Mark “The Blade” Belanger was born on this day 1944. Mark Belanger is a great example of how important defense is not only in baseball but in sports. Belanger played for the Baltimore Orioles in their glory years, 1965-81. He finished his career with the Dodgers in 1982. Belanger was a career .228 hitter. He had no power to speak of 20 home runs during his 18 year career. How did Belanger stay in the major leagues for 18 years? He was a great defensive shortstop. He was the winner of 8 Gold Gloves between 1969 and 1978. The Orioles were famous back then for their great pitching and three run homers. They had great pitchers and some fine hitting and fine defense. Was there ever a better left side of the infield defensively than Mark Belanger at short and a fellow named Brooks Robinson at third? I don’t remember Belanger being like say Ozzie Smith. He just made the play every time and made it look easy. He didn’t look like a ballplayer. He was tall and thin.
One of those odd things- Belanger was always hitting 8th in the line-up but the great Earl Weaver would put him up at the top of the order when they faced Nolan Ryan. For some reason Mark Belanger owned Nolan Ryan. He also did well against two other great pitchers from that time Bert “The Jerk” Blyleven and Tommy John [surgery]
Mark Belanger was very active in the MLBPA during and after his career. A long time smoker Belanger died of lung cancer at the age of 54 in 1998.