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Catching Up With Gus Triandos

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department, veteran 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 ..."

The weathered metal street sign hangs atop the wet bar in his home, a green-and-white reminder of his baseball years in Baltimore. "Triandos Drive," it reads.

"That is my favorite memento," said Gus Triandos, 78, onetime Orioles slugger. Half a century later, he remains one of only three players to have a road named for him (with Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken, Jr.).

A burly, brooding, slow-footed catcher, Triandos was the Orioles’ first power hitter – the favorite of fans when he rattled the fences and the goat when he didn’t. But the three-time All Star accomplished enough that in 1962, when he moved into a new development in Timonium, a street there took his name.

"Some years ago, they replaced the street sign and mailed the old one to me," said Triandos, of San Jose, Cal. "It’s one of my few (keepsakes). I didn’t save much stuff over the years. I never wanted to be in situations where I had to bore guests with my exploits."

In a 13-year career – eight with the Orioles – Triandos caught two no-hitters, hit 30 home runs in one season (then an American League record for catchers) and won the sympathies of fans for his ballyhooed efforts to handle the elusive offerings of knuckleball pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.

Finally, the Orioles developed an oversized mitt to help Triandos capture Wilhelm’s knucklers.

"Hoyt’s was an amazing pitch. It waved at you as it went by," Triandos said. "Catching him wasn’t a great deal of fun."

In 1958, when Wilhelm no-hit New York’s AL champs, 1-0, Triandos’ 425-foot clout in the seventh inning won it.

"Catching Hoyt was such a miserable experience, I just wanted to end the game," he said.

An Oriole from 1955 through 1962, Triandos hit 142 home runs for Baltimore, many in cavernous Memorial Stadium which was more spacious early on than later. At 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds, fans thought him aptly named: Gus Triandos, a rugged Greek with a brawny look and a plodding gait.

He still derides his lack of speed.

"They called me the slowest player of the decade," he said, "but it was more like the century. Of course, I thought I was runnin’ like hell – except that the scenery didn’t pass by too fast."

Once he hit an inside-the-park home run against Boston, chugging around the bases as Hall of Famer Ted Williams chased the ball through the outfield.

"I scored standing up," Triandos said proudly. "Winded? Sure. I wasn’t used to stuff like that."

He also stole one base, against Yankees catcher Darrell Johnson on the final day of the 1958 season.

"I went in standing up on that one, too," Triandos said. "Johnson never got over that."

Dealt to Detroit in 1962, he bounced around the majors for a while. In 1964, Triandos caught Hall of Famer Jim Bunning’s no-hitter for Philadelphia.

After baseball, he moved to California and started a mail delivery business. Now retired, Triandos lives in a trailer park with Evelyn, his wife of 57 years. A great-grandfather, he is fighting a leg infection that has kept him in bed for two weeks.

"I think I’m mildewing," he said. "Whoever said that getting old is beautiful was full of it."

Photos: Sun file photo by Richard Stacks (top); Sun file photo by Joe DiPaola, Jr. (bottom)

Comments

Great article, Mike, I enjoy learning about the old timers. That said, I'm pretty sure that they renamed I-395 right by the stadium after Cal Ripken, so Triandos isn't the only former Oriole to have a road named after him.

Also, I think they named the access road between Stevenson and Park Heights right by the beltway after Brooks. Yes, I do know my ceremoniously named roads in the Baltimore area! ;-)

Gus Triandos is my boy! I love you man... always

Nice article...When I was about 7/8 years old, "Big Gus" was my first favorite Oriole...Good to know that he's still alive and kickin'...I think you made a mistake about Gus being the only Oriole to have a street named after him...Woodling Dr. (near Old Court and Reisterstown Rds) was named after Gene Woodling (who had one of the most distinctive batting stances in the majors and was Gus' teammate for a few years).

