Flashback Friday: For Gus Triandos, heaven was a place without knuckleballs

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March 29, 2013

"Some men dream of owning a yacht. Others pine for a cute blonde, a quite isle and a coconut palm. In the private dream world of Gus Triandos, heaven is a blissful land where no pitchers throw knuckleballs."

Jack Hand, Associated Press, March 7, 1963 ("Triandos happy to get away from Wilhelm's knuckleball")

Orioles Hall of Famer Gus Triandos died Thursday. Triandos, the fifth player to enter the team's Hall of Fame, is best remembered as the guy who had to catch knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, inspiring the AP's Jack Hand to pen the lede above, which noted that "heaven is a blissful land where no pitchers throw knuckleballs," following Triandos' trade to the Detroit Tigers.

Triandos caught Wilhelm's 1958 no-hitter, the first no-no in Orioles history, after shifting to a full-time catcher's role following a more prominent role at first base and, for one game in 1955, third base. He played a total of eight seasons in Baltimore.

Triandos' enduring connection to Wilhelm was remembered irreverantly in the 2004 episode of The Wire, "All Due Respect." Herc noted that Triandos had "the worst gig in baseball" in catching Wilhelm, which he compared to "trying to catch a greased pig with wings."

For more on Triandos, read Joe Posnanski's outstanding piece, "RIP Gus Triandos," over at Hardball Talk.

Here are some more details about Gus Triandos that go beyond his frustrations with the knuckler:

-Triandos was the first Orioles player to hit 20 home runs (1956) and the first Orioles player to hit 30 home runs (1958). He held the record for home runs by a catcher until the Tigers' Lance Parrish hit his 31st home run on Sept. 28, 1982.

-His 142 home runs for the Orioles rank second all-time among the team's catchers. Only Chris Hoiles, with 151, has hit more.

-He caught two no-hitters, one in each league: Wilhelm in '58 and Jim Bunning for the Phillies in 1964.

-His 425-foot home run accounted for the game's only run during Wilhelm's no-hitter.

-Despite being a notoriously slow runner, Triandos was a perfect 1-for-1 with stolen bases. He recorded his lone steal on Sept. 28, 1958, against the Yankees. He also hit a stand-up, inside-the-park home run on Aug. 31, 1957. 

-His All-Star start at catcher in 1958 ended Yogi Berra's eight-year hold on the position during the Midsummer Classic.

-He threw out 47 percent of runners trying to steal on him during 13 career seasons. His best single-season caught-stealing mark came in 1957 when he gunned down 42 of 63 runners for 67 percent. The league average in '57 was 47 percent.

-He hit 17 home runs in 73 career games at Fenway Park. 

-Triandos is one of three Orioles catchers to have consecutive seasons of 20 or more home runs. Chris Hoiles and Matt Wieters are the others.

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