Over the next month, LWOSports will be breaking down the top five MLB players in franchise history for all 30 teams. This article will rank the top five Baltimore Orioles players from least to best by who had the biggest impact for the team. You can check out the other series articles here.
For a team rich in history, it should come as no surprise the Orioles are a franchise rich in legendary players, most of whom played their entire careers in Baltimore. The question with this top five is not whether these legends deserve to be there, but how do you put one higher than the other? It isn’t that these players are just the faces of Baltimore Orioles history, it’s that they not only endured the highs and lows of the franchise, and thrived regardless.
Top Five Baltimore Orioles Players
5. Frank Robinson
Frank Robinson only played six years of his 21 year career in Baltimore, but in that short time, “all he did” was win one of his two Most Valuable Player awards (the other came when he played for the Reds in 1961), make five all-star teams (he made a total of 12 in his career), and win the MVP Award of the 1966 World Series. In six seasons with the Orioles, he averaged 30 homers and 90 RBIs per year. In his 1966 MVP year, Robinson led the league in runs scored and won the triple crown. By the time he called it a career, he had a stat line most athletes would be jealous of with 2,943 hits, 586 homers, and 1,812 RBIs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005.
4. Brooks Robinson
Brooks Robinson edges out Robinson for number four only because he played his entire career for Baltimore. Robinson did not deliver eye-popping numbers, but what made him great was being a steady threat every day for years. Five times he led the league in games played, which may not seem like much considering another guy on this list, but consider this: in 1960, American League teams played 154 games before going to 162 in 1961. Of Robinson’s 23 years, he played in 150 or more games 14 times. In that time, he won one MVP Award, finished in the top 10 in MVP voting another six times, made 15 consecutive all-star teams, and won 16 straight Gold Gloves.
3. Eddie Murray
Eddie Murray belongs to an elite club. Only six players have hit 500 or more homers in a career and also reached 3,000 hits. Eddie Murray joins Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez. What made Murray’s stats so incredible was being a threat from both sides of the plate. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight times, made eight all-star teams and was Rookie of the Year in 1977. He was elected into the Hall Of Fame in 2003 with 85.3% of the vote.
2. Jim Palmer
Jim Palmer is a legendary example of how much things have changed. He was the example of excellence in his 19-year career, all of which were spent in Baltimore. He was also an example that today’s pitchers will never follow. Four times, Palmer pitched more than 20 complete games IN ONE SEASON, including 25 in 1975. For comparison, 2018’s Cy Young runner-up Justin Verlander has thrown 24 in his career. Palmer threw at least eleven complete games in a season nine times and had 211 for his career. He also threw more than 250 innings, unheard of today, nine times, and threw more than 300 innings four times. He also won 268 games, three Cy Young Awards had five other top-five finishes, and received MVP votes eight times, including 1973 when he was the MVP runner-up. It was the same year he won his first Cy Young.
1. Carl Ripken Jr.
Played entire career for the same team? Check. Showed up for work every day? Check. Set the standard and example that no one will ever beat for what it means to be a baseball player? Check. Before Robert Downey Jr. played one, Cal Ripken Jr. was the original Iron Man. On September 6, 1995, Ripken broke Lou Gehrig‘s consecutive games streak of 2,130 games. By the time Ripken took a day off, he played in 2,632 consecutive games, which is more than 16 seasons of never missing a game. Think about that next time you need a sick day. Don’t think for a moment Ripken was nervous about the record-setting day. He homered one inning before the game became official. He played in 3,001 career regular season games, eighth most in history. Ripken won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1982, his first MVP the following year (his only other MVP award was won in 1991), was a 19-time all-star, and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2007 with 98.53% of the vote, the fourth highest in history.
The players on this list can be moved one spot up or down, but this is the top five for this storied franchise. The history of the Orioles can be described as streaky. When they have been good, they tend to stay that way for long stretches. When they’re bad, they tend to be that way for many seasons at a time. Imagine what they would have done with these five players on the same field at once.
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