Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mark Belanger (#118)

Here is Mark Belanger’s first card all to himself. (He appeared on a high-numbered Orioles Rookie Stars card in 1967.)

Topps has his position as 2B-SS because that was his position during his rookie year of 1967, when he played 69 games as a backup for 2nd baseman Dave Johnson and shortstop Luis Aparicio. Once Aparicio was traded back to the White Sox in November 1967, Belanger was the team’s regular shortstop from opening day 1968 until giving way to Kiko Garcia in 1979.

Mark was signed by Baltimore in 1962, and played in the minors from 1962-66 (missing the ’63 season to military service). He played a few games with the Orioles in ’65 and ’66, then made the team for good at the start of the 1967 season.

Belanger took over the shortstop reins in 1968, winning 8 Gold Gloves in the 10 years between 1969 and 1978. He made the All-Star team in 1976, and played in the post season 6 times (’69, ’70, ’71, ’73, ’74, ’79). Always a light stick (only 20 homers in an 18-year career), he hit a home run in his first post-season series (the ’69 ALCS vs. the Twins).

After sharing the job with Garcia in ’79 and ’80, and with Len Sakata in 1981, Belanger was granted free agency in the off-season. He signed with the Dodgers and played his final season (1982) as a backup in LA. He played 44 games at shortstop, including only 12 starts behind long-time regular Bill Russell.

Mark retired with the highest fielding percentage (.977) of any AL shortstop. After his playing career, he worked for the players’ union.

Belanger passed away in October 1998 at the age of 54.

1 comment:

Douglas said...

I always thought I had this card but I didn't. I had the 1969 card which is the same photo being the only difference is that we see more of Mark's glove. Because of the angle of the photo I thought his glove was a Catcher's mitt.