefero to the Expos as the player to be named later with pitcher Dennis Martinez on Dec. 8, 1986. He went 11-for-56 with a home run in 18 games in 1987, was granted free agency and didn’t play again in the majors.
Stefero is the general manager and president of Brown’s Toyota of Glen Burnie. Stop in and say hello. Maybe buy a car, too.
(The Orioles received a player to be named later from the Expos who turned into infielder Rene Gonzales.)
Older fans should remember Stefero, especially due to the local angle, but what about the other catcher?
Dave Huppert appeared in two games and didn’t get an at-bat. Did he get a ring? I’m assuming so.
Huppert, also a rookie, worked the last three innings of a Sept. 15 game in Boston and the 10th and 11th innings on Oct. 1 versus the Yankees. His professional career began in 1977 with Rookie-level Bluefield after signing as an amateur free agent.
The Orioles released Huppert in October 1983, the Brewers signed him three months later and he went 1-for-21 in 15 games - his last in the majors.
Does he count as a blast from the Orioles’ past or more of a pop?
I should remember left-handed reliever Don Morogiello, since he made 22 appearances and had a 2.39 ERA, but I needed to do a little research to jar my memory.
A former third-round pick of the Braves out of Seton Hall University, Morogiello signed with the Orioles as a free agent and also made his big league debut in ‘83. The only season that he pitched in the majors.
The one game that stands out just happens to be the night of the Stefero walk-off. Jim Palmer allowed six earned runs (seven total) in 1 1/3 innings. Morogiello replaced him and shut out the Brewers over 6 2/3.
Eddie Murray hit a grand slam off Pete Ladd in the eighth for a 9-7 lead, the Brewers scored twice in the ninth off Tippy Martinez and Stefero won it.
Anyone recall that game?
I forgot that Don Welchel made 11 relief appearances in the last of his two major league seasons and Allan Ramirez made 10 starts in his only major league season. More bit parts in a championship season.
Got to have them.