There are two kinds of underrated athletes, players who were good, but overlooked because they were on excellent teams and those who were unappreciated because they were good players on bad teams.
The Orioles have had their share of both. Here’s my list of the five most underappreciated Orioles.
1) Scott McGregor
During McGregor’s prime years, 1978-84, he was an eye-catching 108-63. The Orioles played in two World Series, winning one of them. McGregor pitched a complete game shutout in the final World Series game the Orioles played in.
He played with great pitchers: Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, Steve Stone, Mike Boddicker, Dennis Martinez and Storm Davis were all around during his tenure.
For many Orioles fans, the most memorable moment was not a World Series win, but an Aug. 1980 game at Memorial Stadium when he pitched a complete game 1-0 win over the Yankees. McGregor, not known as a strikeout pitcher, fanned five batters, but struck out Reggie Jackson three times.
McGregor has worked as a minor league pitching coach and for the last two seasons has helped the major league club late in the season.
2) Rick Dempsey
How could a man who craves attention and is a longtime fan favorite be considered underappreciated?
Dempsey was a good catcher, a very good one. He caught all those pitchers mentioned above. Dempsey caught more games in Orioles history than anyone, and he played in the major leagues for a very long time.
With pitchers, like McGregor and Flanagan, who worked at it, Dempsey was great at holding down opposing teams’ running games.
In his career, Dempsey threw out fully 40 percent of runners who tried to steal, and early in his career twice threw out half or more of those trying to run.
Dempsey played in the majors until he was 42, and he’s spent additional time around the Orioles as a coach and broadcasters. Earlier this year he opened a restaurant that bears his name on Eutaw Street.
3) Don Buford
Buford spent his last five seasons with the Orioles, and in the middle three, the team went to the World Series.
His handicap was that he was the leadoff hitter in lineups that featured Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Davey Johnson and the slick-fielding Paul Blair.
With the White Sox, he was an infielder, but was converted into a left fielder when he came to Baltimore in 1968.
Buford had power, could steal bases and had an excellent on-base percentage. He had a .264 lifetime batting average, a .362 on-base percentage and 12 leadoff home runs.
Often around the Orioles, it’s hard to believe this vibrant, energetic man is now 75.
4) Melvin Mora
Mora fits into the category of: Why do good players happen to bad teams?
Most have forgotten that Mora has the highest single-season batting average for the Orioles. (.340 in 2004), and is in the top 10 in most offensive categories.
That’s because he played from 2000-09, a time when the Orioles floundered. Mora played with Brady Anderson, Albert Belle and Cal Ripken. He also played with Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters.
Mora came to the Orioles in a trade with the Mets for Mike Bordick and for a time, played short. When Bordick returned, he played everywhere, and for his last seven seasons played third.
Twice an All-Star, he hit over 100 RBIs twice and more than 20 home runs three times, Mora was also known as the only Oriole to father quintuplets.
5) Jim Dwyer
I hadn’t thought about Dwyer for years until writing this. He was an effective hitter, who played an astonishing 18 seasons in the major leagues, eight of them with the Orioles.
The Orioles got Dwyer when he was already 31, but he played in Baltimore until he was 38. He batted .262 in his time with the Orioles and was a favorite of Earl Weaver and his other managers because he wasn’t afraid to walk. He had an on-base percentage of .360.
The left-handed hitter played more than 100 games just three times, but was one of the best pinch-hitters of his time. He had 101 pinch-hits, 10 of them home runs.
Dwyer rarely hit home runs, but in the 1983 World Series, hit a homer in his first at-bat.