- August 6, 1966
- 6' 3"
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-08-1989 with PIT
While it was the untimely hit he gave up to Francisco Cabrera in game 7 of the 1992 NLCS which propelled the Braves to a come from behind 3-2 victory for the NL pennant that Stan Belinda will always be most remembered for, its his fight against a debilitating disease, Multiple Sclerosis, that Belinda was diagnosed with in 1998, that certainly should always be the memory that comes to mind when thinking of the side armed reliever that came to the Bucs in 1989.
After coming up from Buffalo in 1989 where he enjoyed wonderful seasons in ’88 and ’89, combining for 53 strikeouts in 52 IP while giving up only 33 hits, Belinda came into his own in 1990 when he saved a franchise record for a rookie of 8 games.
The Huntingdon, PA native had his best season in the Black and Gold in 1991, when he had a fabulous 78 1/3 / 50 IP/H ratio and 16 saves. While his ’91 regular seasons stats were certainly impressive, his star really shined in the post season when Belinda threw 5 hitless innings in the 7 game loss to the Braves.
Despite the fact that the following season seemed on paper to be another very solid one for the man who was named the Pirates fourth best all-time reliever in a poll by Pirates fans in 1999, if one looks a little closer, there seemed to be a troubling trend. Belinda would save a then career best 18 games, 13 of them before the all-star break, with a 3.15 ERA, but he gave up eight homers, six of which either tied or won the game for the opponents. Stan also allowed 17 out of the 28 runners he inherited to score.
This tendency reared its ugly head in game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. Belinda came on with the bases loaded and the Pirates nursing a 3-2 lead. He gave up a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-1, walked Damon Berryhill before getting Brian Hunter to pop up. It was at that point the little used pinch hitter Cabrera came up and smacked the game winning single to left.The hit haunted Belinda throughout most of his career from that point on.
Kansas City Royals and Boston Red Sox
Belinda was the subject of intense criticism in Pittsburgh after the loss, although his overall performance in the playoffs had been very good, and the loss of Bonds in free agency that offseason ended the team's days as a contender. The Pirates entered a rebuilding mode, and on July 31, 1993, they traded Belinda to the Kansas City Royals for pitchers Jon Lieber and Dan Miceli. Arm problems plagued Belinda during his year and a half with the Royals, and he left the team as a free agent, signing with the Boston Red Sox shortly before the 1995 season.
Temporarily healthy once more, Belinda enjoyed a great season in 1995, picking up 8 wins and 10 saves as the primary setup man for Rick Aguilera. Boston won the American League's East division that year, but was swept in three games by the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. Belinda's arm troubles resurfaced in 1996, and he was largely ineffective, walking more batters than he struck out and pitching only 28 1/3 innings.
Belinda signed with the Cincinnati Reds that offseason, and improbably went on to enjoy the best season of his career, delivering 99 1/3 innings of quality pitching. His 84 games pitched ranked second in the league, and his 114 strikeouts led all relief pitchers in baseball. He began to suffer from tingling and numbness in his legs the following season, and on September 22, 1998, the Mayo Clinic issued a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
Colorado Rockies and Atlanta Braves
Daily injections of the drug Copaxone and changes to his diet and lifestyle enabled Belinda to keep pitching professionally for a time, but his performance suffered. He spent 1999 as a mop-up pitcher for the Reds, and on October 30 of that year, he and outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds were traded to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Dante Bichette. Belinda put up a 7.07 ERA with the Rockies in 2000, before being released in July. He signed with the Atlanta Braves but was released again on September 12, ending his professional career. He retired with 41 wins, 37 losses, and 79 saves, putting up a 4.15 ERA in 685 1/3 career innings.
The ordeal that Belinda went through to come back shows just what a special person he is. It is his perseverance in the face of a tragic situation that people should remember Stan for and not a forgettable evening in October of 1992.
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