Flashback Friday: Frank Zupo, the youngest Oriole

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Frank Zupo

Jan. 3, 2014

Happy New Year, Orioles fans. Did anyone else receive an Orioles desk calendar as a Christmas gift? If so, you've probably already seen the inspiration for this week's Flashback Friday post.

The O's desk calendar entry for Thursday featured the following trivia question: Who was the youngest player to appear in a game for the Orioles?

Answer: Catcher Frank Zupo made his big league debut on July 1, 1957 at 17 years and 305 days old.

That's only part of the story.

First, the man's nickname was "Noodles." That in itself deserves a mention.

Next, Zupo's initial appearance made not only Orioles history given his age, but also baseball history given his surname. Together with pitcher George Zuvernik, Zupo formed baseball's first "Z" battery.

Zupo entered that July 1, 1957 game in the top of the 10th inning with the Orioles knotted in a 2-2 tie against the New York Yankees at Memorial Stadium. He played a half-inning behind the dish but never got to bat. His spot in the order was up next after Jim Busby, who struck out looking to end the game. Mickey Mantle homered in the top half of the frame to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead and eventually the victory.

The whole thing has a Moonlight Graham, "Field of Dreams" feel to it. Or at least it would if his story ended there.

Zupo took his first big league cuts in his second professional appearance, which came on July 6, 1957 at Fenway Park. He grounded out to first base after entering the game as a pinch hitter in the top of the 7th inning.

Zupo's first and only hit of the 1957 season came on Aug. 11 when he singled leading off the bottom of the 9th inning against the Yankees. Overall, he appeared in 16 games over the course of three seasons and had three career hits.

Noodles had a cup of coffee with the O's, and he made history in the process.

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