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O for the Seventies

Willy Miranda: Orioles Hall of Famer?

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Willy Miranda was the Orioles starting shortstop from 1955 thru 1958, then played sparingly through 1959 before his (American) baseball career ended. His manager, Paul Richards, nicknamed him "Ringling Brothers" because his defense was such a spectacle, and later claimed that Miranda was the main impetus in those early Orioles losing years for fans attending games, so spectacular and graceful was his glove. Tom LaSorda has stated that in all his years in the game, Miranda was the best shortstop he had ever seen (this was after managing against Ozzie Smith!)

 

The man couldn't hit a lick. He was a switch hitter, but announcer Ernie Harwell claimed that Miranda, "Hit left, right, and seldom". His lifetime average was only .221, and in 1958 he managed a total of three extra base hits for the season in 314 atbats! Twenty years before "Mendoza Line" became part of baseball's lexicon, the actually correct term used was the "Miranda Line" for an average of .200.

 

Miranda played with the same glove his entire career, continually patching it until it looked so battered that people wondered how he could field anything with it. He stuffed the finger-holes with old socks and tongue depressors (highly against Major League rules, of course), and would take the field with only his thumb and pinky finger inserted in the glove (the other three fingers behind the glove) so that his entire palm would be exposed, and use the stiff-as-a-board glove almost like a hockey goalie, slapping at everything near him and somehow catching nearly everything. Late in afternoon games at Memorial Stadium he would purposely one-hop his throws to the first baseman (usually Bob Boyd) because he reasoned that a chest-high throw would be into the setting sun--twenty years before Dave Concepcion supposedly invented this play with the Reds.

 

Willy played around the calendar: every single off-season of his professional career he would return to Cuba to play through the winter. He would then take his break during Orioles Spring Training, missing as much as he could and infuriating manager Richards by claiming "visa problems", but he was never out of top shape since he never stopped playing, ever.

 

Willy Miranda was a chatterbox; friendly, affectionate, and beloved by everyone on the team and the fans. He was fun-loving and in his imperfect English was a delightful interview. During one 1950's interview he stated, "My father said he spent all his time teaching me to field, and then it became too late to make me a hitter".

 

He had two near-death experiences during his playing career: back in Cuba after the 1953 season, his very young son Willyto picked up Miranda's rifle and accidentally discharged it, with the bullet grazing Miranda's upper lip which required plastic surgery (in photos of Miranda one can detect the imperfection). The second time (perhaps apocryphal) was in 1956, when Miranda's Orioles teammate and good friend Tommy Gastall allegedly invited Miranda to accompany him on his practice plane flight which tragically became fatal for the young catcher.

 

Miranda was never an all-star, playing at the same time as Phil Rizzuto, Harvey Kuenn, and his compatriot Chico Carrasquel, but he was an extraordinary defensive player, a very colorful player, and the most popular of Orioles during a time when they were trying to prove worthy of the Baltimore sports scene. I think that Guillermo "Willy" Miranda would make a very worthy addition to the Orioles Advocates Hall of Fame. Sadly, in 1996 Mr. Miranda died in his adopted home town of Baltimore so he cannot be honored while alive, but there are many who remember him with fondness and admiration. Hoping I can find a few like-minded fans on this forum.

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Willy Miranda was the Orioles starting shortstop from 1955 thru 1958, then played sparingly through 1959 before his (American) baseball career ended. His manager, Paul Richards, nicknamed him "Ringling Brothers" because his defense was such a spectacle, and later claimed that Miranda was the main impetus in those early Orioles losing years for fans attending games, so spectacular and graceful was his glove. Tom LaSorda has stated that in all his years in the game, Miranda was the best shortstop he had ever seen (this was after managing against Ozzie Smith!)

 

The man couldn't hit a lick. He was a switch hitter, but announcer Ernie Harwell claimed that Miranda, "Hit left, right, and seldom". His lifetime average was only .221, and in 1958 he managed a total of three extra base hits for the season in 314 atbats! Twenty years before "Mendoza Line" became part of baseball's lexicon, the actually correct term used was the "Miranda Line" for an average of .200.

