He wouldn’t have known it at the time – the year of this baseball card 1969- but in his young major league career twenty- eight year old Curt Motton was already what he was going to be his entire career- a seldom played reserve outfielder.
Curt Motton grew up in the same housing projects in Oakland, California with a future Hall of Famer- Willie Stargell and Tommy Harper who would also have a long career in major league baseball. They went to the same high school at Encinal High School- in football Harper was the quarterback, Stargell played end and Motton was the half back. The small Motton would star in four sports in high school- football, basketball, baseball and track. The same high school years later would produce a couple more baseball stars- Dontrelle Willis and Jimmy Rollins. Growing up Motton’s baseball hero was Henry Aaron- about as great a role model as you could have.
After high school Motton headed to Santa Rosa Community College until at age 20 he was offered $4,000 to sign with the Chicago Cubs in 1961. In his first minor year season he had an outstanding season which included being named Player of the Month in his league and caught the attention of the Baltimore Orioles who took him in the first year player draft. He would spend most of his career in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
Curt Motton was small- 5’7″ 1/2 when he made the major leagues, weighted 164. He hit and threw right handed and played the outfield his entire career. His nickname was “Cuz” short for cousin- because of his friendly manner and popularity with his teammates. He wouldn’t make it to the major leagues until 1967 at the age of 26.
Although Curt would play in eight major league seasons he would in his entire career only appear in 316 games- 567 at bats- 25 home runs, 89 RBI a battling average of .213, he had 5 career stolen bases. One of the problems he had was in Baltimore in the late 60’s- through the 70’s they were a top notch team with a lot of outfield talent. Manager Earl Weaver had Don Buford, Paul Blair and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson starting in the outfield in those early years of Motton’s career Weaver was playing them often and on the bench Merv Rettenmund, Dave May and Curt Blefary were also higher up in the pecking order for playing time. Motton would become a pinch-hitting specialist, Earl Weaver considered him their best pinch-hitter. Pinch- hitting is tough- you come off the bench late in the game and especially when you haven’t been getting a lot of at bats, its hard to stay sharp. Motton wanted to play everyday who wouldn’t but he realized he was on a winning team with great players. He contributed as best he could. You have to wonder if say in 1969 he had been selected by one of the expansion teams- would he have gotten a chance to play everyday and have developed into a good player?
The most he would play in a season was 1968 appearing in 83 games and getting 217 at bats. His best season would be 1969 with 6 home runs 21 RBI”s and a .303 average in only 89 at bats. He got an at-bat in that years World Series- which the Orioles the overwhelming favorite were upset by the Miracle Mets.
In the three year stretch of 1969-71 the Orioles would go to the World Series every year- winning it in 1970. Motton in those three seasons would get to start only 46 games, as a rookie in 1968 he had started 53. As a pinch-hitter in the AL Playoffs in 1971 vs Oakland he did get a pinch-hit double that tied Game 1- the Orioles would end up winning the game and that series.
After the 1971 season he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers then early in the 1972 season he was traded to the California Angels. He was in the minor leagues during the 1972 season before being called back up by the Angels. The Orioles brought him back in 1973 and 1974 where in 1974 he was a player-coach most of the season at their AAA Rochester club. Late in the season he was brought back to the Orioles and that is how his playing career ended.
His best friend in baseball was Frank Robinson and Robinson in the early 1980’s would get him a job in the San Francisco organization when he was managing there. Then he went back to the Orioles Rochester club as a coach in 1986-88 and would join his friend Frank in Baltimore when Frank was their manager- as first base coach from 1989-91. After that he would become a special assignment scout for the Orioles for a decade. Curt Motton died of stomach cancer in 2010 at the age of 69.