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WillyM

Homer in first major league at bat

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A few days ago, the "this day in baseball history" feature on the MASN telecast reported that May 3 was the anniversary of the first time an Oriole homered in his first major league at-bat.

The guy who did it was pitcher Les "Buster" Narum, who homered off the Tigers' Don Mossi on May 3, 1963.  Narum was used sparingly that year, appearing in only nine games, all in relief.  That at-bat in Detroit was his only at-bat of the season.

Narum was traded to the Washington Senators after the 1963 season.  He pitched in parts of four seasons for Washington.  He turned out to be a pretty poor hitter, accumulating only seven hits in 118 major league at-bats for a lifetime batting average of .059.  Three of those seven  hits were homers, so we can surmise that Narum subscribed to the swing-hard-in-case-you-hit-it school of batting.  But we can be sure that no other Oriole will ever surpass Narum's 4.000 slugging percentage.

If I'm not mistaken, the second Oriole to homer in his first major league at-bat was Luis Montanez, who went deep leading off the third inning against the Angels' Ervin Santana at Anaheim on August 6, 2008.  He had been called up to the majors the day before and appeared as a late-inning defensive replacement, but did not have an at-bat on August 5.

Oddly, if you look at Montanez' record on either retrosheet or baseball-reference, at first glance it appears that he had two at-bats, neither resulting in a home run, prior to that August 6 game.

This peculiar situation arose because of what happened in the Orioles' series against the White Sox in April of that year.

That was the only time the Orioles were scheduled to play in Chicago that season.  Although the weather was terrible on April 28, the third day of that series, the umpires made every effort to get the game in.

The Orioles came from behind to tie the game in the ninth, so even though the weather was getting even worse, the game continued.  The Orioles scored in the top of the eleventh, but the Sox tied it again in the bottom half.  At that point, the weather had gotten so atrocious that the umps suspended play.  The game would have to be finished when the White Sox came to Baltimore, which didn't happen until August 25.

By that time, the rosters of both teams had undergone considerable changes.  Adam Jones, who had started in center field for the Orioles, was injured, so when play resumed, Montanez, who had joined the club by that time and already played in a number of games, took Jones' place in the lineup.  Montanez ended up batting twice and even drove in the winning run with a single in the 14th.

According to convention, the game enters the official records as being played on the day when it was started.  So, even though Montanez never had an at-bat in a game prior to August 6, the records show him as playing in a game, and going 1-for-2, on  April 28.

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