brooks robinson described gus' lack of speed by saying..gus rounded 2nd base like a milk truck with a flat tire. his 30 hr in a season tied the american league for most hr's by a catcher. paul richards in an attempt to help gus catch wilhelm's knockleball developed the oversized catcher's mitt that was more flexible that mitts at that time, though he best way to catch hoyt's knockler was to wait for it to stop rolling and pick it up.

what can you say the guy was good , sad he was traded before the birds starting to win , thank you baltimore sun , i like the toy dept .

big Gus,,,,,,wow.......often referred to as Gus Tremendous. He was solid behind the plate & had a good arm. The best power bat we had until Bob Neiman showed up. Even with the sorry team we had in those days, with guys like Gus & Ernie Harrelwell & Chuck Thompson .........following the Birds then were truly the good ole days for us oldtimers.

He was definitely my first favorite. Partially because I am Greek, first autograph and first in-person. Than there was Milt Pappas that completed the Greek battery connection. Really miss the days of the true ball player and not the money hungry ones of today. That is why I don't follow any pro sports anymore.

Love this piece! Great personality on Gus: awesome one-liners and humble humor. I love it when the ballplayers have a distinct - but not egotistical - personality.

My grandfather always liked the catchers so naturally Triandos was a favorite. For a number of years his autograph was the only one I had. The first after Gus' was Bobby Grich.
Besides the other "named" street names mentioned, I'm pretty sure that somewhere around town there are streets named for some of the 1890's O's as well.

Gus Triandos is the greatest! I followed him when I was a kid and thought he was the best catcher in baseball, the Orioles had the best team and everyone hated the Yankees. All of this is as clear as yesterday and I am glad I was able to be an Oriole fan. I remember Gus talking about all of the bruises he would get when trying to catch Wilhelm's knuckler. Most of the time it would hit Gus in the chest or the legs. Great memories!

apologies to all. julie is correct, there is a brooks robinson drive off the beltway near pikesville. it was renamed in brooks' honor two years ago, on his 70th birthday.
also in 2007, a piece of I-395, near camden yards, was named for cal ripken, jr. but cal hasn't claimed the whole road yet.
still checking barry's assertion that woodling way (also in pikesville) was in fact named for gene woodling, onetime orioles outfielder.

I was a member of the Gus Triandos Fan Club as a kid. The club threw a farewell dinner for Gus at the Gorsuch House (then owned by Brooks Robinson) when Gus was traded to Detroit in 1962. My father took me, and I remember that Eddie Robinson was also there. I still have my fan club membership card autographed by Gus that day, and the menu from the dinner. Great memories.

I think that when Gus hit the inside-the-park home run, Jimmy Piersall just stood and laughed at Ted Williams. I believe a friend of mine was at the game and always laughed when recalling Gus puffing around the bases.

Great work Dad!

To Gus Triandos,

Slow or not, you were a terrific player for the new Orioles in 1954 and thereafter. You gave the club class and helped them get started on the right road. I saw a lot of your games as a kid and cheered when you got those big hits. Sorry about your having to catch Wilhelm. I hear you always hated it. Hope your health is holding out and you get over your leg infection. Kids need someone like you to teach them about baseball.
Best regards, Bill Belt

Gus Triandos might be the first Oriole whose name I knew as a little kid. Gus & Jim Gentile were definitely the first Oriole sluggers I rooted for. But then came Boog and Frank and Eddie and winning Oriole teams. Oh for the good ol' days.

Gus Triandos was my first Baseball hero. My G'mother new someone on the ground crew who got me a broken Gus bat. I still have at 60 years old and it is certainly my oldest momento. I remember a storey which said Gus used to bet guys he could sit on home plate and hit secong base with a throw!

I was at "The Game", when Hoyt tossed the no-no. It was for my ninth birthday party and none of us kids was paying close attention to the game, sitting in hot sun in the deep right field bleachers, just acting goofy and being kids. But in the 7th inning, one of us looked at the scoreboard and shouted, "Hey, it's a no hitter!", after which Joey LiPira tossed his cone of popcorn into the air.

