Aback he got the call, Bill Swaggerty was absent to best of the particulars. The alone affair that mattered to him was that a adolescence dream was about to appear true. Everything abroad was immaterial.
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Well, about immaterial.
The date was Aug. 13, 1983, and the Baltimore Orioles were in the bosom of their additional accident alarm of the season. They had absent seven amateur in a row, analogous an beforehand accident streak, and had alone from aboriginal to fourth abode in the American League’s bound Eastern Division race. The Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays were aggressive to accomplish the Orioles irrelevant.
“I knew about the accident streak, but not how abounding games,” Swaggerty recalled advanced of the 35th ceremony alliance of the aftermost Baltimore aggregation to win the Apple Series. “And I absolutely didn’t apprehend they had alone from aboriginal to fourth. … All I knew was that I was activity to apprehend my dream and ‘toe the rubber’ in the big leagues.”
Though they would end up acceptable the AL East by a adequate six games, it wasn’t a airing in the esplanade 35 years ago as the Orioles won the sixth banderole in club history. They had been swept in Cleveland and absent the aboriginal two amateur of a alternation in Chicago, and there was at atomic a adumbration of panic. Swaggerty became the eighth Orioles abode to alpha a bold in 1983, a aberration for a aggregation still relying for the best allotment on a four-man rotation.
Mike Flanagan had absent the aboriginal brace of months, and Jim Palmer additionally had abrasion issues during what would prove to be the aftermost abounding division of a Hall of Fame career. Mike Boddicker had beforehand been summoned from the amateur and became a athletic alongside Scott McGregor in a circling that additionally included Dennis Martinez and Storm Davis.
Swaggerty had a 9-6 almanac aback the Orioles fabricated him the third amateur to be alleged up from their Triple-A Rochester club, afterward Boddicker and Allan Ramirez. It was awful abnormal for the Orioles to dig that abysmal into their accessory alliance system, but it would prove to be a cardinal bold at a acute time.
“I absolutely came up the night afore and kept the blueprint for Mike Flanagan’s bold [a 2-1 loss], but I had no guarantees and no abstraction how connected I would break up,” Swaggerty said. “There were no promises and I had no expectations. … They told me I was advancing up to accomplish a atom alpha and that would be it.
“I bethink [pitching coach] Ray Miller affairs me abreast and cogent me, ‘The acumen we brought you up is because we anticipate you are the appropriate guy to win this game.’ I’m abiding Ray was aggravating to breath me up a bit but it fabricated me feel acceptable aback he said that.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Swaggerty pitched six solid if not amazing innings, captivation the White Sox to two runs — but was not the abode of record.
“Cal [Ripken Jr.] hit a two-run homer, Sammy [Stewart, who pitched two innings] got the win and Tippy [Martinez] bankrupt it out,” said Swaggerty, who backward about for 10 added canicule afore actuality optioned aback to Rochester.
The “shuttle” amid the above leagues and Triple-A wasn’t as accepted again as it is today, but the guy teammates alarm “Swags” alternate Sept. 1 and becoming his aboriginal win absolutely one ages afterwards his MLB debut, a 7-1 win in Boston Sept. 13.
“And that was the aboriginal time I had pitched in a month,” Swaggerty said. “I didn’t angle at all afterwards activity aback to Rochester, so that was my abutting game.
“That one was in relief. I came in for Ramirez, who got aching in the additional inning, so there wasn’t time to get nervous. Ellie [Hendricks, the abode coach] said to me, ‘You’re up,’ so I headed for the countdown bank and he said, ‘No, not there, you’re in the game.'”
Afterwards five-plus innings of relief, Swaggerty had his aboriginal win, which absolutely artlessly has consistently been overshadowed by the best no-decision of his career.
In a absolute apple the bold in Chicago, in accession to actuality remembered as the “turnaround” bold for a aggregation that went on to win the Apple Series, would be acclaimed as the one that jump-started a connected and advantageous career. But the baseball apple is commonly far from absolute and Swaggerty’s career lasted a absolute of one year and 43 canicule — advance beyond four seasons, all with the Orioles.
“I attending at it like actuality in the appropriate abode at the appropriate time,” he said, “and I wouldn’t barter it for the world. If you could accord me three added years in the big leagues, I don’t anticipate I could accord up my Apple Alternation ring.
“To be allotment of that game, with that team, to be allotment of acceptable a banderole and a Apple Alternation with those guys is special. That accumulation is the best we anytime had,” said Swaggerty, who has connected to accomplish his home in the Baltimore area.
“That division concluded up actuality the end of a connected run — but we didn’t apperceive it at the time. We anticipation there was added to come, but again the Tigers got off to that [35-5] alpha the abutting year and things seemed to change in a hurry.”
Swaggerty spent genitalia of the abutting three seasons with the Orioles, but there was annihilation to analyze with his debut.
The aboriginal time he “toed the rubber” in the big leagues would prove to be the highlight of his career. But while he may be best remembered for one cardinal bold during the Orioles’ best contempo championship run, “Swags” is added agreeable to let his career be authentic by the arena he so proudly owns. •
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles
Issue 249: November 2018
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