The Orioles are tied with the Boston Red Sox atop the American League East, but Wednesday’s discouraging outing from Kevin Gausman combined with the overall state of the O’s rotation has provided enough reason to fret about problems we were fretting about before the season even began. A distraction is in order.
Take a break from your Orioles problems with the first entry in The Showalter Stories. This one’s about the time Buck called a Chito Martinez home run right before it happened. Chito, you may remember, debuted with the O’s in 1991. He was the first Major League player from Belize and was something of a cult hero during his brief tenure in Baltimore.
Our story picks up three years after Chito’s pro debut. He’s now a 28-year-old outfielder playing for the Columbus Clippers in the New York Yankees’ minor league system. The 1994 Clippers roster included the likes of former World Series champion Bob Ojeda and future World Series champions Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. The names of former Orioles Bob Melvin and Sam Horn are there, too. A story that includes Sam Horn and Chito Martinez? That’s baseball nirvana for me.
Major League Baseball is on strike, so then-Yankees manager Buck Showalter is on the road scouting the minor league talent with his general manager and pitching coach. Jack Curry of the New York Times explains in an Aug. 21 article that the trio “have abandoned their titles and ventured on the road to become scouts and groupies for the Class AAA Columbus Clippers.”
Enter Chito Martinez.
Here’s an excerpt from Curry’s article, “This Road Show Has Minor Origins.”
The fourth arrives, and Showalter tells Connors that Chito Martinez, batting with two runners on base, could go deep if Charlotte’s Albie Lopez throws a low, inside fastball. Someone check beneath Showalter’s seat for a crystal ball. Martinez, the former Oriole, hits a low, inside fastball that hugs the right-field line and veers foul by about 20 feet, but is called a three-run homer because the ball park lighting is pretty shoddy on the minor league trail.
With the hometown fans disputing the terrible call and the hometown manager about to be ejected, Showalter playfully mouths, “It was a fair ball,” and smiles a rare smile during a game because it is one argument that he is not immersed in. The manager is simply another fan on this night.
Move over Babe Ruth. Back when he was calling the shots for the New York Yankees, Buck Showalter called Chito Martinez’s shot for him.