BALTIMORE -- A sure-handed shortstop, a slick-fielding center fielder, a legendary broadcast voice and a local inspiration lost too soon embody the Orioles’ 2021 club Hall of Fame class.
The Orioles on Friday began a weekend-long celebration to enshrine J.J. Hardy, Mike Devereaux, Joe Angel and Mo Gaba into team lore. They officially did so Saturday in a heartfelt pregame on-field ceremony before their game against the Rays.
“It brought back a lot of memories, just driving into the hotel and driving through the Inner Harbor,” Hardy said Friday. “Starting from the last game of 2011 when it felt like we won the World Series, but we just kept Boston out of making it to the postseason. And then basically, building off of that for the next six years.”
The first half of that stretch was the most productive of Hardy’s career, the shortstop averaging 26 homers and earning Gold Glove (twice), All-Star and Silver Slugger honors from 2011-13. Arriving via trade from Minnesota in December 2010, Hardy spent seven seasons as a core member of the last competitive Orioles teams, winning three total Gold Gloves and helping the team to playoff appearances in '12, ’14 and ’16.
Hardy returned to the organization as a guest instructor at Spring Training in 2020; Friday was his first time in Baltimore since his playing career ended in 2017. He ranks third among Orioles shortstops in games played, behind Cal Ripken Jr. and Mark Belanger.
“This city absolutely loved us for all those years I was here,” Hardy said. “I was lucky to get traded here when I did, when there was a lot of young, talented players already and I was able to be a part of it.”
Devereaux played the bulk of his 12-year career in Baltimore, breaking out as a key member of the “Why Not?” Orioles of 1989, his first season with the team. He became best known for the home runs he took away in center field and the controversial walk-off homer he hit on July 15, 1989, which wrapped around the left-field foul pole at Memorial Stadium to give the Orioles a pivotal win over the Angels. Devereaux also hit the first home run by an Oriole at Camden Yards in 1992, producing career highs of 24 homers, 107 RBIs and a 117 OPS+ that season.
All told, Devereaux compiled double-digit homers and double-digit steals each year from 1990-92, and he is the only Oriole who ever achieved multiple seasons with double-digit doubles, triples and homers.
“Whenever I come back, everyone always remembers, and people are happy and they always want to talk,” Devereaux said. “When I think of Baltimore, I think of the fun that I had here, and sellout crowds every day, and the atmosphere of what always went on. I always wish the best for the Orioles.”
Gaba is the second-ever winner of the Wild Bill Hagy Award and remembered as one of the most passionate and devoted fans in franchise history. The Orioles and Ravens superfan battled cancer four times and was a household name to area sports fans when he died on July 28, 2020, at age 14. He was inducted into the Orioles’ Hall that day. The well-documented impact Gaba had on Trey Mancini remains an inspiring chapter of Mancini’s own story of overcoming cancer.
“I am so proud of my son for even making this opportunity possible,” Sonsy Gaba, Mo’s mother, said. “He would say this is pretty cool.”
Angel, the winner of the Herb Armstrong Award, spent 19 of his 42 years as a baseball broadcaster as the Orioles' lead radio voice. The longest of Angel’s three stints with the team came from 2004-18, when his “Hasta la vista pelota!” “Wave that baby bye-bye!” and “Put it in the WIN column!” delighted fans for 15 years. He was introduced Saturday by his longtime partner Fred Manfra.
Around the diamond
Friday’s series opener against the Rays found Richie Martin at shortstop and Ramón Urías at second base for the second consecutive game since Martin’s return to the active roster, showing only part of the shakeup coming to the Orioles' middle infield. The club is also planning to give recently acquired Jorge Mateo regular looks at both positions after selecting Mateo off waivers from the Padres on Thursday. Baltimore designated Pat Valaika for assignment in a corresponding move.
“He’s a really talented player, a guy who has been on the top of prospect lists for a long time but who just hasn’t gotten the big league opportunity,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re going to give him a big opportunity.”
A former top prospect with the Yankees, Mateo reached the Majors in 2020 with the Padres at age 25 but played sparingly given San Diego's crowded, star-studded infield. He is a right-handed hitter with plus speed who has played seven positions in the Majors and stole 283 bases in the Minors, including 82 across two levels in 2015. Mateo also hit 19 home runs at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2019.