Ahhh...those were the days. Don Feressee lived along my Evening Sun newspaper route, and gladly obliged a mid-afternoon request for an autograph, in his tank-top (AKA wife-beater tee shirt, though I'm certain that he had a very happy marriage)..

I loved big Gus as a child. The first game I attended Clint Courtney started instead of Gus. I booed him. The fans couldn't figure out why I was booing "Old Scrap Iron," but I wanted to see Gus. Still remember the home run hitting contests in the backyard with my cousin. He was the Senators' Jim Lemon and I was Gus. Gus usually won because I was bigger than my cousin.

We lived in New Jerrsey, going to high school and I would take a train down to Baltrimore for weeknds to see the Birds. I would go to games early, get autographs, and head to the bleachers in left field before the game to catch Gus' big drives. During the eveings, I would be at the box seats with my aunts and uncles for two glorious Oriole baseball games....Gus Triandos always was nice to me when I asked for his autograph.

Bobby Ballgame: My memory of the Wilhelm no-hitter was that it was overcast and drizzly. My mother and I sat under cover, which we almost never did. I didn't know what a no-hitter was, and my mother wasn't going to jinx it by telling me, so I didn't know about that until the game was over. I knew that my favorite player had hit the home run, though.

A little later, when my grandfather was teaching me how to keep score at games, I wrote everybody's last name down except for one, where I wrote "Big Gus." Once, a guy behind me said "Can't spell Triandos, huh, kid?" I don't think the eight-year-old me even turned around, I just said "T-R-I-A-N-D-O-S." It needed an expletive at the end, but I was eight and my grandfather would not have approved.

AND we all know that Triandos is "favorite" of Hurk from the Wire

It may not count as an Oriole player, but I believe MacPhail Road in Bel Air is named after Lee MacPhail.

It may not count as an Oriole player, but I believe MacPhail Road in Bel Air is named after Lee MacPhail.

My dad came home from work at AAI in Cockeysville Md. and when he walked in handed me a baseball on which was written "To Johnny Best Wishes Gus Triandos 1961". I still have it..considering all I've been through a minor miracle. I will never forget sitting in the stands at Memorial Stadium and hearing that guy holler out "C'mon Gus Hit A Home Run". Too bad life don't last forever.

Gus was the biggest star for the Orioles when I was a kid growing up in Howard Park and a favorite of mine. I'm glad to hear he's doing OK except for the "mildewing".

Gus, know that a lot of us will remember you fondly long after you're gone, and what more can a person ask out of life but to be remembered?

Thanks for the articule. It stirred memories that are still vivid. The hugh mitt, the no-hitter, the 30 home runs in one season. A record for a catcher tied with Yogi-that's a big deal. George (The Fireman) Zuverink, pitching to Gus.The first naming of a street after a player. I remember going with friends just to see the street. Yeah, Gus was a ball player- Gus was cool. God Bless you Gus, thanks.

The day of the no hitter I was driving back from Pennsylvania after burying my infant son. He had died at birth and I took him to the family plot in Scranton. I remember listening to the game on the radio on the way back and of course, I'll never forget it.

BTW. Gus hit 31 home runs that season but lost one to a rainout, otherwise he would have had the record for himself.

You know a lot of these old guys are bitter that they didn't come along during the big money era. You would think all the millionaires today would chip in to help retired players like Gus.

He was my fav too along with Barber and then Boog.

What ever happened to Billy O'Dell?

Gus actually hit 31 home runs in one season. He hit one against Detroit in a game that was rained out before 5 innings (so the stats didn't count) and the game was never replayed. It always PO'd me because he actually beat Yogi Berra's record!!!

