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Catching Up With ... former Oriole Mickey Tettleton

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 ... "

No player personified the 1989 Orioles more than Mickey Tettleton, the poster boy for the "Why Not?" crew that nearly won a pennant. Spurned by other clubs, Tettleton joined Baltimore and blossomed in that magical summer as the no-name Orioles gave fans the ride of their lives.

That the Birds battled Toronto to the wire before losing the American League flag was due greatly to Tettleton, the Popeye-armed journeyman catcher who batted with a chaw in his cheek and a stance all his own.

So what if he stood soldier-straight at the plate, abandoning the hitter’s crouch? Tettleton hit a club-high 26 home runs in 1989, made the All-Star team and carried the Orioles for half a season.

His appetite was legend. Froot Loops were his fancy and when word got out, boxes of the kids’ cereal flew off local supermarket shelves.

"I literally ate Froot Loops every day," said Tettleton, 48. "I was superstitious about stuff like that."

Crowds played along, shouting "Loops" when he batted and celebrating Tettleton’s homers by throwing handfuls of cereal around like confetti. A stuffed toucan – a gift from a fan – sat atop his locker at Memorial Stadium.

"People started sending little boxes of Froot Loops in the mail for me to sign," he said. Tettleton did and returned the boxes. Unopened, of course.

Twenty years later, he still gets letters from fans that refer to his love for the cereal – though he concedes that middle age has brought changes to his diet.

"I’m more of a ‘Special K’ guy now," he said.

His three seasons in Baltimore ran the gamut. Deemed a washout at 27, he signed here in 1988, when the Orioles lost their first 21 games and landed in last place. A year later, they bounced back to finish two games off the pace.

"We went from being a team that couldn’t hit water if we fell out of a boat, to being a team that couldn’t do anything wrong," said Tettleton. "The difference? Chemistry. Except for Cal (Ripken), we were guys that nobody had ever heard of, and we bonded really well."

Given a chance to play every day in 1989, Tettleton thrived.

"Playing in Baltimore relaunched my career. I got to live out a dream," he said. "It was a memorable year, right from Opening Day when we beat (Boston’s) Roger Clemens. In my mind, I still play the tapes of those games."

Dealt to Detroit in 1991, Tettleton played seven more years, 14 in all, finishing his career with 245 home runs and the big-league record for most strikeouts in a season by a switch hitter (160, with the Orioles in 1990).

"That’s probably not the best record to hold," he said.

Married and the father of four, Tettleton lives in Norman, Okla. where his wife, Shannon, owns a hair salon. An avid golfer, he competes in both celebrity events and on a mini-seniors tour.

Friday night, he’ll return to Baltimore to participate in a 20th anniversary celebration of the "Why Not?" Orioles. Tettleton, outfielder Mike Devereaux and pitchers Dave Schmidt and Dave Johnson will sign autographs. Then Tettleton and Devereaux will each throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Orioles’ game against the Los Angeles Angels.

"Hopefully, I can get the ball all the way to home plate in the air," Tettleton said.

He’ll have had Froot Loops beforehand. Just in case.

Comments

I really enjoy reading these articles. I remember Mickey T well. along with Billy Rip, my favorite players during this year. Games always a thrill, you never knew how they were going to win, but win they did!!!!!!!!

Deveraux, Tettleton, MOOSE - Randy Milligan, Joe Orsalak.. gosh, that was a GREAT team.

Great job Mike, I look forward to Tuesday's articles. They bring back lots of memories.

Since current events are weighing on a fan's loyalty these historic articles
are refreshing. Thank you.

thanks for the memories, mick. all the best to you and yours.

I remember that season so well. I was 19 years old. It was so dissapointing when we lost that final series to the Blue Jays. I still have a ball that was signed by a lot of that team: Cal, Mickey, Randy Milligan, Dave Thurmond, Steve Finley, Brady Anderson, Bob Milaki - just a bunch of the nicest guys. They would roll out of the old Memorial Stadium after the game and hang out and chat with the fans- (except for Cal who - justifiably so - would sign at the back end of the lot while sitting in his car). It was quite a ride. Good times. Simpler times.

Thanks so much for "catching up" with Mickey. I was his "biggest fan" (no exaggeration here) during the time he was with the O's and even when he played against us as a Tiger, and later, a Ranger. He proved he had plenty of good swings left in his switch-hitting bat after he was traded. (I also remember the player we got for him, pitcher Jeff Robinson, was a total jerk and a flop and did absolutely nothing.)
The pseudo-cheerleading song, "Hey Mickey" that was used for his highlight reel was an absolute classic.
I remember Mickey being besieged with Froot Loops boxes at a sports awards banquet and the security folks had to put an end to his signing them, but Mick was gracious about it the entire time.
Please relay my thanks to him for some of my best baseball memories ever.

To HP: Your Memorial Stadium Parking lot memory is right on the money.
My kids and I were one of those fence-hangers, too.
Mickey, Gregg, Pete and the gang would always be nice and greet us after every game...except for Cal, who sat in his car and signed for one or two, then take off.

Mick is still one of my favorite Orioles of all-time. As a 13 year old in 1991 that trade crushed me. Jeff Robinson didn't last the year and Mick went on to have quite a few more good seasons.

Too bad we could not keep Schilling, Finley and Harnich. Those guys could of been the cornerstone of the franchise along with Tettleton and Ripken for the next 10 years!!! Such a great team.

I love Mickey and '89 was a very special year for me and baseball. I went to 40+ games that year and fell in love with that team!!
However, 20 years later can we ask ourselves if Mickey was on any PED's?? Doesn't he fit the classic stereotype? Plus he did wash out of the A's system before coming to the Birds. The same A's system that produced Canseco, and McGwire around that same time.

For my money this was the best O's team I'd ever seen! I was too young to remeber the 83 season. I miss them in the worst way, it was just so exciting to see this team win so often out of sheer will. I'd honestly put them against so many other teams because when it got down to the actual game they just got it done

I remembered that 1989 team foundly, listening to John Miller, and the late great Chuck Thompson on WTOP/WBAL. Who can forget the refrain of "GIVE THAT FAN A CONTRACT." What heartbreak on the final series of the year, to the Jays. It was a great ride. Gregg Olson was a warrior along with the rest of that "Why Not" team.

Chris Hoiles = A dopy Keifer Sutherland

Somebody find Todd Frohwirth!!!

What great memories this conjures of that exciting fun summer. I too went to a ton of games that season and the chemistry was unmistakeable. Memorial Stadium was a classic and these guys just found a way to win time and time again. I was just heartbroken during that final roadtrip to Toronto that year. To think they almost accomplished "worst to first"!

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