Ray Miller, the late Johnny Oates voted into Orioles Hall of Fame

Legendary pitching coach Ray Miller, the late Johnny Oates to be honored

March 23, 2010|By Dan Connolly | dan.connolly@baltsun.com

When Ray Miller learned he had been elected to enter the Orioles Hall of Fame this August, the former manager and legendary pitching coach thought of his late best friend, who is already in the club's Hall.

"I got tears real quick and the first thing I thought about was Elrod Hendricks, my buddy," said Miller, who had three stints as the Orioles' pitching coach and managed the team in 1998 and 1999. "And I thought about Cal [Ripken] Sr., and Earl [Weaver] and [George] Bamberger and all of the players that came through. And, honestly, it really choked me up."

The club announced Monday that the Orioles Advocates voted Miller into the Hall of Fame as part of a 2010 class that includes the posthumous enshrinement of former player and manager Johnny Oates (veterans committee) and longtime minor league instructor Lenny Johnston (Herb Armstrong Award for nonuniformed personnel).

"I threw to Johnny Oates in Triple-A ball, and I always respected him, a real classy guy," Miller said. "For 100 years, Len Johnston ran everything on the minor league field and has given his life to the Orioles. It's an honor to be with them."

Others on the regular ballot this year included Roberto Alomar, Mike Bordick, Rafael Palmeiro and Jesse Orosco; only one is enshrined from that ballot each year.

Miller, a native of Suitland, pitched and coached in the Orioles' minor league system but rose to prominence as the big league pitching coach from 1978 to 1985, a period in which the Orioles won two American League championships, one World Series and had five different 20-game winners.

He left to manage the Minnesota Twins and coached with the Pittsburgh Pirates before returning to the Orioles as pitching coach in 1997, when the Orioles lost to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series.

After that season, he took over as manager, compiling a 157-167 record before being fired in 1999. He returned again as pitching coach in 2004-2005, retiring because of health concerns. He had surgery for an aortic aneurysm in 2005 and since then has had knee replacement surgery and various shoulder and elbow procedures.

"Maybe throwing 100 million batting practice pitches over the years has something to do with that," he joked.

Now 64, Miller lives in New Athens, Ohio, and owns a woodshop business and a lawn-care business. For family reasons, he has given up coaching.

"The greatest compliment I get around here … is that people say, 'You are just a normal guy,' " Miller said. "That always cracks me up. What am I supposed to be? I never wanted accolades, but this one really hit me hard. Wow, I guess I was pretty good."

Oates caught 90 games for the Orioles in 1970 and 1972 and managed the club to a 291-270 record from 1991 to 1994. Owner of the fifth-highest managerial winning percentage in club history, Oates died from a brain tumor in 2004 at age 58.

Johnston is entering his 34th season with the organization, spending 19 years as the minor league camp coordinator. The trio will be honored at an Orioles Advocates luncheon Aug. 6, and Miller and Oates will be formally enshrined in the Hall before the Orioles- Chicago White Sox game Aug. 7.

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