Friday, December 19, 2008
Vintage Fridays: Gus Triandos, 1961 Topps #140
Ten thoughts on Gus Triandos:
1. I absolutely would not want to be an opposing baserunner, trying to beat the relay throw home and seeing that mug staring back at me.
2. If you're an Oriole fan looking for any and every example of the Birds getting the best of the Yankees, it's worth noting that he was the Birds' big "get" in a historic seventeen-player trade in November 1954. In the New York pecking order he had been blocked by Berra and Elston Howard. In Baltimore he became one of the best power-hitting catchers of his time.
3. Using Baseball-Reference's Oracle of Baseball (similar to "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"), you can link Triandos to Chris Hoiles (the O's catcher who has come closest to beating Gus' single-season team record of 30 HR by a catcher) in two steps. There are a few ways to do it, including Brooks Robinson (Gus' teammate 1955-1962) ---> Rick Dempsey (Brooks' teammate 1976-1977) ---> Hoiles (Rick's teammate 1992).
4. Gus caught Hoyt Wilhelm's no-hitter against the Yankees in 1958 and Jim Bunning's perfect game (with the Phillies) against the Mets in 1964.
5. Speaking of catching Wilhelm and his knuckleball, it was not Triandos' favorite thing to do. Thanks largely to the thankless task of chasing the fluttering pitch, Gus ranks eighth in the modern era with 138 passed balls. Paul Richards designed an oversized catcher's mitt for him, but it wasn't enough. One offseason, a reporter called to let the catcher know he'd been traded to the Dodgers. He let out a cheer, and talked about how eager he was to leave Baltimore. It turned out that the trade rumor was false...oops!
6. Gus is not a big fan of Casey Stengel, who did not give him much of a shot in the Bronx and left him sitting on the bench in the 1957 All-Star Game. But he acknowledges that Elston Howard was still a pretty good choice as Casey's catcher. Oddly enough, Gus and Casey share a birthday (July 30).
7. Triandos led the Orioles in home runs each season from 1955-1959. Some years it wasn't a big challenge. In 1955, the runner-up was a three-way tie between Cal Abrams, Dave Philley, and Hoot Evers, with six apiece! (To be fair, Memorial Stadium was like Death Valley in 1955: 450 feet to center field and 447 to the power alleys. Yikes.)
8. Gus now runs a postal company in San Jose, CA. At least he did at the time of this interview.
9. Of the 154 home runs accounted for in Gus' home run log, only one was a walkoff shot. It came off of former Oriole teammate Robin Roberts in the bottom of the tenth inning on September 14, 1963. His clout gave the Tigers a 3-2 win.
10. For more on Gus Triandos, including a card featuring him in a Phillies uniform, check out this post at my other blog.