Rick Dempsey is blowing out 61 candles on his birthday cake today...at least he would be if his friends and family were sadistic enough to put that many candles on a cake. While his continued lobbying for the Orioles' managerial job throughout the years (and his complaints and laments when he is passed over each time) have gotten a bit tiresome, I certainly appreciate his decades of work in the Baltimore community, both on and off the field. He was one of the more entertaining players in team history during his playing days, but you don't stick around in the major leagues until age 42 on pranks and pantomimes. He was a strong defensive catcher and had some rare successes with the bat at the most opportune time, rapping five extra-base hits in 13 World Series at-bats in 1983 to walk away as the series' MVP. I've also met Rick a few times in recent years, and he couldn't be more patient and friendly with his fans.
Since I mentioned Rick's longevity, I'll expound on something interesting about his career. If you look at his baseball-reference.com page, you'll see that he pitched in two games...both in 1991, when he was 41 and a member of the Brewers. On July 2, he got a rare start at catcher and had a single and two RBI in four trips to the plate. But the Red Sox had pounded three Milwaukee pitchers and took a 13-4 lead into the top of the ninth. Dempsey made his mound debut (in his 23rd big league season!) and pitched to future Oriole B.J. Surhoff, who had replaced him behind the plate. It didn't go great; he yielded a double, a couple of singles, and a run. But he got those last three outs and saved manager Tom Trebelhorn from having to use another reliever. A month later, he sat on the bench (or in the bullpen) and watched four Brewer pitchers cough up 14 runs to the Rangers in the first eight innings. In the ninth, Rick once again got the call, and this time he'd learned a trick or two. After walking leadoff hitter Gary Pettis, he retired the next three hitters (including slugger Ruben Sierra) on grounders to the middle infield. Not bad for an old rookie pitcher.