This is the final season for one of baseball's most storied ballparks, Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. "The House of Magic" has provided the stage for the best third baseman in American League history, Brooks Robinson; fellow Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson; and should-be Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and Larl Weaver. As one who saw and covered hundreds of games there, I'll always remember Memorial Stadium for the grace of Paul Blair in centerfield...the elegance of shortstop Mark Belanger...the 0-21 start in 1988...the 50,402 fans who came out to support that team when it was 1-23...the remarkable turnaround team of 1989...great, great pitching...catcher Rick Dempsey's pantomime routines during rain delays...an aging Brooks's 268th and last homer, a pinch-hit, three-run blast that beat the Indians 6-5 in 1977...the night in 1980 when base runner John Lowenstein was carried off on a stretcher after getting hit by a throw, only to abruptly sit up and raise his arms in triumph just before entering the dugout.
If a single game could capture the magic of Memorial Stadium, it was the one on Aug. 24, 1983, against the Blue Jays. The Orioles tied the score 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, but there were so many player moves that Lenn Sakata, a 5'9" infielder, made his first and only professional appearance as a catcher in the 10th. After a solo homer by Toronto's Cliff Johnson and a single by Barry Bonnell off Baltimore's Tim Stoddard, Oriole reliever Tippy Martinez came on. He picked off Bonnell. Dave Collins walked, but Martinez picked him off. Willie Upshaw singled, and Martinez picked him off too. In the bottom of the 10th, Sakata hit a three-run homer to win the game 7-4.
"People think Tippy had the greatest pickoff move ever because of that game," says Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan, with a laugh, "but Tippy had the worst move of any lefty I've ever known. I don't remember him ever picking off another runner. I'm serious."
The O's will have a fine new facility in 1992, but the thrills of Memorial Stadium won't soon be forgotten.
Hits and Misses
Cincinnati's Hal Morris, who as of Sunday had a league-leading .321 batting average, could finish with the lowest number of hits by a National League batting champ since the Pirates' Bill Madlock (153) in 1983, a season in which Madlock missed 32 games due to injuries. Morris's low total—he had 143 hits at week's end—is because he often doesn't play against lefties. Through Sunday, he had sat against 32 lefthanded starters. He was hitting .255 with one homer against lefties, .339 with 11 homers against righties.
Cal Ripken Jr. had more than 30 homers and 40 doubles through Sunday, the first shortstop in major league history to achieve those levels in the same season....
Most catchers take off their masks for tag plays at the plate so that they can see the incoming throw better. Seattle catcher Scott Bradley leaves his mask on. On Sept. 18, Toronto's Rob Ducey tried to steamroll Bradley at the plate and was knocked unconscious when his head hit the latter's mask. Bradley says that if he can catch Randy Johnson's 97-mph fastball with his mask on, he can catch a throw from an outfielder with it on too.