Mark Henry Belanger (June 8, 1944 – October 6, 1998), nicknamed "The
Blade", was an American professional baseball shortstop. He played
eighteen seasons in
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Baltimore
Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers. A defensive standout, he won eight
Gold Glove Awards between 1969 and 1978, leading the American League
in assists and fielding percentage three times each, and retired with
the highest career fielding average by an AL shortstop (.977). He set
franchise records for career games, assists and double plays as a
shortstop, all of which were later broken by
Cal Ripken Jr.
Cal Ripken Jr. After his
playing career, he became an official with the Major League Baseball
1 Early life
3 Later life
4 See also
6 External links
Belanger was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he attended
Pittsfield High School, where he played baseball and basketball. On
the basketball court, he became the school's first 1,000-point scorer.
He was recruited by the Orioles as an amateur in 1962, and made his
debut with the club on August 7, 1965.
He took over as the Orioles' regular shortstop in late 1967, and held
the position for over a decade. Nicknamed "The Blade" because of his
height of 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) and weight of only 170 lb
(77 kg), Belanger was known as a poor hitter. In 1970 he was a
Triple Crown loser
Triple Crown loser (finishing last in the TC categories). In his
eighteen seasons in the major leagues, Belanger hit only 20 home runs,
and had a lifetime batting average of .228, only topping the .230 mark
over a full season three times; his .228 average is the third-lowest
of any major league player with over 5000 career at bats, ahead of
George McBride (.218) and
Ed Brinkman (.224), and the
seventh-lowest of any non-catcher with at least 2500 at bats since
1920. His true contribution to the team was on defense, where he
earned a reputation as one of the best fielding shortstops ever.
Receiving the AL Gold Glove eight times (1969, 1971, 1973–78), he
was also named to the All-Star team in 1976. Belanger joined a select
group of shortstop-second baseman combinations who each won Gold
Gloves in the same season while playing together: in 1969 and 1971
with Davey Johnson, and again with
Bobby Grich each year between 1973
and 1976 inclusive. And with
Brooks Robinson winning at third base
every year through 1975, the left side of the Orioles' infield was
Despite his famously poor hitting, Belanger had substantial success
against some of the best pitchers of his era, including Bert Blyleven,
Nolan Ryan, and Tommy John.
He hit a rare home run in the first
American League Championship
Series game ever played in 1969, and after uncharacteristically
hitting .333 in the 1970 ALCS, his contributions led to the Orioles'
World Series victory, the team's second title in five years; he
caught a line drive to end a 4–3 victory in Game 1 with the tying
run on first base, and had an assist to end Game 3. Playing in six
ALCS, he set league playoff records for career games, putouts,
assists, total chances and double plays by a shortstop, all of which
were broken between 1998 and 2002 by
Omar Vizquel and Derek Jeter.
He was granted free agency in 1981, perhaps in response to his public
criticism of manager Earl Weaver, and signed with the Los Angeles
Dodgers for the 1982 season, after which he retired.
Following Belanger's departure from the Orioles, former teammate Rich
Dauer said, "Anyone would miss Mark Belanger. You're talking about the
greatest shortstop in the world. He never put you in a bad position
with his double-play throws...He'd put you where you should be to make
the play... I never had to think out there. If there was any question
in my mind, I'd look at Blade, and he'd have a finger out, pointing
which way I should move.
Belanger served as the Orioles' union representative for several
years. He was one of the four players who led negotiations during the
1981 strike. After his retirement as an active player he was employed
by the MLB Players Association as a liaison to its membership.
He and his wife Daryl had two homes; in
Timonium, Maryland and Key
Biscayne, Florida and had two sons, Richard and Robert.
A long-time smoker, Belanger contracted lung cancer in the late 1990s
and died in
New York City
New York City at the age of 54. He is buried in St. Joseph
Cemetery, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball career stolen bases leaders
List of Gold Glove middle infield duos
^ Goldstein, Richard (October 7, 1998). "Mark Belanger, 54, a
Shortstop On Orioles Known for Fielding". The New York Times.
Retrieved 10 May 2010.
^ Rosenfeld, Harvey (1995). Iron Man: The Cal Ripken, Jr., Story. New
York: St. Martin's Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-312-13524-6.
Mark Belanger SABR Retrieved 2014-10-24.
Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN,
or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs,
or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
Mark Belanger at Find a Grave
Mark Belanger at the SABR Bio Project, by Frank Vaccaro, retrieved
November 8, 2017
Baltimore Orioles 1970
World Series champions
Brooks Robinson (
World Series MVP)
6 Paul Blair
7 Mark Belanger
8 Andy Etchebarren
9 Don Buford
10 Elrod Hendricks
14 Merv Rettenmund
15 Davey Johnson
16 Bobby Grich
19 Dave McNally
20 Frank Robinson
22 Jim Palmer
24 Pete Richert
25 Moe Drabowsky
26 Boog Powell
29 Dick Hall
30 Chico Salmon
31 Curt Motton
32 Marcelino López
35 Mike Cuellar
36 Tom Phoebus
37 Terry Crowley
39 Eddie Watt
40 Dave Leonhard
44 Jim Hardin
4 Earl Weaver
31 George Bamberger
41 Jim Frey
48 George Staller
55 Billy Hunter
American League Championship Series
Shortstop Gold Glove Award
1991: Ripken, Jr.
1992: Ripken, Jr.
Members of the
Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame
Jack Dunn III
Cal Ripken Jr.
Cal Ripken Sr.
B. J. Surhoff
Herb Armstrong Award
Fred Uhlman Sr.
"Wild Bill" Hagy Award