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Catching Up With ... former Oriole Angelo Dagres

Who is the only Orioles rookie ever to be signed off the street and suit up for the big league team on the same day?

Angelo Dagres, 21, hadn’t played an inning of pro baseball when he trotted out to left field in Memorial Stadium that warm September night in 1955. Fans glanced at their programs, puzzled. Reporters scratched their heads. angelo-dagres-1.jpg

“My name wasn’t even in the scorecard,” said Dagres, who’d signed with the Orioles after an impressive, if hasty, tryout. “Nobody knew who I was.”

By season’s end, they knew. In eight games, Dagres hit .267, had one game-winning RBI and made several circus catches for the woebegone Orioles (57-97-2). For two weeks, he was the talk of the town.

“There’s a kid I wouldn’t take $150,000 for,” coach Luman Harris said, watching the kid take batting practice.

“He’s really a tiger, isn’t he?” Orioles manager Paul Richards said of Dagres. “He hustles from the time he steps on the field. Just how far he can go from here, you can’t tell — but he’s got an awful lot of ability.”

Dagres never again played in the majors. Booze and a brash attitude did him in, he says. Miffed at being sent to the minors, he began drinking heavily. For six years, he kicked around in the bushes until sidelined by a freak injury. In 1961, during a road trip to Columbus, Ohio, Dagres hurt his shoulder when the ceiling collapsed in his hotel room. He retired thereafter, his abbreviated big league career forgotten.

Fifty-five years later, he wishes he’d focused on baseball.

“I had it all — speed and a good arm — and I threw it away,” said Dagres, 76, of Newburyport, Mass. “When the Orioles didn’t call me up, I started carousing and staying out late. If I’d been a man, I’d have busted my butt to get back to the big leagues instead of moping and crying in my beer, so to speak.”

Back then, Dagres said, he ignored advice from the game’s best minds.

“Once, Richards suggested I stop dropping my elbow at the plate,” he said. “I told him, ‘Please, sir, don’t tell me how to hit. I’ve never batted under .400, and you never hit over .250.’”

The only time Dagres was nervous was before his first Orioles game on Sept. 11, 1955. In the Birds’ clubhouse, Dagres — of Greek descent — was welcomed by two other Greeks, pitcher Billy Loes and catcher Gus Triandos. But the jitters arose as he stood at his post during the National Anthem.

“I couldn’t stop my knees from shaking,” Dagres said. “I trembled so bad that I thought the fans could actually see it.”

He survived the game, a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City A’s, plating one run on a fielder’s choice and saving another with a running catch of Hector Lopez’ fly that send Dagres crashing into the outfield wall. Not that he remembers the impact.

“I was so scared that day, I didn’t feel anything,” he said.

Nine days later, in Boston, Dagres knocked in the winning run in the 10th inning in the Orioles’ 3-2 victory over the Red Sox. The win lifted Baltimore out of last place in the American League for the first time all season.

It was there, at Fenway Park, that Dagres met his cheeky match.

“Richards talked [Boston’s] Ted Williams into giving a few of us young guys hitting tips before the game,” he said. “There we were, Wayne Causey, Tommy Gastall and myself, standing under the center-field stands with Williams, who had a golf club in his hands.”

During the lesson, Dagres said, Williams told the trio that “Jesus Christ himself couldn’t throw a fastball by me.”

Their reaction?

“I’ll tell you this — nobody laughed,” Dagres said.

Photo of Angelo Dagres courtesy of Angie Dagres / 1955

Comments

Great article as i always wondered what ever happen to Dagres.
Thanks!

I remember Willie Miranda, Connie Johnson, & Bob Boyd. However, I had never heard of Angelo Dagres. So, I had this particularly interesting.

However, "Catching Up With" ? What's he doing now ? or since he left baseball ?

I remember the excitement about Dagres, and he quickly became my favorite Oriole superstar. There hadn't been much to cheer about in the Orioles' first year, when our big slugger was Vern Stephens (8 HR, 46 RBI). I hadn't realized that Dagres played only 8 games. I remember wondering what happened to him, then forgot about him for the last 55 years or so. Thanks for the reminder.

Good to hear you are still kicking and hopefully doing well. The article was very interesting.It brought back some good memories including a few laughs when we were team mates and roomies with the1957 Knoxville Smokies.

Dick Contos

In the pre-Nick-Markakis 1950s, the Greeks the Orioles had were head cases. Billy Loes told the young pitchers not to win too many games, or the club would "expect [them] to do it every year", Gus Triandos stuck his foot in his mouth when he rejoiced (and for publication) after a false report that he had been traded to the Dodgers, and Milt Pappas ... well ... none of his teammates liked or respected him (he always "cramped up" if he wasn't leading, but could down four sandwiched and seven soft drinks in the clubhouse after being removed). Again, Nick Markakis does it right.

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