Miranda lauded as Houdini at short 200 attend local funeral of flashy 1950s Oriole

September 11, 1996|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Houdini with a baseball glove was the way one eulogist at the funeral for Willy Miranda described the former Orioles shortstop, who was buried yesterday after a requiem Mass at the church of St. Anthony of Padua attended by more than 200 family XTC members, friends and baseball fans.

Miranda, 70, died of lung cancer Saturday and was buried at a cemetery in his adopted hometown of Baltimore, where he played for the Orioles from 1955 through 1959. His major-league career covered nine seasons, including service with four other teams. He created a reputation as one of the most proficient and spectacular fielders in the history of the Orioles.

The late manager-general manager Paul Richards credited him with being essential to establishing the franchise when Baltimore returned to the majors in 1954. "Our team didn't have much ability to offer the fans," said Richards, "but they came to the games to see Willy field and went home enthralled with what they saw."

Once asked why so many of his throws to first baseman Bob Boyd were in the dirt, Miranda said, "That's only in the late innings when the sun sets over the corner of the left-field fence. If I throw the ball up, Boyd has trouble seeing it. But if I one-hop the ball, then he Miranda doesn't have to contend with the sun."

After the takeover of Cuba by Fidel Castro, Miranda fled his home in Havana and established a residence in Baltimore. The Cuban flag and a spray of red roses, lilies and carnations covered his casket.

The baseball community was represented by former and current Orioles Dick Hall, Elrod Hendricks, Lou Sleater and publicist Bob Brown. "He had excellent range, an arm as strong as any you've ever seen," said Sleater. "And he only weighed 150 pounds. Just a delightful man."

Paying their respects from the old Cuban Major League were Luis Herrera and Lazaro Ruiz.

Frank Hooper, a former co-worker at the Baltimore Convention Center, said Miranda always mentioned that it was difficult to position himself when Ted Williams came to the plate "because he could hit it anywhere, like a shot, and was a good runner going down the line."

Michael Colglazier, who frequently gathered friends to honor Miranda at an informal luncheon, said, "His decency was incandescent."

And Willy Miranda Jr., now a member of the faculty at the University of Delaware, added, "You couldn't tell from his attitude whether he had a dime in his pocket. But he never let his kids down."

Five Miranda children were among the seven speakers at the Mass conducted by co-celebrants, the Rev. William Mannion, associate pastor at St. Agnes church, and the Rev. William Spacek, associate pastor at St. Anthony's.

The funeral procession to the Gardens of Faith Cemetery, where he was buried in a mausoleum, included a line of 43 automobiles.

After the service, friends and family members lingered to exchange anecdotes about the personable, always spirited Miranda, who touched so many lives, in and out of baseball, in such a positive and profound manner.

Pub Date: 9/11/96

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