Catching Up With ex-Oriole Dick Hall
Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his\her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "
He was a tall, gangly relief pitcher with a lofty IQ and a low ERA. The Orioles’ Dick Hall could compute batting averages in his head. Most of those who faced him watched their numbers fall.
Other pitchers threw harder than Hall but few threw any smarter than the 6-foot-6 right-hander, a graduate of Swarthmore College and a cog in the Orioles’ bullpen during the club’s finest years.
In nine seasons with Baltimore, Hall won 65 games, saved 58 more and had an ERA of 2.89. He helped the Birds win a couple of World Series (1966 and 1970) and two more American League flags (1969 and 1971).
He had pinpoint control despite a herky-jerky motion that one reporter said made him look like "a drunken giraffe on roller skates."
Fans chuckled at his awkward, near-sidearm delivery, and so did the pitcher.
"People said I threw like a girl," said Hall, now 78 and living in Timonium. "Hey, as long as it worked, they could say anything they wanted."
It was an effective, if unconventional style.
"I’d release the ball real close to my body and then I’d fall to one side," Hall said. "Because I was all arms and legs, hitters said they had trouble picking the ball up because the pitch seemed to be coming out of my uniform."
One time he retired 28 consecutive batters over five appearances. Strike after strike he’d throw, mixing fastballs and sliders and routinely nipping the outside corner of the plate. Walks? Nah. Hall surrendered less than one unintentional base on balls per nine innings.
So accurate was he that in 16 seasons, Hall was charged with just one wild pitch. He also holds the honor of having won the first League Championship Series game ever played, a 4-3 Orioles victory over Minnesota in 1969.
"I’m proud of that," he said. "At my age, you remember the highlights you didn’t have time to enjoy before."
In two hitches with Baltimore (1961-66 and 1969-71) he was part of a stellar bullpen that included Stu Miller, Eddie Watt, Pete Richert and the fun-loving Moe Drabowsky.
Drabowsky’s pranks kept them loose, but Hall got his licks in too.
"Whenever a new guy came (to the bullpen), I’d eat a moth," he said. "Once, Eddie dared me to bite a 17-year locust in half. So I did it – just for the effect."
When he retired at 41, as an Oriole, Hall was the oldest player in the AL.
Married 53 years, with four children and nine grandchildren, Hall works part-time as an accountant, the career he began in 1958. He is mostly recovered from a stroke he suffered eight years ago.
"I’ve had one knee replaced and my (right) shoulder is shot – I can’t throw a ball 50 feet," he said. "But I can walk and play golf, and that’s good enough."
Twice a week, he drives to Longview Golf Course in Timonium to play with a group that includes former Orioles Billy Hunter and Ron Hansen.
"Hey , Turkey!" they’ll yell when Hall enters. That has been his moniker since 1951 when he was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I was in the team’s cafeteria, shoveling food in my mouth when [Pirates catcher] Joe Garagiola saw me and shouted, ‘Look at that turkey gobbler eat!’
"Well, I’ve got a long neck anyway, so the ‘Turkey’ nickname stuck."
Top photo: Ralph Robinson / Sun; Bottom photo: Paul Hutchins / Sun