From taking over for the famous Brooks Robinson at third base to a fiery relationship with manager Earl Weaver, former Baltimore Orioles standout Doug DeCinces has his fair share of stories to tell.
DeCinces was drafted in 1970 as a third baseman but initially played shortstop and second base in the minor leagues. During his first big-league camp, coaches told him he’d move back to third base once he went back down to minors. DeCinces immediately knew what that meant.
“They called me over and sat me down and said, ‘We want you to go down and play third base’ and I kind of went ‘No, no, no, no, that’s Brooks’ position.’ I added that up right away,” DeCinces said on Facebook Live with Stan “The Fan” Charles and Ross Grimsley. “They said … ‘The only slot that’s going to be open in the near future is third. And I said, ‘But that’s Brooks Robinson!’ But then they told me ‘We think you have the physical capability, but we also think you’re mentally tough enough to handle it.'”
DeCinces first got called up to the big leagues in 1973 but didn’t play much at that level until 1975. Taking over third base for Robinson meant there were some big shoes to fill, and not just in terms of trying to match his production.
“The real issue of taking over [for Brooks Robinson] … and I’m sure there’s still fans that can remember — I wasn’t the most well-liked guy coming in and taking over for the guy that probably could have ran for mayor and governor and won both races in the same year,” DeCinces said.
DeCinces recalled his most vivid memory during the transition of taking over for Robinson. It occurred on June 6, 1976 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. Robinson played third base in the first game, and DeCinces played third in the second one. DeCinces’ grandmother and parents flew into Baltimore to watch him play and attended the second game.
“So the first game’s over. I go out there to stretch and the fans started heckling me when I’m stretching,” DeCinces said. “And there are always those chants like, ‘We want Brooks,’ you know, ‘We don’t want you, we want Brooks.'”
DeCinces knew he might be in for a long night with the crowd chirping at him. But the crowd got even louder when DeCinces made two errors in one inning, including a ground ball he and a late throw to first base. Lefty Mike Cuellar gave up five runs in the first inning.
“I mean there was 30-something thousand people there that day,” DeCinces said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my grandmother’s here, my parents, everything. And I went up the first time up, I fouled two balls off and swung through another one for strike three. I came off and [fans] are just booing the living crap out of me. And Earl [Weaver] goes ‘I’m going to take you out of the game, this is too much.’ And I looked at him and said, ‘Over my dead body are you taking me out of this game.'”
DeCinces recalled bouncing back in that game. He made every other play at third and went 3-for-4 at the plate. He had a two-run home run and an RBI triple to drive in three runs on the night. After his triple, DeCinces remembered standing on third and hearing the roar of the crowd during the moment he won them over.
In his nine years with the Orioles (1973-1981), DeCinces hit .253/.323/.428 and accumulated 373 runs, 738 hits, 107 home runs and 397 RBIs. DeCinces had an impressive career in Baltimore, but he explained that he did have a solid amount of run-ins with Weaver.
“I was raised to always respect your elders, always, I wasn’t going to talk back or any of this stuff, but he used to ride me,” DeCinces said. “… When you’re going through it, it’s a little difficult.”
DeCinces remembers one incident that almost got physical with Weaver. After a misplay that Weaver pinned on DeCinces, the manager pressed his finger on DeCinces’ chest and screamed at him in the dugout. Although DeCinces said it made him angry at the time, he laughs about it now.
“Earl suddenly says, ‘Wait a minute, I’m not done with you,'” DeCinces said while chuckling. “And I remember throwing Pat Kelly and Elrod [Hendricks] off of me and I came back up those steps after him and I was in position to let him have it when [security staffer] Mo Green body slammed me onto the ground and took me down — and probably saved my career.”
For more from DeCinces, watch the full conversation here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles