Do not call Orioles first baseman Jim Traber an unsung hero, despite the fact that he hit his first major league home run and drove in four runs today as Baltimore beat the Minnesota Twins, 8-3, before 25,045 in Memorial Stadium.
On Sept. 21, 1984, he sang the national anthem in Memorial Stadium before his major league debut, then singled in his second at-bat against Boston's Oil Can Boyd.
Until today, his major league career was mostly downhill from there. Traber, who was recalled from Rochester just last week, had appeared in only seven more games for the Orioles and never had had an extra-base hit until this afternoon, when he had a three-run homer, a double and an RBI single to back Mike Boddicker's strong pitching.
It was the eighth victory in 12 games for the Orioles, and their third victory over the Twins in four days. Baltimore is 49-42 and still in fourth place, 8 1/2 games behind Boston, percentage points behind third-place Cleveland and two games behind second-place New York.
The Orioles also got good performances from more established players, totaling seven extra-base hits and 13 hits against four pitchers. Fred Lynn, mired in a three-for-28 slump, had two hits and drove in a run. Cal Ripken got his 21st RBI in 21 games and had two doubles, and Larry Sheets hit a two-run homer. Boddicker (12-5), who had lost four of his previous five decisions, allowed a run on four hits in eight innings.
Few expected Traber to raise his average this season to .500 (four for eight), or triple his career RBI total (now six). The former Oklahoma State starting quarterback was called up from Class AAA Rochester Friday and played today in front of his parents, fiance and friends.
"I had about 12-15 friends and family in the stands," he said, "but I'm sure I'll have some more after today."
The day started out ignominiously for Traber -- who grew up and still lives in Columbia, Md. -- when he fumbled Roy Smalley's grounder in the first inning, but the rest of it will be a tale for the grandchildren. He homered in the first inning with Ripken and Jim Dwyer on base, singled to drive in a run in the sixth, chased down a foul pop on the dead run in the seventh, started a 3-6 double play in the top of the eighth and then doubled to left-center field to lead off the bottom of the inning.
At that point, the fans rose in appreciation of his remarkable day, and the player who had been a 21st-round draft choice stood alone on second base and let the waves of his first major league standing ovation rush over him.
"I had chills going up and down my spine," he said.
Orioles Manager Earl Weaver called Traber "a shot in the arm" for his team. "We've been missing the three-run homer," he said. "We got it back today."
The Orioles opened the game with a bang, scoring in the first inning for the first time in 26 games. Lee Lacy singled with one out and Lynn bounced a double off the right field wall. Ripken hit a sacrifice fly to left, and Dwyer walked to set the stage for Traber.
Mike Smithson (8-9) threw a 3-2 fastball that Traber hit into the stands for a 4-0 lead. Smithson retired Sheets, then was retired himself after only 30 pitches. He was relieved by Frank Pastore.
The Twins closed to 4-1 on Smalley's homer in the fifth, which broke a string of 13 consecutive scoreless innings by Orioles pitchers.
But the Orioles quickly padded their lead. Ripken, batting .408 in his last 21 games, led off the sixth with a double, and John Shelby sacrificed him to third. Traber singled sharply to left to make it 5-1.
Baltimore scored once in the seventh against the Allan Anderson. Rick Dempsey opened with a single. Alan Wiggins sacrificed and one out later Lynn drove Dempsey in with a single to center off Ron Davis.
Baltimore rocked Davis for three extra-base hits on four pitches in the eighth. After Traber opened with a double, Sheets homered. Tom O'Malley doubled before Davis retired three straight.