Of course 1996 stands out in the baseball career of Brady Anderson. How could this leadoff hitter smash an Orioles team record 50 homers in one season? He hit 20 or more homers just twice in his 15-year career. It had be a fluke or worse, there was something illegal about it.
No matter, what a fun player to watch. He had great speed and played an excellent center field.
So when my first born arrived in 1998, we gave him the name Brady after this exciting player.
Flash forward to the summer of 2001. Anderson is on the disabled list as the O’s head for a 98-loss season. I always tell people that my former employer in Baltimore treated me better as an ex-employee than they did when I worked for them. The Orioles were nice enough to set up a meeting between myself and my boy Brady.
So my Brady and his parents headed to Comiskey Park in Chicago. We were given on field passes. Brady and I stood on the field during batting practice. And then it was time to visit with Brady Anderson.
I had written a column when Brady was born and I brought it along. And then Brady Anderson appeared. He greeted our three-year-old and made small talk. I had the video camera with me taking it all in.
And then I used my big boy voice.
“Brady Anderson, can you explain to my son Brady how you hit 50 homers in one season?”
“Inexplicable,” he said.
And then he turned towards young Brady
“Can you say that,” he said. “Can you spell it?”
We made some more small talk and then he wondered how we had all connected. I told him I had worked for the Orioles and handed him my column from the newspaper . He seemed to study it carefully. It was entitled “Only special people get called Brady.” One of the golfers I covered gave me that clever line.
So let’s examine that special career of Brady Anderson. Twice he led the AL in hit-by-pitch. I do recall he would stick out that arm and try and get nicked. He stole a career-high 52 bases in 1992.
But how in the heck did he hit 50 homers in 1996?
How about seven two-homer games to start with. On April 20 in the ballpark in Arlington, Texas beat Jimmy Haynes 8-3. Anderson clocked a pair of homers off winner Kevin Gross. O’s reliever Brian Sackinsky pitched well in his four innings of work. Brian Sackinsky? Who is that? What the heck happened to all those great O’s pitchers?
On May 3, the news was better, Anderson hit a pair of two homers off the Brewers Ricky Bones. He also walked and doubled in another run. It was early May and Anderson already had 14 homers.
By June 16, his homer total was 24. That was the day he homered in an 8-run eighth inning. That’s a pretty good leadoff hitter who scores 4 runs and drives in 5. His final two-homer day came in a loss in the Kingdome. In the 9-6 loss to the Mariners, Anderson clocked his 39th and 40th homers of the season. It was also a game in which Mike Milchin and Archie Corbin pitched for the Birds. Again, I’ve never heard of those guys.
In 96, the O’s went to the playoffs. In the first two playoff games with Cleveland, Anderson hit two more homers. In the Jeffrey Maier playoff series with New York, Anderson hit another homer.