baltimoresun.com

« Which worries you the most: O's offense, defense, rotation or bullpen? | Main | Catching Up With ... former Oriole Mike Boddicker »

What are your memories of Mike Cuellar?



There’s something about growing up as a fan of a successful team.

The guys you never saw play still seem like your heroes, youthful legends trapped in time.

I don’t remember seeing any baseball until 1976 or so. But those Orioles’ World Championship teams in 1966 and 1970 still seem like part of my history. Because they were my dad’s favorites and my brothers’ and I heard all about them.

My sisters and I were more aligned to the 1979-83 clubs. But I never discounted those older teams – or my father would quickly explain what real baseball was, when pitchers finished what they started and sluggers played the field and yadda yadda yadda.

The point is I never saw Mike Cuellar pitch – or Dave McNally or Pat Dobson – but I know the history, I know how important Cuellar, who died Friday of stomach cancer, was to the franchise. I met Cuellar a couple times in the past few years while doing my job. Brief, friendly encounters, nothing too memorable.

Still, when an Orioles’ great passes on, it strikes a chord in all of us who once followed the team. Even for those of us who have moved past the fan stage and now follow the team to make ends meet.

The lights are low in this place tonight. The Orioles title flag behind the bar is at half mast. Salsa music is playing softly in the background. Raise your glass.

Here’s to Mike Cuellar and his screwball. And to the memories he provided a generation – and then some – of Orioles fans.

Daily Think Special: What are your memories of Mike Cuellar?

Comments

When they close the book on major league baseball, Mike Cuellar will always be one member of a four-man starting rotation, each of whom won 20 games or more. What a team we used to have!

I'll never forget that salami against the Twins in the playoffs, beating the Reds in game 5 to wrap up the series, a gentleman and an artist on the mound....I hear there are financial issues....the orioles should just pick up the tab for the funeral...show that there's still a little class in the organization....RIP Miguel

---
Barkeep's Reply: I know nothing of their plans. But I will say this for the Orioles and the Angelos regime. They usually do these type of things right -- without any fanfare.

I was there for game one of the '69 Series, down close to the infield (Section 38, Box CC1, Seat 4). Seaver was good, didn't give up much that day, but Cuellar was so much better. Had a shutout into the 7th and went the distance. Had his typical deadly serious look until the last out, and then it was a little smile and a "got it done" kind of look. Then he just walked off with the best infield we ever had, to a standing ovation. No curtain calls in those days.

I remember like it was yesterday watching Mike pitch. If he could get through the first inning he would usually get tougher as the game went on. That slow curveball was quite somehing to watch. It was a wonderful time back then watching those great Oriole teams.

I'm right there with you Dan....i was a child of the 77-83 seasons. Never saw Cuellar pitch but why do i know instantly the photo of him clinching the 1970 series? Because that was passed on to us as young kids from our fathers....no internet, no ESPN. Just still photo's of Cuellar with arms raised, or maybe the one of Brooksie leaping in the air.

It's the same reason I have great admiration for the men/women who fought in WWII.....they laid the foundation for what we have today.

I read the article from thursday that described his years since getting out of baseball. Not the money today's players make but don't you get a sense from the comments of his teammates that what they lacked in money, they more then made up in friendships and memories. I also read that his family can't afford a funeral. I hope Mr. Angelos quietly cuts a check to help this family. If you hear they still need aid, pass the word and we'll pass the hat, starting in here.

(Glass, actually bottle of Dos Equis raised)...to Miguel Angel Cuellar....we lose another legend from our past. Another Oriole we adored. God Bless his family and friends in this time of sorrow.

I followed baseball stats back when Cuellar was with Houston. He had low ERA,s on a bad team. I knew he was good and I doubt if the Orioles were surprised. Mike would have a rough first inning and then become dominate, allowing his team to come back.

My favortie: the LCS grand slam that was hit by Cuellar in game 1 of the 1970 LCS. McNally hits one in game 3 of the WS the same year. Two pitchers hit GS in the same post-season, the only time pitchers have ever hit GS in post-season, and they both are O's. Cuellar's came first...

I had 1st row 3rd base side season tickets in the years that Miguel pitched in Baltimore.

He was special...very special.

I remember this character parading the fields in a golf cart in Sarasota during the O's Fantasy camp. You wouldn't know he was there and then he'd show up behind you speaking in a thick Spanish accent saying "same release, same release." No matter what you threw (curve, slider, fastball, splitfinger, screwball, spitter, you always had the same release.Nice way to go through life, too. No matter who you meet or where you meet them, be the same person you are and have the same release.

RIP Mike. We'll always remember your
tantilizing curve ball. We had great teams back then but our fan base back then really didn't come out and support the Orioles like they should. It was disappointing that we had a wonderful team and 10,000 people in Memorial Stadium.