Mike,

Thanks for tracking down Gus. I'm sure I wasn't the only person wondering how he was doing. I enjoyed hearing the memories of others. My best memory of Gus Triandos was when he and a few other Orioles came to the Hampden Rec field to do a little clinic for us Small Fry and Gus showed me how to block the plate from a runner coming home. Gus, if you read these, Best wishes! Jerry

Every time I pass Triandos Drive in Timonium I remember a hot summer day in Little League. I probably was 11 or 12 and right before our game started a kid on my team told me he had just heard that Gus Triandos had been traded to Detroit. I immediately went behind the backstop and threw up. I was just heartsick the entire game. Gus was the reason I wanted to be a first baseman (his original position). I ended up playing shortstop with a first baseman's glove. My batting stance resembled the wide spread of his legs and for someone who probably weighed 75 pounds, the power hitting stance just didn't work. Actually, Gus had not been traded and it was another four or five years until he left Baltimore. It's been more than 50 years since that hot day. The memory of that game and all the other days and nights and dreams of Gus Triandos have never gotten old. Thanks, Gus.

Thanks so much for tracking down long ago Orioles. I lived in Baltimore all my life until 15 years ago when I moved to Palm Harbor Florida.. It so nice to read about the older players. My nephew is Dave Johnson who pitched for the O's

Thanks Mike for putting Gus in the Toy department. I knew you would get a lot of response from old Oriole fans.And I still am. While reading these stories it brought memories I had for gotten about. I wish we had a ring of honor for Gus. Is Gus in the Oriole hall of fame? In those days the Orioles did not win a lot. I give Gus and Bob Nieman credit for giving fans some pleasure at the games.

This edited post from my blog, concerning Gus, might interest some of you.

The Mystery of the Coin

During the deconstruction of Room #1 at our church, one of our members found a red, plastic baseball coin depicting Baltimore Oriole Gus Triandos . I did a little research. It's a 1959 Armour Baseball Coin. (Armour, as in the meat company.) It retails on Ebay for about $15.00. Gus Triandos was an Orioles star in those days as .a 248 hitter in 1958. Ol' Gus did get some publicity a couple years ago. He was mentioned in a little less than flattering way on the HBO series The Wire, which is set in Baltimore.

1959 happens to be my birth year and I'm an Oriole's fan (having grown up in Baltimore). I'll treasure the coin and keep it on my desk, with my Brooks Robinson autographed baseball.

When I was a kid I'd sometimes drop a penny down a hole in the ground where cement was being poured, imagining that someday in the distant future someone would find these things and they would be great archaeological marvels. I wonder if some kid did that with the baseball coin when Room #1 was being constructed (a Pittsburgh kid wouldn't have minded sacrificing a Baltimore Oriole coin for posterity). Or maybe it just fell out of some one's pocket.

I grew up just up the street from Gus Triandos' house. Milt Pappas and Dick Hall lived in the neighborhood as well. We looked up to them as heros. And they were. We were so proud to call them neighbors.....some of the greatest memories a child could have. Many thanks to Gus, Milt, Dick and all the others.

Thanks for the story about one of the great all-time Oriole ball players. He is the best catcher who ever played for the O's (including the great teams of the 1890s). Gus Triandos was the favorite player of all the kids in my neighborhood (Pimlico) in the late 1950s. I was happy for him and proud to be an O's fan when he was deservedly elected to AL All-Star teams.

Too bad he had to catch Hoyt. It probably shortened his baseball career.

When I was playing at the Babe Ruth level Gus came to our awards banquet. After the meal he handed out the awards. I had the leagues highest batting average and when my name was called I rember, to this day, shaking his hand and remarking at the size of that hand--it was "Tri-mend-dos. What a great and gentle man. He loved the game and the game loved him. He is one of the reasons why I have stayed an Oriole fan for 55 years.

I believe that Gus spent time in the Yankees Minor League organization. With Yogi doing the catching in the Bronx, Gus missed a lot of opportunities which he would have today. Gus spoke at our Cub Scout Banquet in Parkville, something he did not have to do.

So - We're for Gus, and he's for us!

One night after an Oriole game, my older brother, a friend, and myself were leaving the stadium when we walked into Mr. Triandos. Our friend approached Mr. Triandos and asked him for his autograph, handing him his popcorn container, which had an area on the side for autographs. Mr, Triandos snatched the box out of our friends hand, and asked for a pen. When we replied that we didn't have one, Mr. Triandos threw the box back at our friend and said " What do you what me to do, sign it in blood"? Well, we were just young kids, naive about even getting autographs. Never liked the guy again! Never asked another ballplayer for his autograph again! He could have just told that he didn't have a pen either, and left it at that. But he didn't. What a jerk!

