The latest installment of The Sun’s enjoyable “Catching Up With” series features Mike Devereaux, who visited Camden Yards earlier this month along with Mickey Tettleton, Dave Schmidt, and Dave Johnson for a celebration of the “Why Not?” season.
I reflected on Devo’s famous ’89 home run against the Angels and his place in Orioles history in a 2007 Roar from 34 post.
Mike Devereaux has a special place in Orioles lore, largely because of his controversial, game-ending home run against the Angels. Easily forgotten is the fact that he did nearly the same thing against Texas less than a month later. In other words, two of Devo’s eight home runs during his rookie season were game winners.
This explains, in part, how a .254 lifetime hitter with 105 home runs became a hometown hero and now ranks as one of the 50 All-Time Favorite Orioles.
Devo’s popularity is further understood when you consider his defensive prowess, which Baseball Library describes as follows: “He also earned a reputation as one the league’s most spectacular center fielders, using his speed to rob batters of sure hits, and his fantastic leaping ability to climb outfield walls and rescue long drives that appeared destined for the bleachers.”
Before Kenny Lofton made a habit of torturing O’s fans with his over-the-wall grabs in Jacobs Field, Mike Devereaux used the outfield fence as a personal springboard to defensive success in Memorial Stadium. The metal bleachers on 33rd Street – the same ones that nonjudgmentally welcomed Devo’s controversial July home run – often offered the best views of his outfield theatrics.
In The Sun piece, Devereaux reminisces about the home run he hit and the many home runs he stole before it was the norm for center fielders. He also comments on all the empty seats at the stadium. Yes, times have changed.
He hit the Orioles’ first-ever home run at Camden Yards in 1992, but that poke is long forgotten. What Baltimore fondly recalls of Mike Devereaux is his game-winning homer in the summer of 1989 during the Orioles’ improbable pennant run.
By the All-Star break, those Birds seemed a team of destiny, a rag-tag bunch that could do no wrong. Devereaux proved that. On July 15, in a game fixed in the minds of Orioles’ fans, the rookie slammed a walk-off, two-run homer that curled around the left-field foul pole at Memorial Stadium and gave the home team an 11-9 comeback victory over California.
If ever a moment defined a season, that was it. Devereaux’s hit triggered celebrations among the 47,000 fans at Memorial Stadium and howls of protest from the Angels, who claimed the ball was foul. For days, TV showed replays of the homer. Fair or foul? Twenty years later, it’s still the question most often asked of Devereaux when he returns to Baltimore.
His answer? “Every time I check the record book, it says ‘fair,’” said Devereaux, 46, of Woodstock, Ga. “I hit it hard and I watched it as long as I could. I knew it was close.”
Matt Taylor is author of the popular Baltimore Orioles’ sports blog Roar from 34 and is a regular contributor to Baltimore Sports Then and Now.