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Mark Belanger

Mark Belanger

Position(s):
SS, 2B, 3B
Born:
June 8, 1944
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 1"
Weight:
170 lbs
Major League Debut:
8-07-1965 with BAL
Allstar Selections:
1969 GG, 1971 GG, 1973 GG, 1974 GG, 1975 GG, 1976 GG, 1977 GG, 1978 GG

When the Orioles traded shortstop Luis Aparicio after the 1967 season, they replaced him with his roommate, Belanger. The slender "Blade" didn't relinquish the position until 1982.

In 1970 he was a Triple Crown loser (finishing last in the TC categories). In his eighteen seasons in the major leagues, Belanger hit only 20 home runs, and had a lifetime batting average of .228, only topping the .230 mark over a full season three times; his .228 average is the third lowest of any major league player with over 5000 career at bats, ahead of only George McBride (.218) and Ed Brinkman (.224), and the seventh lowest of any non-catcher with at least 2500 at bats since 1920. His true contribution to the team was on defense, where he earned a reputation as one of the best fielding shortstops ever. Receiving the AL Gold Glove eight times (1969, 1971, 1973–78), he was also named to the All-Star team in 1976. Belanger joined a select group of shortstop-second baseman combinations who each won Gold Gloves in the same season while playing together: in 1969 and 1971 with Davey Johnson, and again with Bobby Grich each year between 1973 and 1976 inclusive. And with Brooks Robinson winning at third base every year through 1975, the left side of the Orioles' infield was seemingly impenetrable.

Despite his famously poor hitting, Belanger had substantial success against some of the best pitchers of his era, including Bert Blyleven, Nolan Ryan and Tommy John.

He played in 43 postseason games during a decade of strong Baltimore teams and holds several ALCS defensive records for shortstops. Seldom spectacular, Belanger rarely fielded a ball one-handed or sidearmed a throw, but he moved around short with sure-handed ease and grace.

Although an unimpressive hitter, he had the distinction of swatting a home run in the first ALCS game played, versus Minnesota (10/4/69). That year was his best offensively, as he hit .287 with 50 RBI. Granted free agency after 1981, Belanger signed with the Dodgers for his final season. A longtime player representative with Baltimore, he became a special assistant with the Major League Baseball Players' Association after retiring as a player.

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Tagged:
Baltimore Orioles, Gold Glove, Los Angeles Dodgers, Mark Belanger

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