Milt Pappas didn’t seem to mind being the answer to an easy Orioles trivia question.
He was the guy the Orioles traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson, but he still considered his nine years in Baltimore as the most important part of an impressive career that included 209 victories with four teams.
Mr. Pappas died April 19 at his Beecher, Ill., home. He was 76. His wife, Judi Pappas, confirmed the death to the Associated Press but said she did not know the cause.
He was a star-quality pitcher who won 25 games for the Orioles before his 21st birthday. He did not have a losing season during an Orioles career that began with a short stay in the majors in 1957 and ended with a solid 1965 season in which he went 13-9 with a 2.60 ERA. He had a 110-74 record as an Oriole before going on to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs.
It must have been a shock to get dealt from a 94-win Orioles club, right before it won the franchise’s first world title, to a Reds team that slumped to seventh place in the National League in 1966. But Mr. Pappas made peace with that, and the fact that he was a very good player on the other end of what many remember as an extremelylopsided deal.
“That doesn’t bother me,” he told the Baltimore Sun in 2009. “There’s nothing I could have done to prevent it. What frosted me was that, two days before I was sent to the Reds, the Orioles told me I wouldn’t be traded. It rained that day, so I took my wife to the movies.”
They went to see, oddly enough, “The Cincinnati Kid.”
Although there would never be reason to second-guess that deal after Robinson immediately led the Orioles to the promised land with a Triple Crown season, leading the American League with a .316 batting average, 49 home runs and 122 runs batted in. But the departure of the well-liked Mr. Pappas was not cause for celebration in the Orioles clubhouse.
“Actually, I kind of had mixed emotions about it because Milt was a good friend and a heck of a pitcher,” slugger Boog Powell told the Sun in December. “We had seen Frank from the other side. We knew he was an MVP and had some really good years. We certainly respected him as a hitter. Also at the same time, why mess with something that was working pretty good?”
Milton Stephen Pappastediodis was born May 11, 1939, in Detroit. His parents were Greek immigrants who ran a drugstore.
He made his debut with the Orioles at 18 and played in only three minor-league games.
Mr. Pappas was an All Star as an Oriole in 1962 and 1965. After leaving Baltimore, he would go on to win 99 more games and would put together his two most-winning seasons with 17 victories in both 1971 and 1972 with the Cubs. He retired after the 1973 season, with a record of 209-164 and a 3.40 ERA.
He came within one disputed pitch of throwing a perfect game at Wrigley Field on Sept. 2, 1972, before settling for a no-hitter.
Mr. Pappas played longer with Baltimore than any other team in his 17-year career and came back to take part in Orioles nostalgia events. He was inducted into the team’s hall of fame in 1985. He insisted that the Orioles were the team that mattered most to him because they signed him out of high school in 1957.
“They gave me my big shot,” he told the Sun in 2009. “Baltimore had good fans, too, though not a lot of them came to games. Of course, the Orioles were the city’s stepchildren. The Colts were the cat’s meow.”
After retiring from baseball, Mr. Pappas sold building supplies.
In 1982, his first wife, Carole, disappeared while running an errand near the family’s home in Wheaton, Ill. Her body was discovered five years later in her car at the bottom of a pond.
A daughter from his first marriage died in 2015.
Survivors include his second wife, the former Judi Bloome; a son from his first marriage; a daughter from his second marriage; and five granddaughters.
Read more Washington Post obituaries