Motton dies from stomach cancer
Curt Motton, who died Thursday at age 69 after a year-long battle with stomach cancer, had the good fortune of playing with the Orioles when they were the American 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 rehabbing a shoulder injury with the 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 Triple-A Rochester and called up to the Orioles on July 5 of that year, Motton spent parts of seven seasons in two different stints in Baltimore, but never played more than 83 games in any one of them. Yet he was still considered a valuable member of a team that won three straight American League pennants (1969-71) and a World Series in 1970.
A free-swinging power hitter, Motton's two consecutive pinch-hit home runs in May of 1968 were a major league record. Motton 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 win over the Minnesota Twins in the American League Championship Series.
In Palmer's first start in 1969 -- after the pitcher missing the entire 1968 season -- Motton hit a pinch-hit home run to beat the Oakland Athletics.
"He could flat-out hit, he was a great fastball hitter," Palmer said. "He had those big eyes and when he saw a fastball, they would light up like he'd hit the jackpot."
Though rarely used in the outfield, Motton was a competent left fielder, finishing with just four errors in more than a 1,000 major league innings.
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. I want a shot as a regular. All a guy wants is a chance to prove himself. I think I've done the job, though, when I've gotten the chance."
Motton's chance to be a regular never came, and he was eventually traded to the Milwaukee Brewers after the 1971 season. Spending the better part of the 1972 season in the minors with the Brewers and later the California Angels, Motton returned to Baltimore in 1973 after being re-signed as a free agent. He was called up late that season -- hitting a three-run home run in the season finale -- 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 Orioles spokeswoman Monica Barlow, a visitation will be held Wednesday at Vaughn Greene Funeral Home, 8728 Liberty Road, Randallstown, from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. A wake for family and friends will be held from 10 a.m.-11 a.m., with a service to follow at Vaughn Greene. The place of internment is to be determined.