The Baltimore Vintage Athlete of the Week is the first in a long line of great first basemen for the Baltimore Orioles.
The first player in the modern history of the Baltimore Orioles to hit over .300 in a season, Bob Boyd was a solid line-drive hitter and defensive standout.
A member of the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro Leagues from 1947-1949, Boyd became the first black player to sign with the Chicago White Sox in 1950 and made his major league debut in 1951 at the age of 31.
He joined the Orioles in 1956 and in his first season with the Orioles played in 70 games and hit .311.
Unlike some of the great first basemen that would follow him in Baltimore, Boyd was not known as a power hitter. Nicknamed “Rope” for his line drive hitting, Boyd had only 19 major league home runs. A great contact hitter, he struck out only 114 times in his career.
In 1957, at the age of 37, Boyd finished fourth in the American League with a .318 batting average and was 16th in the American League MVP voting. He had a career-high 154 base hits with 16 doubles, eight triples, four home runs and 34 RBI.
Boyd again eclipsed the .300 mark in 1958 with a .309 average while registering career-highs of 21 doubles and seven home runs. His average dipped to .265 in 1959, but he did register a career-high 41 RBI in his final year as the regular first baseman for the Orioles.
In 1960 the Orioles brought in Jim Gentile as the regular first baseman and the 40-year-old Boyd was relegated to part-time duty. He did, however, hit .317 in 82 at bats.
Boyd last played in the majors in 1961, ironically splitting the season between two teams that would be moving from their respective cities before the end of the decade, the Kansas City Athletics and Milwaukee Braves.
He did, however, continue playing at the minor league level. In 1962, at the age of 42, he hit .326 with 42 RBI while splitting his season between Louisville and Oklahoma City at the AAA level. The following year, the 43-year-old hit .294 with 29 doubles and 48 RBI while splitting his season between AA San Antonio and AAA Oklahoma City in the Houston organization.
During his five seasons with the Orioles, Boyd hit .301 with 16 home runs and 131 RBI. His career average was .293 with 19 home runs and 175 RBI.
He passed away in 2004 at the age of 84.
Each week you can help decide which former sports great is recognized as the Baltimore Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week by nominating your favorite athletes from the past. Byron Thomas nominated Bob Boyd to be this week’s pick. If you would like one of your favorites of the past to be honored as the Baltimore Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week, please send me you nomination by e-mail.