Needing arm tuneup, McNally put a new career on the lift


August 04, 1994|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Sun Staff Writer

At a Ford dealership in Billings, Mont., about 500 miles from the nearest major-league ballpark, one finds a man who twice helped pitch the Orioles to world championships.

Dave McNally, the left-handed control artist who posted four straight 20-win-or-better seasons in 13 years in Baltimore, presides as vice president over the parts, service, body shop and administration at Archie Cochrane Ford. He has been there since he left baseball in 1975 after an aborted season with the Montreal Expos, after he sat out much of the year nursing a sore arm, wondering what life could possibly be like in the world outside the game.

"I started in professional baseball when I was 17," said McNally, who is 51. "I really knew nothing else. You don't know what it's like outside."

McNally and Andy Messersmith played 1975 without contracts and were declared free agents by an arbitrator, thus beginning the era of the million-dollar .240 hitter. Messersmith, who went 19-14 that season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was signed by the Atlanta Braves to an estimated $1.75 million contract starting in 1976.

McNally, who was traded by the Orioles to the Expos in December 1974 but never agreed on terms of a contract with the team, went home to Baltimore after he went 3-6 in 12 starts with a 5.26 ERA.

"I had hurt my arm bad in 1971. It never really did heal," said McNally, who compiled a lifetime mark of 184-119 with a 3.24 ERA.

At 32 he was a free agent with no offers. It was a harsh end to a career during which he set Orioles single-season records for winning percentage in 1971 (.808, 21-5) and strikeouts and ERA in 1968 (202, 1.95).

Fortunately, McNally had invested in his older brother Jim's car dealership in North Dakota while he was playing ball. They sold that place in 1974 and bought the business in Billings, which was waiting there when McNally quit baseball. Now Jim McNally handles sales and McNally does the rest.

Some people he meets through business still remember his name from when he shut out the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series and hit a grand slam while defeating the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 Series.

"Oh, yeah. I tell you what's great, three, four times a summer somebody traveling from Maryland stops in to say, 'Hello,' " he said.

McNally, in turn, keeps up with the Orioles by reading newspapers and watching games on television.

"I still have loyalty to the Orioles," he said. "My family and I loved Baltimore. If there were something I could have done there I would have stayed."

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