Cuellar was so much fun to watch. He baffled hitters with his changing of speeds and that crazy screwball.

I have two memories of Cuellar.

First, when the Orioles picked him up for Curt Blefary, I was 8 years old and I thought his name was probounced "Sue-A-Larr". I told my dad that we had traded Blefary for "Sue-A-Larr" and he teased me about that for a long time.

The most vivid memories are of him having a struggle or two in the first inning over and over again. My dad would tell me, "if he can just get past the first inning, he will be fine" -- and my dad was typically correct. Weaver usually spent the first innings of Cuellar's games on the top dugout step giving consideration to an early hook -- but if he didn't, Weaver usually could rest comfortably the rest of the night.

I was lucky enough to watch Cuellar pitch dozens of times in those years from a perfect vantage point -- in the first two rows of the box seats just to the right of the screen in Section 40 -- next to the visitors' on-deck circle. It was fun to watch the baffled hitters, swing, miss and shake their heads on the way back to their dugout.

In 1969-70-71, he was as good a pitcher as there was in baseball and of course the Orioles were incredible in those years.

And I recall playing catch with my dad and brother and trying to throw a screwball -- not very well, but we all tried then.

RIP Big Mike.

I showed up one day to play golf at Pine Ridge as a single, during the All-Star break in 1975. Mike Cuellar was another single and we were grouped with 2 other singles. He could hit the ball a long way. Nice to see that his handicap was 5 (from yesterday's paper). Sorry to see him go. He was a real contributor to those early 70's teams.

Along with the memories mentoned above I'll add another....
A one-hitter against the Twins in 1970 at a Junior Oriole game. D** Ceasar Tovar broke it up in the ninth inning!!!!
Great pitcher, gutsy pitcher.

i was sad to hear
mike had passed away, i wondered from time to time
how he was doing, he had
moved to el paso texas and
that was the last i had heard.

mike was a special man, had
a special smile... loved people, fit into the orioles'
family and oriole way...

man he could pitch, his screwball and craftiness were
really something..

in the big games, they often
pitched him ahead of mcnally
and palmer, what does that
tell you??

a free agent from houston for
curt blefary, almost as good
as the frank robby deal,
mike we'll miss you..

thanks for all the memories
on 33rd street and when
you came back for that final
reunion i am sure you felt
the love of the baltimore fans.

bob moffett

I am retired and live in Florida about 15 miles north of where Mike lived. Last winter (2009) Mike and his golfing buddies came up to my community to play golf. The Assistant Pro knew I was a big Oriole fan (how could he not know, my golf cart is Oriole orange with Oriole logos all over it!) so he paired Mike with me and several other Marylanders. When Mike saw my cart his eyes lit up and we immediately agreed he would ride with me in the cart. Mike was a great guy and a great golfer. It is one of the best memories I have. RIP Mike.

---
Barkeep's Reply: Nice, Marty, nice.

How great was Mike Cuellar?

From 1969-1974, Cuellar won 125 games for the Orioles (47 of those coming in 1969-70 alone ). McNally won 111 and Palmer 106 in that same time period ('69-'74). That about says it all.

Iron Mike (aka Crazy Horse, I think he might have also been occasionally called "Poker Face") had a great scewball -- does anybody throw them anymore? -- and a great fastball he never got enough credit for. People also forget he could run; he had two triples his first years with the Os. I seem to remember Weaver using Cuellar and Palmer as pinch runners -- that would never happen today.

RIP, Mr. Cuellar, RIP.


Loved Cuellar. We stole him from Houston. Blefary did nothing while we received a 20-game winner. Won't forget the wind-blown grand slam vs. the Twins. It was more than the screwball. It was the slow curve that had batters off-balance.

In late June/early July '70, Cuellar pitched an NBC Saturday game at Tiger Stadium. He homered to put the Birds in front, went all the way, and Al Kaline was up with two out and a man on, and hit a powerful fly ball into a stiff win in LCF, which appeared to be gone to tie the game. The wind held the ball up enough, that Blair caught it at the fence. Mike just walked calmly off the mound with a win, which put the Tigers about 10 games back in second.

Mike Cuellar never really got his due. The guy was GREAT. Take him and McNally during their prime, and plop them into today's game with diluted talent due to all of the MLB expansions, and they would probably have more success in today's game than they had back then. The difference being, that with today's media (ESPN, etc), everyone outside of Baltimore would know who they are. Cuellar was a master of his trade, and made hitters look silly. I’m truly saddened by his passing. Dobson only had that one good year, so for me the O's all-time pitching staff will always have Palmer, McNally, and Cuellar.

