In Gregg Olson's rush to rewrite the Orioles' record book, he paused long enough yesterday to invoke the image of heroes past.
Remember Tippy Martinez?
Olson did after he tied Martinez's club record for saves yesterday with No. 105, a 6-4 number against the California Angels.
No sooner had Olson reached another milestone in his meteoric career than he was paying homage to the little left-hander he is inexorably replacing in the Orioles' record book.
Forget that Olson required 227 games to collect his 105 saves, while it took Martinez 499. Olson says any comparison of these eras is invalid.
RF "It was a different situation for Tippy," Olson said. "You have to
keep it in perspective for him. He did a great job. He came into a game in the fifth inning to get the team out of a jam. I come in in the eighth.
"I can't say I'm the best ever. Tippy did it over 10 years and I did it over three."
Olson's is a perspective tempered with the insight of Mike Flanagan, a teammate of both relievers. Flanagan was the one who enlightened Olson on Martinez's role in Baltimore from 1976 to 1986.
"The closer's role has changed since Tippy's been here," Olson said. "I listen to Mike Flanagan speak very highly of him in the bullpen."
Flanagan picks his spots for these history lessons. Often they will come in the fifth inning of a game when the Orioles starter is struggling.
"He'll say, 'Get Tippy up,' " Olson said, meaning that Martinez would be warming up in the bullpen in that situation. "The first couple times he said it, I'd say, 'Are you serious?'
"He'd say, 'Yeah, Tippy would be up right now.' "
The point is well-taken. In an era that predates the term "closer," Martinez often would bail out the Orioles long before the eighth- or ninth-inning spots Olson is accustomed to.
"It seemed Tippy was [warming] up all the time," Flanagan said. "There was no setup man then. There was a long man, usually the fifth or sixth starter. Then there was Tippy. A lot of times he'd go without work. Then he'd work five days in a row. He was always throwing.
"It's so different now. There's more consideration given to relievers now than there ever was. I'm glad that part of it changed."
Flanagan delivered his message to Olson with a distinct purpose.
"To show respect for the guys who had gone before and laid the groundwork for modern relievers," he said. "Tippy was a true reliever. There weren't many guys like that. . . . He and [Goose] Gossage were about all. The age of specialization hadn't taken over."
Olson was attentive to the message. "If Tippy had been a closer that was a closer the whole time, then I don't know where I'd be [on the Orioles' all-time list]," he said.
On May 3, Olson, at 25, became the youngest pitcher in major-league history to reach 100 career saves, surpassing Bruce Sutter's mark by more than a year.
Olson's save yesterday was his 10th of the season. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to help the Orioles salvage the final game of a 2-4 homestand.
As fate would have it, it came one day after Martinez was at Camden Yards serving up pitches in an annual home run fantasy promotion for the benefit of Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
"The fact I tied the record in 3 1/2 years is something I'm proud of," Olson said, "but wait until I've done this over 10 years. Then I'll look back and cherish it."