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Mark Belanger

 

Mark Belanger

Mark Belanger
Shortstop
Born: (1944-06-08)June 8, 1944
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Died: October 6, 1998(1998-10-06) (aged 54)
New York City, New York
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 7, 1965, for the Baltimore Orioles
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 1982, for the Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB statistics
Batting average .228
Hits 1,316
Runs batted in 389
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Mark Henry Belanger (June 8, 1944 – October 6, 1998), nicknamed "The Blade,"[1] was an American shortstop in Major League Baseball who played almost his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles. A defensive standout, he won eight Gold Glove Awards between 1969 and 1978, leading the American League in assists and fielding percentage three times each, and retired with the highest career fielding average by an AL shortstop (.977). He set franchise records for career games, assists and double plays as a shortstop, all of which were later broken by Cal Ripken, Jr. After his playing career, he became an official with the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Contents

  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Later life 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Belanger was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he attended Pittsfield High School, where he played baseball and basketball. On the basketball court, he became the school's first 1,000 point scorer. He was recruited by the Orioles as an amateur in 1962, and made his debut with the club on August 7, 1965.

Career

He took over as the Orioles' regular shortstop in late Ed Brinkman (.224), and the seventh lowest of any non-catcher with at least 2500 at bats since 1920. His true contribution to the team was on defense, where he earned a reputation as one of the best fielding shortstops ever. Receiving the AL Gold Glove eight times (1969, 1971, 1973–78), he was also named to the All-Star team in 1976. Belanger joined a select group of shortstop-second baseman combinations who each won Gold Gloves in the same season while playing together: in 1969 and 1971 with Davey Johnson, and again with Bobby Grich each year between 1973 and 1976 inclusive. And with Brooks Robinson winning at third base every year through 1975, the left side of the Orioles' infield was seemingly impenetrable.

Despite his famously poor hitting, Belanger had substantial success against some of the best pitchers of his era, including Bert Blyleven, Nolan Ryan and Tommy John.

He hit a rare home run in the first American League Championship Series game ever played in 1969, and after uncharacteristically hitting .333 in the 1970 ALCS, his contributions led to the Orioles' 1970 World Series victory, the team's second title in five years; he caught a line drive to end a 4-3 victory in Game 1 with the tying run on first base, and had an assist to end Game 3. Playing in six ALCS, he set league playoff records for career games, putouts, assists, total chances and double plays by a shortstop, all of which were broken between 1998 and 2002 by Omar Vizquel and Derek Jeter.

He was granted free agency in 1981, perhaps in response to his public criticism of manager Earl Weaver, and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 1982 season, after which he retired.[2]

Following Belanger's departure from the Orioles, former teammate Rich Dauer said, "Anyone would miss Mark Belanger. You're talking about the greatest shortstop in the world. He never put you in a bad position with his double-play throws...He'd put you where you should be to make the play... I never had to think out there. If there was any question in my mind, I'd look at Blade, and he'd have a finger out, pointing which way I should move.[1]

Later life

Belanger served as the Orioles' union representative for several years. He was one of the four players who led negotiations during the 1981 strike. After his retirement as an active player he was employed by the MLBPA as a liaison to its membership.

He and his wife Daryl had two homes; in Timonium, Maryland and Key Biscayne, Florida and had two sons, Richard and Robert.[3]

A long-time smoker, Belanger contracted lung cancer in the late 1990s and died in New York City at the age of 54. He is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Rosenfeld, Harvey (1995). Iron Man: The Cal Ripken, Jr., Story. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 69.  
  2. ^ Goldstein, Richard (October 7, 1998). "Mark Belanger, 54, a Shortstop On Orioles Known for Fielding". New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Mark Belanger | SABR Retrieved 2014-10-24.

External links

  • Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
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