I'm truly sorry to learn he had to suffer at the end of his life. Crazy Horse was one of those great old school players, who you really appreciated watching. This guy could pitch and keep pro batters off balance. Rest in peace.

I remember watching him pitch the 7th game of the 1971 World Series against the Pirates. We lost 1-0 on a grey afternoon on 33rd St. He pitched his heart out but the Orioles couldn't get a break against Steve Blass. He was clutch all the way, all the time. Loved watching him. He is missed!

I also was too young to have watched Mike in his prime. Fortunately, the telecasts of World Series games he started (1 & 4 in 1969, 2 & 5 in 1970, 3 & 7 in 1971) have been shown on MASN & MLB Network, and I've managed to record them all. The two that I recommend the most are 1969 Game 1 & 1970 Game 5, the World Series Championship clincher and pinnacle of his great career.

You'll always be an Oriole, Crazy Horse. A million thanks for everything.

I can't add much to what's already been said. I'm incredibly saddened by this news. I'm glad I had a chance to watch him pitch. I was in Cleveland in '71 when the O's pitchers completed the "quadrifecta." Got a chance to congratulate him. We've lost another all-time Oriole. RIP, Mike.

Barkeep, you got it right: even us who were too young to have appreciated Mike and the glory years live (I'm 2-5 yrs older than you, plus I wasn't in town then) (and current ownership has neither of those excuses!!!), still know them pretty well and rightly look up to them. That's "no brag, just fact", and was therefore passed to us and still rings true 40-odd years later. I missed seeing him pitch too, regrettably, but I knew even then and more now he was a pitcher of skill not of heat, the kind to be appreciated by serious students of the game. Sad to compare, not just in on-field performance but also personal and community character of team and especially ownership, how little tradition the O's have built in the last 17 years vs the first 17 years. Will the Angelos era be passed on to future generations the way the 50s thru early 70s has deservedly been?

I am incredibly sad tonight. I first started following baseball in 1974 when I was 7. I was a kid in Fairfax and Cuellar was the best the Orioles had that year. The next year, my Dad took me and my best friend to Memorial Stadium for my brithday and my first game. We got there too late for the autograph session. Cuellar was hanging around on his day off and took the time to talk to me for about 15 minutes before the game. Then, of course, he had to leave. A few minutes later, the equipment guy, probably Ernie T., came over and pointed to me. I came over and he handed me a baseball. He said it was from Mike Cuellar who said happy birthday. The conversation is an incredibly special memory and the ball remains a treasure. God Bless Mike Cuellar - may you rest in peace. And thank you for making my 8th birthday so special.

--
Barkeep's Reply: Great story, Chris. Thanks.

I remember his screwball and how many ground balls Robby and Mark got every time he pitched. He was masterful.

1971 was one of the rainiest seasons in Oriole history. One writer called Baltimore the stall shower of the American League.

I bought a ticket to a 5:30 Sunday evening game. As usual, the skies threatened, but the game started on time.

The Orioles were losing in the bottom of the fifth when the rain started. The game was still not official, and the Birds had baserunners. But the umpires were determined to complete the inning. With two outs, Mike Cuellar was the due hitter.

The rain intensified as he approached the plate. If he strkes out (a likely possibility) the O's lose the game and I lose the $1.50 I paid from my upper reserved seat.

Despited the downpour, Cuellar manages to foul off several pitches and work the count full.

I would have loved a home run because that would mean an Oriole win, but for a poor East Baltimore kid a valid rain check meant I could attend another game.

The infield was changing hues by the minute, from golden brown to burnt crust. It was clear this was the last batter.

All the while, Cuellar fouled off pitches until finally, he watched ball four come outside.

The umpires conceded to mother nature. After the appropriate delay, the game was cancelled.

I got to see five innings of baseball (even if the didn't count in the record books). More importantly, I got to go to another game, all thanks to Mike Cuellar's tenacity at the plate.

Via con Dios Senor Cuellar.
Go with God Mr. Cuellar.

I remember Crazy Horse being superstitious. He would never step on the baseline when coming off the field. He would have a smoke in the dugout when the Orioles were batting. He got better as the season went along. He seem to love the hot weather.

Shuting out and taking a no hitter into the ninth inning against the best hitting team in baseball the Minnesota Twins. Cezar Tovar, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Harman Killabrew, Bobby Allison WOW.. I think Tovar singled with two outs in the ninth off Miguel to break up the no no..

