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.
Edited by O for the Seventies, 27 December 2012 - 02:52 PM.