Gus..Remember Fox Chevrolet? You and I worked there. You presented my son Ron with several of his trophys when playing for Sheriff Fowble.. So pleased that you're on this side of the grass yet.

Summer of 1958 I was 10 years old. I remember that game because two things happened - Wilhelm struck out Mickey Mantle (!!!) and Gus hit that home run.. . .all those years ago. Now he's in a trailer park in California . . .Jeez, that just don't sound right. I live in Timonium, right around the corner from Triandos Drive and it always gives me a smile when I drive by. Thanks, Mike, for the column, and thanks, Gus. . .for being a big part of the Baltimore Orioles and a big part of our baseball world when we wuz just kids.

Thanks so much for the article about Big Gus. He was my first Oriole hero. I'll never forget my father and I listening to the games on the radio and counting the batters until "Gus" would be up and we could at least have some hope for a rally. Also, Gus handed out the trophy's for the Fallstaff Little League in 1956. What a thrill it was to have him hand me my trophy. I still have the team picture with him in it from that night. It was especially gratifying because I wore number 11, which was Gus' number too. Also, there is a Woodling Way in Pikesville, named after Gene Woodling, who was a prolific pinch hitter for the O's back then. Also, The Gorsuch House was owned by Eddie Robinson.

Triandos... Power hitter, right?

my dad used to refer to Triandos as "deer foot"; it was affectionately so because the prior cathcher was ,old "scrap iron-one clint courtney.courtney wore inch thick coke bottle glasses under his mask and every foul pop was an experience
gus was a treat to watch when he caught wilhelm-bruises bumps and all

Gus was way before my time (I didn't really follow the O's til '74), but I still recognize the name and knew enough about him to read the article and the surprisingly-many fond comments because - ownership are you listening? - the Orioles, even after only twenty years of existence, had tradition, knew it, and emphasized it. See the '74 yearbook and info guide, had a bio on every player who appeared in a game as an Oriole, had pages of O's highlights, and because of that, I got to know of past greats and goods like Gus and Hoyt, Diamond Jim, Steve Barber, Scrap Iron, and more. It's very significant that Gus got more comments than all the other Toy Dept Catching Up Withs put together. That's a tribute to not just fan loyalty, but the Oriole tradition of excellence that generates the fan loyalty. The O's accomplished far more in their first 20 years than many teams in their first 30-40-50, or sadly than the O's in their last 35. When will ownership realize the value of the Oriole history and tradition, and the corresponding deep depth of fan loyalty, and respect them and live up to tradition rather than squander it? C'mon, disrespecting Brooks? The ownership may be local, but they must've been gone during the golden years of Gus and the 50s-60s O's. Those years might've drew only 1/3 the attendance of Camden Yards, but as you see, the fans of that era still, even 50 years later, have 5 times the loyalty.

Knowing that Mr. Triandos was my favorite player when I was a kid, for my 40th birthday years ago my sister tracked him down to see if she could get an autograph for me. When she spoke with Mr. Triandos and asked if she could send him something to autograph, he said something along the lines of "Well sure, I didn't know anyone from Baltimore even remembered me."

Gus, we surely do, and thanks.

Mike, Triandos was an key player in the Orioles' development from the East Coast edition of the St. Louis Browns (that is, doormat for the American League) into a good ball team. I hope Gus gets over his "mildew."

His backup, Clint Courtney, was another fan favorite you might want to track down.

Ditto Chuck Estrada, the righthander who went 18-11, 3.58, 144K in 1960, his rookie season. That year he was an All Star, won The Sporting News' AL Pitcher of the Year Award, finished 12th for AL MVP (the top three were Maris, Mantle and Brooks) and second in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind teammate Ron Hansen (that was the year of the Bird, as the only other vote-getter for that award was O's first baseman Jim Gentile). Estrada went 15-9. Wildness and an elbow injury ultimated derailed a promising career, and he was traded after the 1965 season. After his 1967 retirement, Estrada would go on to serve as a pitching coach in the minors and for Texas (1973) and Cleveland (1983).