 

Miranda played with the same glove his entire career, continually patching it until it looked so battered that people wondered how he could field anything with it. He stuffed the finger-holes with old socks and tongue depressors (highly against Major League rules, of course), and would take the field with only his thumb and pinky finger inserted in the glove (the other three fingers behind the glove) so that his entire palm would be exposed, and use the stiff-as-a-board glove almost like a hockey goalie, slapping at everything near him and somehow catching nearly everything. Late in afternoon games at Memorial Stadium he would purposely one-hop his throws to the first baseman (usually Bob Boyd) because he reasoned that a chest-high throw would be into the setting sun--twenty years before Dave Concepcion supposedly invented this play with the Reds.

 

Willy played around the calendar: every single off-season of his professional career he would return to Cuba to play through the winter. He would then take his break during Orioles Spring Training, missing as much as he could and infuriating manager Richards by claiming "visa problems", but he was never out of top shape since he never stopped playing, ever.

 

Willy Miranda was a chatterbox; friendly, affectionate, and beloved by everyone on the team and the fans. He was fun-loving and in his imperfect English was a delightful interview. During one 1950's interview he stated, "My father said he spent all his time teaching me to field, and then it became too late to make me a hitter".

 

He had two near-death experiences during his playing career: back in Cuba after the 1953 season, his very young son Willyto picked up Miranda's rifle and accidentally discharged it, with the bullet grazing Miranda's upper lip which required plastic surgery (in photos of Miranda one can detect the imperfection). The second time (perhaps apocryphal) was in 1956, when Miranda's Orioles teammate and good friend Tommy Gastall allegedly invited Miranda to accompany him on his practice plane flight which tragically became fatal for the young catcher.

 

Miranda was never an all-star, playing at the same time as Phil Rizzuto, Harvey Kuenn, and his compatriot Chico Carrasquel, but he was an extraordinary defensive player, a very colorful player, and the most popular of Orioles during a time when they were trying to prove worthy of the Baltimore sports scene. I think that Guillermo "Willy" Miranda would make a very worthy addition to the Orioles Advocates Hall of Fame. Sadly, in 1996 Mr. Miranda died in his adopted home town of Baltimore so he cannot be honored while alive, but there are many who remember him with fondness and admiration. Hoping I can find a few like-minded fans on this forum.

 

Outstanding tribute to a terrfic player from the past. I agree that Willy belongs in the O's Hall of Fame.

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Of course it's gotten so bad that all you have to do to make the O's HOF is to have played 4-5 years for the team. Defensively, it appears he was in the lower half of the AL during his four year tenure. So what the heck; why not.

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Of course it's gotten so bad that all you have to do to make the O's HOF is to have played 4-5 years for the team. Defensively, it appears he was in the lower half of the AL during his four year tenure. So what the heck; why not.

 

When I was writing my little pro-Miranda bit there was a half of me that feels exactly like you do, Bassman. By no stretch could Miranda be regarded as a star player, but in that era he was definitely a star Baltimore Oriole, if you catch my distinction. Perhaps that is why, to my knowledge, he has never been a serious candidate for the Birds' HOF. I do feel, however, that there are too few Orioles fans who remember him and what other way do we bring him back into the sunlight?

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I remember him very well. The two best FIELDING shortstops the Orioles ever had were Miranda and Belanger. Ripken would be third when compared to these two.

I think Willy only had one lifetime career home-run.

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I personally remember this trade:

 

On November 18, 1954, in an enormous two-part trade begun on November 14th‚ the Yankees and Orioles exchanged 17 players. Included were 1B **** Kryhoski‚ Ps Bob Turley and Don Larsen‚ and SS Billy Hunter from the Orioles. To the Orioles went OF Gene Woodling‚ SS Willie Miranda‚ Ps Harry Byrd and Jim McDonald‚ and Cs Gus Triandos and Hal Smith.

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