“The pitch was away on the outer part of the plate, and I did something I rarely did – I hit it to right field. I just wanted to make good contact and hoped things worked out.”
-Curt Motton, on his game-winning RBI single in the 1969 ALCS
Curt Motton played some outfield, but really he was a career pinch-hitter.
One of Motton’s most famous pinch hits – an 11th inning RBI single against the Twins forty years ago – carried the Orioles to a 1-0 victory in Game 2 of the 1969 ALCS. The O’s won the series 3-0.
A powerful pull hitter, Motton set what was then a major-league record in 1968 when he hit consecutive pinch-hit home runs. Motton’s power earned him his keep with Earl Weaver; however, his game-winning hit in the ’69 ALCS was an uncharacteristic opposite-field single.
Motton batted against Ron Perranoski, who came on in relief of Dave Boswell, a Baltimore native, after Boswell tossed 10.2 innings of shutout baseball.
Boog Powell had opened the Orioles’ half of the 11th inning with a walk and was sacrificed to second on a Brooks Robinson bunt. Boswell then intentionally walked Dave Johnson and retired Mark Belanger on a pop-out to third base.
In came Perranoski and up stepped Motton – pinch-hitting for catcher Elrod Hendricks – for his only at-bat of the game.
“The pitch was away on the outer part of the plate, and I did something I rarely did – I hit it to right field,” Motton recalled in Jeff Seidel’s 2006 book Baltimore Orioles: Where Have You Gone? “I just wanted to make good contact and hoped things worked out.”
The hit made a winner of the Orioles and of Dave McNally, who struck out 11 batters and gave up only three hits in 11 innnings of work.
Motton’s ALCS effort capped the best season of his career. He batted .303 with six home runs and 21 RBI in 89 at-bats. Motton also tallied a .398 on-base percentage with 13 walks against 10 strikeouts for the 1969 Orioles, who won a franchise-best 109 games.
He had just one at-bat in the 1969 World Series, an eighth-inning pinch-hit appearance in place of Dave McNally in Game 5. Motton grounded out to shortstop during a 3-3 tie, and the Mets went on to score two runs against Eddie Watt in the bottom of the frame for a series-clinching 5-3 victory.
Motton won a World Series ring with the Orioles in 1970. His name appears alongside numerous Oriole greats in the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame.
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.