Gus Fan: I started the Gus Triandos Fan Club when I was 12.I believe I still have some pictures from the dinner at the Gorsuch House. They were great days to be a fan!

I wonder what happened to Willy Miranda?

Een mooi artiekel Mike.
Een Europese Big Gus fan.
mvg Rudolf

I was just sitting here going through the Internet, and I found the story of Gus Triandos. As I have always been a fan of baseball. I think I knew more about major league baseball as a kid than I do now. However, I did not know that Gus went to the same high school as I and my mother, aunt and four uncles. He didn't go to Mission High School during the time that any of my relatives went, however, he is 5 years younger than my mother's youngest brother was. If Gus can see this, maybe he remembers Willie Drew. That field behind Mission is named for him, and isn't even 100 yards long, as I remember.

GUS TREMENDOUS !!!!! Gus was my favorite--he was just a big strong guy and he could crank 'em! My brother's favorite was Jim Gentile, and we'd get in fights (you know how it is with brothers), over who was better, I told him the only thing Gentile was better at doing was throwing his bat in the air after he's strike out---I swear he tossed one about 30 feet up...good old days.

Gus was and is my MAN...

In the late 50's as a Little Leauguer Gus attended a sign up night @ Pikesville Elem Sh in Baltimore...He at once became my hero and still is...

Love you Gus

Ahh! It's good to hear from Gus. I remember listening on the Radio to the no hit game. As I recall it was a cloudy, day game in Baltimore. Gus was no a B S guy. Like most of the quality players of his time. I see he hasn't changed by his right on comment about getting old. I didn't remember that he caught Bunting's no-hitter. A real feather in his cap. Good luck Gus. The mention of your name always lifts us old timers spirits, big time, right along with Johnny, Brooks, Eddie etc.

Just reading this now, a year after it was written. I hope Gus is doing well and recovered from his "mildew".
He was my first hero and still my favorite. Thanks for this nice walk down memory lane. I listened on the radio as he hit the homer to beat the Yankees in Wilhelm's no hitter. This article caught the flavor of "Gus Tremendous"

Great reading about Gus. I will never forget that he can and visited me while I was in the hospital in Landsthul Army Hospital, Germany in 1958. I was 16 and caught a foul tip in the eye catching without a mask tearing the retina in my left eye. He brought me a milkshake and visited with me for a while. Thanks Gus, Kelly McCartney

I live near Triandos Drive and never heard anybody in that one-block street happy about the name. They say nobody knows how to spell it or anything about the player. They say it's a shame that the street was named for such a medicre Oriole when they are told who Triandos is. They say Frank Robinson should have held the honor among many other Orioles

i believe i saw gus triandos hit a mammoth grand slam homerun over the left field screen at fenway park in the firs inning in 1959 or 1960. 4 batters up 4-0. wondering if my memory is right.

From upstate NY I was only fan of Orioles and especially Gus Triandos.My all time favorite player that my friends and I still discuss.I only wish I was able to contact him to express how much he meant to me as a child,and that I still think of him to this day as my hero.

WOW!! It's great to see all of the heartfelt memories of my "Uncle Gus". I was born in 1965, so he was never the Baltimore Oriole to me. He was just my uncle who had his face on a baseball card (that was in the spokes of my bike). He's doing well. Just turned 81. We were watching Billy Crystal's movie "61*" together just a few weeks ago (because he's in it). It's great to hear the old stories from him now. When I was a kid, he never spoke of it. Baseball was just something he used to do. It's amazing to me to read all of the great moments in baseball history where he was front-and-center (i.e. Ted Williams last at bat, Roger Maris' tying the HR record, so many more). I can't wait to hear more from all of the fans. I'll tell him you said hello.

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