Curt Motton's timing when it came to hitting some of the American League's top pitchers was under his control. When he played, and how much, was not.
Motton, who died Thursday at age 69 after a yearlong battle with stomach cancer, had the good fortune of playing with the Orioles when they were the league's most dominant team.
It was also his misfortune, considering that Motton could never break into an outfield that featured Paul Blair, Frank Robinson and Don Buford.
Orioles manager "Earl Weaver loved guys like Curt Motton because he knew what he was going to get," Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer recalled Friday.
"Guys like Curt made us more of a complete team."
Like many who knew Motton, Palmer said what he remembered most was Motton's engaging personality.
"He would light up a room," said Palmer, who first met Motton while rehabilitating a shoulder injury with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings in 1967. "He had a great sense of humor. When we had our charity basketball games in the offseason, he and Elrod [Hendricks] would come. They couldn't play basketball, but everyone would have a great time because they were there."
After being named International League Rookie of the Year in 1967 for Rochester, Motton was called up to the Orioles on July 5 of that year. He spent parts of seven seasons in two stints in Baltimore but never played more than 83 games in any of them. Yet he was still considered a valuable member of a team that won three straight American League pennants (1969-1971) and a World Series in 1970.
A free-swinging power hitter, Motton had two consecutive pinch-hit home runs in May 1968, then a major league record. He finished the season with eight home runs in 217 at-bats. The following year, Motton hit a career-high .303 and had a game-winning 11th-inning hit in a 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Championship Series.
When asked about the way Weaver used him, Motton told The Sun during the 1970 season: "I can't say it's wrong, he's had us in first place all season and we won the pennant last year. But everybody likes to come out to the ballpark wanting to play. I'm no different."
Motton's chance to be a regular never came, and he was eventually traded to the Milwaukee Brewers after the 1971 season. He spent the better part of the 1972 season in the minors with the Brewers and later the California Angels, but returned to Baltimore in 1973 after being re-signed as a free agent. He was called up late that season and finished his career in 1974 with a .213 batting average. He also spent one season, in 1991, as a bench and first-base coach for the Orioles. He was later a scout and minor league coach.
According to the Orioles, a visitation will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m Wednesday at Vaughn Greene Funeral Home, 8728 Liberty Road, Randallstown. A wake for family and friends will be held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday, with a service to follow at Vaughn Greene. Motton, a Parkton resident, is survived by his wife, Marti Franklin-Motton; a daughter, Simone Hall of Pikesville; two brothers; four sisters; and a grandson.
When: Today, 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. (10 a.m. entry for Season Plan Holders)
Where: Baltimore Convention Center
Tickets: $10 for adults; $5 for children 14 and under, adults over 55