I watched the fifth game of the 1970 World
Series in the lounge of my law school dorm in Chicago - 6 or so N.L. fans and
me. When the Reds scored 3 runs in the top of the first, they cheered "game 6 in Cincinnati". I said "You don't know Mike
Cuellar. That's all the Big Red Machine
will get today." Sure enough, Mike shut
them out the rest of the way. By the late innings I was alone, redemption and
the world championship were in hand,
and I'll never forget Mike wiping away
the tears with his glove as he pitched to the last batter


I was living in Houston when Mike Cuellar was pitching there. My Dad scored for really great seats behind the plate and I found myself sitting one empty seat away from him as he charted pitches. He engaged my Dad and I as if we were just friends out for a ballgame. A very cool experience.
I was lucky enough to see him pitch in the first AL League Championship game in 1969 when he held the Twins in check in regulation until the O's won it in extra innings.
And finally my brothers and I were in Arlington for an O's-Rangers game and Cuellar tossed baseballs to both my brothers as he did his running on the warning track.
RIP Mike Cuellar

In those days, there were pitchers mounds in Memorial Stadium on the home plate side of both dugouts where the starters usually warmed up. (The AL banned them sometime in the late 70's.) Whenever someone other than Cuellar was the O's starter, Mike would grab a bat (he was a left-handed hitter, of course) and simulate an opposing batter for the guy warming up. On days when he was the starter, I think coach Jim Frey always had to be the batter, and Elrod Hendricks always had to be the catcher during his warmups (part of his many superstitions, of course).

True, guys like Gary Roenicke and Mike Mussina later wore the number, but # 35 to me will always first mean Mike Cuellar!

I was 12 when the Orioles traded for Cuellar in 69. By all-star break he had become my favorite pitcher. My dad used to call him "2 hour Mike" because he worked so fast that the game rarely lasted more than 2 hours. At one point after another 0-fer, Reggie Jackson said of him, "He throws three speeds: slow, slower and reverse".

Rest in peace, Miguel

I remember 1969, the first year I really became an Oriole fan, though I had attended games at the Stadium since 1963. Cuellar got off to a slow start and then turned it on when the weather got hot--he was a great hot weather pitcher, and we know how hot Baltimore can get in summer. I listened to WBAL the summer night in '69 he came close to pitching a no-hitter against the Twins, only to have it broken up in the 9th by the late Cesar Tovar; Tovar also broke up a near no-hitter by Dave McNally the same season, again in the 9th inning. (good thing Jim Palmer was pitching against the A's when he succeeded with his no-hitter in his second start after 42 days on the disabled list).

Cuellar was the capstone for what became one of the best pitching staffs in MLB history. In that one season, 1969, two near-no hitters and a no-hitter by Cuellar, McNally and Palmer, respectively; McNally won his first 15 decisions and 17 overall (from 1968) to tie an AL record (I watched the game on Channel 13 when his streak ended against the Twins in Aug. '69) ; Cuellar shared the Cy Young with Denny McClain and McNally won 20; Palmer would likely have won 20 had he not been on the disabled list for 1 1/2 months. Between 1968-1974 each pitcher won 20 games four times.

I also remember watching his masterful performance in Game 1 of the '69 World Series; his grand slam against the Twins in game 1 of the '70 ALCS; and his recovery from a rough start to shut down the Reds in game 5 of the '70 World Series. Thankfully, that overcast Thursday when he ptiched game 5 was a holiday for public school students--I was in the 9th grade at Clifton Park--because of the annual Teachers Conference.

Great memories of a great pitcher and by all accounts a great human being. I was really saddened to read of his death in Sports Illustrated Saturday; when I saw his picture in color leading of the For the Record section I knew it was bad news.

I remember my dad taking me out of school, going to pick up my grandfather to go see the final playoff game of 1974. We bought playoff tickets the day of the game, try doing that now. I thought Mike had a no hitter going for a while but between the walks and errors we ended up losing. Cut to the following season or the season after going to Junior Orioles bullpen party, remember those, and Mike was signing and was nice enough to pose for a picture.

Thanx for the memories Mike and Rest in Peace!

I know it's a week late, but still...

A few months back I was watching MLB Network's Classic Games, and it was the final game of the 1970 World Series. Cuellar was pitching injured, announcers even noting that Weaver wasn't certain to start him that day. He got banged around a bit, but the Orioles did some more banging around and had a lead. As the game went into the 6th, the 7th, the 8th, I'm waiting for there to be someone up in the bullpen. Surely Weaver can't keep leaving him in there, but there he was to start the next inning.

Cuellar ended up with a complete game win. It is amazing that he was able to do this. He was a great pitcher. My dad had his version of the three speeds comment, "slow, slower, and stop". Would someone with his stuff even get a chance in today's game? Too much reliance on "power arms".

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

ADVERTISEMENT

Most Recent Comments
The Burning Question
ADVERTISEMENT

Buy Sports Tickets from the Baltimore Sun Store

Baltimore Sun blog updates

 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected