Wednesday, June 08, 2005


June 8th, 1944

Mark Belanger Born

Mark Belanger was an outstanding defensive shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles; a thin man (listed at 6'1", 170) who anchored the Orioles' infield defensively for many, many years. With the exception of the 1979 season, either Mark Belanger or Cal Ripken Jr. played shortstop for the Orioles every year from 1968 until 1996. That's not quite the Yankees having DiMaggio and Mantle every year from 1938 through 1962 excluding the war, but it’s pretty good.

Belanger's defensive prowess covers the fact that he was a truly awful, awful hitter. His career line was .228/.300/.280, good for an OPS+ of just sixty eight, or thirty two percent worse than league average. Belanger never posted a season of better than league average OPS, and had just one season of even being league average. I think this gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of defensive player he was, if he was able to stay in the line-up despite hitting like a pitcher.

So, Belanger is a pretty good player but clearly not an all-time great. However, in 1988, his first year on the ballot, he received sixteen Hall of Fame votes. Sixteen! Now, I'll admit that was enough to get him off the ballot (it fell below the 5% needed to stay on), but still, sixteen! What were these guys thinking? If you've never seen one, Hall of Fame plaques have little bios of the players, listing some career accomplishments, high points, etc. Hank Aaron's, seen here, is representative.

Now, my question is, what were those sixteen guys who voted for Belanger thinking would go on the plaque? Can you imagine having to write it?

Mark Belanger
Baltimore, Los Angeles, 1965-1982
An excellent defensive shortstop, anchored Baltimore defense. Won six Gold Gloves. Played in four World Series, and six ALCS. An All-Star in 1976. Led American League in sac hits in 1973 and 1975. Led in singles in 1969. Career batting average of....nevermind. Um...did I mentioned the Gold Gloves? Let's list the years: 1969, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978. are you folks today? Visited the gift shop yet? Nice weather we're having. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, enjoy the rest of your time here at the Hall.

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