Go for it, Brady!

March 18, 1997|By James H. Bready

The batter connects, it's a long fly ball up the gap, it bounces away from the fielders, he rounds first full tilt, he's not slowing down for second, the relay comes in, he slides -- safe at third. It's a triple! THE OLDEST RECORD in the Oriole book is for Triples, Club (Season). It's 49, as set in concrete by the original modern-era team, the lowly (54-100) 1954 Orioles.

Last year, the bruisers from Baltimore set a new majors record with their 257 home runs, but they hit only 29 triples.

Fewer triples is a trend: both the team (129) and the individual (36) marks were set in 1912, by Owen Wilson and his fellow Pirates.

Do today's strength-room programs, hour after sweaty hour of working out, emphasize arms and upper-body, to the neglect of legs? Can today's outfielders throw farther, faster? Or, perhaps, are today's bigger, heavier batters simply averse to sprinting that far?

With a smile, Bob Davids of the Society for American Baseball Research points to Mark McGwire, the Oakland slugger. His most recent triple was in 1988.

Among Orioles, Brady Anderson runs -- look at his many stolen TC bases. During 1996, his record-50 home run year, he also hit five triples. Only B. J. Surhoff, with 6, had more. Still, it was a falloff for Anderson, who has twice hit 10 triples in one season.

The previous Oriole homer mark, Frank Robinson's 49, stood for 30 years. As things happen, the current Oriole triple mark, which is Paul Blair's 12, was set in 1967, meaning that it too has now stood for 30 years.

This will be Brady Anderson's tenth season as an Oriole; he is 33. How interested is he in acquiring a second record as hitter? Hold in mind that he never stated an intention to become the home-run champion. But, 13 triples could well remain the individual-Oriole record longer than 50 home runs will, given today's frequent-flier baseballs.

There's another possibility. Anderson's career total as an Oriole now stands at 46. If he just hits five more triples every year for five more years, while remaining an Oriole, he'll have 71. Long ago, Willie Keeler smote 145 triples; but the modern Oriole mark is 68, set by that underrated runner Brooks Robinson.

For group tension down there on the playing field, for protracted excitement in the stands, not much beats the try for third, the race between man and baseball. Statistics for this rumination are from the Orioles' 1997 Media Guide (Baltimore Orioles, LP; 360 pages; softback; $10, $12.95 by mail).

He connects; it's a long fly ball up the gap; the runner on first hesitates, then takes off; the third base coach is windmilling; runner slides home as batter digs for third; the relay comes in to the catcher -- too late! Run scores. It's a three-bagger! -- Check that, make it a double, they're ruling he took third on the throw to the plate.

Hard to get, a triple.

James H. Bready, a retired Evening Sun editorial writer, is the author of ''The Home Team.''

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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